Arabic roots, European influences
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Ibn Báya with Omar Metioui and Eduardo Paniagua
Núba al-Máya: Música Andalusí
Pneuma (

Cantoras de Tetuán: Cantos tradicionales de mujeres del norte de Marruecos

L'Ensemble Aromates, with Michèle Claude
Jardin de Myrtes: Mélodies andalouses du Moyen-Orient
Alpha (

Karim Baggili Quartet
Cuatro con Cuatro (

Led by Tangiers lutenist Omar Metioui and Spanish medieval flautist and architect Eduardo Paniagua, Ibn Báya takes its name and inspiration from the eleventh and twelfth century Arab-Iberian physician, philosopher and musician who espoused the union of the human soul with the divine. These Spanish and Moroccan musicians perform medieval Arab-Andalusian music on period instruments whose reconstruction and dissemination comprise an important part of their project. Their work reflects the broader al-Andaluz traditions embodied in Moorish Spain's Islamic, Jewish and Christian folk song, and the music's continuing influence in contemporary Spain, North Africa and the Levant. The Núba repertoire heard here emerged in the eighth-century Abbasid court of Baghdad, surfacing in Cordoba soon thereafter. The complex vocal arrangements are finely complemented by oud, Andalusi and Tunisian lutes, citole (a Christian medieval three-string instrument), rabab (a bowed two-string instrument), viola, recorder, and miscellaneous hand percussion, combining to express the poetic yearning and harmonic philosophy embodied in Ibn Báya's teachings. Lyrics are in Spanish, with extensive notes in Spanish, French and English.

cd cover The Conservatory of Music in Tetuán, founded in 1944 under the Spanish Protectorate a decade prior to Moroccan independence, has played a key role in training in and documentation of the vocal traditions of northern Morocco. Regional vocal styles reflect a centuries-long intersection of Andalusian, Levantine and Berber traditions. Cantoras de Tetuán compiles nine critical historical recordings from the 1960s, presenting the work of several master female singers, including Mnnána I-Jarráz, Alia I-Myáhed, Zohra Bttíwa and Pliyka y Sham d-Dhá. The women perform in full string orchestra settings, covering a repertoire associated with a time in which women and men were separated in virtually all public settings. Hence, this is music performed by women for women; only in the 1970s did this separation of the sexes begin to diminish, so the songs heard here are of particular interest insofar as they resonate within a particular moment in Moroccan social history. Digital remastering can achieve only so much with original recordings whose condition were reportedly not the best, but technical limitations cannot mask the patent artistry of this release. Anyone interested in the history of Moroccan music and the emergence of popular forms from older traditional genres will discover much here. Notes (written by Paniagua and Metioui, delineating the classical, folk and popular genres essayed herein) are in Spanish and English, with lyrics in Spanish and Arabic.

cd cover Led by Michèle Claude, L'Ensemble Aromates is a classically trained Parisian octet (flute, violin, viola da gamba, vièle à archet or bowed lute, colascione or medieval Italian long-necked lute, bass, èpinette or plucked dulcimer, psaltry, psaltérion or ancient Greek harp, and a range of North African percussion). They perform the music of Moorish Andalusia (711-1492), here the repertoire of Ziryab, a legendary ninth century poet, composer, musician and singer who, after being freed from slavery, traveled from Baghdad to Cordoba in 822 to become a musician in the court of Abd ar-Rahman II. The odd time signatures and delicacy of execution conjure up an enticing sonic domain that gracefully explores the deeper connections between Arabic, European classical and Levantine traditions, as they worked themselves out in Moorish Iberia. Of particular interest to some will be "Démarche voluptueuse/Espris d'une gazelle" and "Une nuit si longue," fascinating essays on the transatlantic connections between Andalusia and Cuba, the latter number practically an oriental charanga. Claude closes with one of her own compositions, "Minimaroc," a habanera inspired, she says, by Bizet, Ravel and Satie, and an illustration of how profoundly Arabic music has influenced its Western European counterparts. Notes are in French and English.

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Of Jordanian and Yugoslavian descent, Belgium-born Karim Baggili is self-taught on guitar and oud, inspired by frequent travel to Jordan. A composer and singer with several films to his credit, and touring experience in Belgium and Germany, Baggili has played in a variety of jazz and popular settings, and on the evidence of Cuatro con Cuatro, he's a flamenco aficionado as well. This is an introspective outing of original Baggili compositions save one, an evocative rendition of the familiar "La llorona." Rounding out the quartet are Philippe Laloy (flute, soprano sax), Kathy Adam (cello), Osvaldo Hernandez Napoles (percussion, cuatro, vocals) and guest pianist Nathalie Loriers, whose precision work on "Zayak" and "Mr. Lee 2, Be Water My Friend" is jazz razor-sharp. This chamber rendition is the freest of the recordings considered here, bound by no tradition and fluent in many, a promising and eclectic debut. - Michael Stone

CDs available from cdRoots
Ibn Báya
Cantoras de Tetuán
L'Ensemble Aromates
Karim Baggili Quartet

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