Posts Tagged ‘Kanun’


With members from Turkey, Romania and Iraq, Arifa is a sweet hybrid of a band. I caught them in Amsterdam at the Dutch Jazz and World Meeting. They had already made waves with their first CD “Beyond Babylon” and they presented a program of their compositions with musical bridges between each song, so that the performance ran uninterrupted from start to finish. I videotaped until the number of people walking in front of my camera became unbearable. So here are the first 15 minutes or so.

It took a bit of time for me to warm to this semi-ambient music, but I eventually started to savor the flow of it, while appreciating the more animated passages. I even used the music to back up a “home video” I made of my trip to Fes, Morocco. It works wonderfully– music supervisors take note!

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JULY 7, 2010, 12:00PM

In my last post about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, I didn’t dwell very much on individual performances, since I was more concerned with conveying the feeling of being at the festival. So this time out, I’m taking the other route and just giving you a performance, sans any commentary from me. If you have never heard the Taarab music of Tanzania and Zanzibar, you may be surprised at how sweet it is. This is in large part due to the use of the Qanun, a most celestial sounding instrument. Taarab is a fairly recent genre, having been a court music created specifically for pleasure. There are even times when it sounds so pretty I find it ambient, and what with the beautiful sail-like shades shielding us from the sun in the courtyard floating serenely on the wind above us, the purely instrumental melodies sent more than one member of the audience into a trance. (As you will see, it even put a baby to sleep!) But when Shakila Saidi started to sing, she changed that dreamy vibe, and supplied just the right amount of edge to keep me alert and appreciative.

Want to know more about the Qanun?

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I first heard Tamer Pinarbasi play the kanun on our video for Amnesty International “The Price of Silence.” Andres Levin, the producer, had him record the first layer of “world music” onto the existing basic track from Aterciopelados. As soon as I heard the results, I was entranced. Tamer just laid down one good take after another, plus it was all tasty stuff.  Later, when I was taping my first blog installment I caught Tamer playing again, with the New York Gypsy Allstars.  This time I was struck by his technique and velocity. He played some great solos, and even his backup (which I sometimes think is as much the measure of a musician as the solos) was great. So I contacted him and last week he gave me a quick interview and performance at our office before running off to a gig in Brooklyn.

I must say I got a bit hypnotized just looking at the kanun and at Tamer’s hands…hope you do too!

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Here’s where you’ll find my weekly original world music video blogs that appear on Huffington Post, as well as an archive starting in April of 2009.

This is also the place where you will find video that is exclusive to my site. I’ve traveled to places like Uzbekistan, Morocco, and Taiwan and no matter where I go I have found amazingly talented and creative people working in every genre from the deepest traditions to the cutting edge.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to interview them and to capture some of what they do on video. Enjoy what you see and hear, and let me know what you think. I welcome your feedback.