Perceptive Travel, CD Review >>
Perceptive Travel World Music Reviews
April 2010 - By Laurence Mitchell
In this issue: Nubian soul from upper Egypt, European whimsy from Belgium, Syrian jazz, and some watered down strumming from Jorge Strunz.
We say: Syrian samba and jazz muezzins on the road to Damascus
Syrian–born but New York–based, Gaida claims her musical soul derives from hearing the muezzin as a child in Damascus. The combined calls to prayer from the various mosques close to her home would create unplanned harmonies that the muezzins would sometimes improvise around. This memorable childhood soundscape gave her a collection of melodies to draw upon and a taste and fearlessness for improvisation that has stuck with her to this day.
This collection begins traditionally enough with a pair of Syrian folk standards that feature oud, santor and darbouka before wandering into the far less orthodox territory of Brazilian–Arab–jazz crossover on "Illak Shi," a newly–minted hybrid that sounds surprisingly unforced and natural. The recording's only other non–traditional track, "Kaifa Uhibuka," is a bitter–sweet jazz ballad in which it is only Gaida's heartfelt Arabic vocal that hints at any connection with the Middle East. Mostly though, Levantine Indulgence is made up of traditional Syrian tunes, with silky meandering classical melodies and unhurried instrumental breaks over the sort of Middle Eastern time signatures that make most rock drummers break out into a sweat.
Despite her obvious talent, Gaida is still a part–time performer. Family expectations have meant that she has found it necessary to lead a double life and, as well as performing music, she moonlights— or, rather, daylights—as a health professional. Gaida's sweet and strong voice is such that you know that she has a musical career at her disposal is if she ever decides to give up the day job. The last track on the disc, "Bint El Balad," if my rudimentary Arabic serves me well, means something akin to "Girl from the Country." With roots in both Syria and New York, and in traditional Arabic music, jazz and samba, this is one girl from the country who clearly likes to travel. 04/01/10 >> go there