Amán Amán / Al Andaluz Project
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Amán Amán (L'Ham de Foc) Música i cants sefardis d'orient i occident Galileo

Al Andaluz Project (L'Ham de Foc and Estampie)
Deus et diabolus
Galileo (

From Valencia, L'Ham de Foc approaches the Sephardic repertoire by turning east, exploring how the traditional repertoire changed as it moved from the Iberian Peninsula in the post-1492 diaspora, taking on new life in the exile communities of Sofia, Thessalonica, Istanbul, and Izmir. There is no shortage of contemporary Sephardic recordings, but the present work turns away from a certain slavish celebration of an imagined medieval multicultural sound toward a living if lesser-known Levantine tradition, complemented by instrumentation of the region (ud, tanbur, cümbüs, kopuz, santur, kemençe, various flutes, and percussion). Hence, alongside "Sien drahmas al día," the opening dance from Smyrna (a 9/8 karsilama rhythm divided in 2/2/2/3), or the hybrid "La galena y el mar" (one of many Sephardic wedding songs, a Salonika processional sung as the bride is led to her ritual bath, here with original lyrics over a Bulgarian melody), the early 20th-century Turkish curcuna (a 10/8 rhythm divided 3/2/2/3), or the Sofia lullaby "Durme," come more familiar Sephardic songs such as "El Rey Nimrod" and "Los guisados de la berenjena" (seven ways to prepare eggplant), albeit with a decidedly eastern modal makam feel. This is the spirit of Aman, Aman, a phrase-common to many eastern Mediterranean languages-that expresses surprise, longing, or lovesickness. Notes are in Ladino, Spanish, German, and English, with lyrics in Ladino.

The Al Andaluz Project unites L'Ham de Foc with Estampie, the Munich group led by Michael Popp, better known for its dedication to medieval music. Beginning with informal collaboration based on mutual interest in older repertoires, the ensembles first shared the stage at the July 2006 Landshut Hofmusiktage festival, a performance recorded and broadcast live by Bavarian state radio. As heard on Deus et Diabolus, they followed with a November 2006 studio session at the Dominican monastery of La Cartuja de Cazalla, near Sevilla. In the spirit of Moorish Iberia, three superb female singers interpret medieval Sephardic, Arabic, and Christian traditions: Sigrid Hausen (who also plays flute), L'Ham de Foc's Mara Aranda, and Iman al Kandoussi, singing variously in Ladino, Spanish, and Arabic. Estampie's Popp (ud, saz, violin, production), Ernst Schwindl (hurdy gurdy, nyckelharpa), and Sascha Gotowtshikow (percussion) join L'Ham's Efrén López (ud, saz, rabab, hurdy gurdy, production), Aziz Samsaoui (quanun), and Diego López (percussion). Contrast the lively drone and glorious vocal harmonies of the Christian song "A virgen mui groriosa" (one of three songs dedicated to Santa María) with the driving call-and-response of Arabic-Andalusian songs like "Nassam alaina lhawa" for a sense of this recording's enchanting range. Notes are in Spanish, German, and English. - Michael Stone

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