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Yair Dalal
Magda Records, Israel (

On his seventh disc, this well-known Israeli, who plays violin and oud, takes us on a journey to ancient Babylon, where Jews lived for some 2,500 years after the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Using Hebrew and Arabic texts, Dalal introduces us to the music that was played and heard by Jews and Arabs alike for centuries in what is today Iraq; it is an attempt to recreate and preserve sounds and perspective that were, in some ways, lost when Jews were tossed out of Iraq in 1956. The result is both haunting and uplifting. With help from Maureen Nehedar's vocals on "Tefila l'Shalom," or "Prayer for Peace," the ancient Yom Kippur prayer takes on added meaning given today's political quagmire. On "Ya Aziz Al Rouh," "Pasta," and "Maqam Dashti" - a maqam is a musical structure that's indigenous to Persia and Central Asia - Dalal takes us through some traditional Iraqi sounds that were part and parcel of daily life. The opening track, "Samai Wachi Al Naharein," is a composition by Salim El Nur, an older-generation immigrant to Israel from Iraq, in which Dalal uses his own arrangement to forge a link between the ages and places. It's a side of the Israeli music scene that's rarely heard in this part of the world, mostly because it harks back to a place that is rooted in an ancient past and is close to being forever forgotten. This is an extraordinarily tasteful musical adventure that takes us on a journey that otherwise can't be made. And what does Asmar mean? Brownish, the nickname given Dalal's father in his hometown of Basra, Iraq. - Ed Silverman

Available from cdRoots

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