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Aman Aman, Música i Cants dels Jueus Sefardites d'Orient I

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:44 pm
by Gordon Neill
I almost missed this great CD. If it hadn’t been for Tom McPhillips, I wouldn’t have known this existed (although I’ve subsequently found a review of it in the May edition of fRoots). Released at the tail-end of 2006, this will automatically be in my list of the best CDs of 2007.

It’ll need someone more knowledgeable than me (such as Tom) to provide a proper background to the music and the group. As I understand it, from some in-depth research (er…basically reading the sleeve notes, and what Tom has said elsewhere: http://www.charliegillett.com/phpBB2/vi ... php?t=5662 ), Aman Aman are a subset of L’Ham de Foc, a Catalan group that aims to play traditional or early music in an accessible manner. Most of the music here is Sephardic (Iberian Jewish) and dates from as early as the 14th Century. But there’s a fair bit of improvisation and blending with Greek and Turkish styles as well. The overall sound is acoustic, with historic instruments used throughout.

But if this all sounds as though it’s some kind of worthy-but-dull academic exercise, think again. It’s amazing how much power can be generated by acoustic instruments and Mara Aranda’s vocals are subtle and powewrful. The lively opener, Sien Drahmas Al Dia, really grabs the attention. El Rey Nimrod is probably the most immediate, but Los Guisados De La Berenjena, with a slow build, has become my favourite. The second half of the album probably isn’t quite as strong as the first, but that’s mainly because the first 5 tracks are so good.

*****

Re: Aman Aman, Música i Cants dels Jueus Sefardites d'Orien

PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 6:18 pm
by Ian A.
Gordon Neill wrote:Aman Aman are a subset of L’Ham de Foc

Yes, good album

Saw them do an excellent showcase at Womex in late October: apparently they're no longer a "subset" as L'Ham de Foc are no more. The two main people were just preparing for this adventure when we did the feature on L'Ham de Foc in fR271/272 (Jan/Feb 06) so there's quite a bit of background in there.

If anybody's curious they can hear the Aman Aman track I played on fRoots Radio earlier in the year - go to http://www.frootsmag.com/radio/playlists/07/05/ for playlist and playlink.

PS - check out Taksim Trio from Turkey - track in current fRoots Radio and will be another in the next edition too because it's wonderful!

PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2007 3:10 am
by Ian A.
Gordon - you should check out the new release Al Andaluz Project : "Deus Et Diabolus" which mixes up Mara & Efren from L'Ham De Foc and Aman Aman with members of the group Estampie. It's on Galileo, distributed in the UK by Discovery. www.galileo-mc.com

PostPosted: Thu Dec 13, 2007 10:39 am
by Gordon Neill
Thanks for the pointer, Ian.

I am enjoying this form of musical Chinese whispers. I started by reviewing All’Improvviso (a Baroque/jazz CD), it led to recommendations for Cantico della Terra (medieval Italian music) and Aman Aman (14th Century Sephardic), and now this...... It could get expensive.

But I've followed the link to Galileo records, and their description does make it sound really interesting. So I've asked my Spanish Santa to get me a copy.....

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 5:13 am
by joel
Aman Aman - I tracked this album down a couple of weeks ago. It's very impressive sounding and enjoyable. I'm not entirely convinced by the kitchen sink arrangements in which they add as many instruments as possible to the mix (a mild case of the Paniaguas), however that is probably part of the album's charm. The much lauded female voices don't quite work. To my ears the timbre and style of the singing is slightly but persistently wrong in the context of the music. I think Aman Aman are trying a for a popular folky/flamenco effect but in the process lose the razor precision that is a hallmark of Adalousian and Arab singing - even at its most florid. And the tone could also be purer, as it would be in nuba ghrib (IMVHO).
I'm just being picky. It's well worthy of Gordon's 5 stars.

A couple of more-or-less related suggestions:

Marions Les Roses chansons & psaumes de la France a l'empire Ottoman by a trio of extremely talented musiciennes who go by the name of Les Fin' Amoureuses. I won't compare this to Aman Aman despite the presence of Sephardic songs played on authentic instruments, as this album mixes music across geographies, from France to Turkey and time, from the middle-ages to WWII (not that you'd know from listening to Colchiques dans les prés) but does so in an intimate almost chamber style. Well, mutant chamber music with drones and vocal arabesques. Emmanuelle Drouet's singing is simply outstanding.
TWhen everything comes together, it does so spectacularly well as on Marions les Roses, La Louison, Wa habibi and several others.

Iudicii Signum - Capella Ministeres as a convicted audiophool, I have to admit that this has some of the best recorded percussion I've heard. While these are Renaissance Christmas hymns, the style and intent is reasonably close to Aman Aman. On the whole it's another big sounding album from Spain with slightly strange female singing, in this case heading right off in the other direction towards a European mezzo-soprano style (appropriate I guess given that we're in the renaissance here). The male voices are deep, sonorous and powerful - which always works for me. On the whole it's all very enjoyable, especially when Pau Ballester's percussion kicks in.

Nuba Ghrib, Andalousian music from Algiers - Omar Benmara The wonderful Nassima has also done an album Andalousian nuba in recent memory, but this is the better album. Benamara's rumbling vocals and delicately powerful orchestrations breathe life into these old songs.

Back to Nassima, and Voie soufie, voix d'amour. Not nuba ghrib, but soufi songs of love and ecstacy (for God, of course). The arrangements on this one are less frenetic than on Nassima's nuba album and do a better job of putting her unclassical high-strung voice into the pocket. As an album of sufi tunes this burns on a slow, inexorable fuse.

and for those impatient souls who can't wait, a Nassima video from Daily motion:
Nassima "Suite Magharibya"

PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:17 am
by Gordon Neill
Glad you liked the Aman Aman CD, Joel. Thanks for the other suggestions as well, although I'm dismayed at the potential costs that are starting to build up (I'm starting to feed a Turkish habit in another thread).

But I really liked the video clip. With a name like Daily Motion, I assumed that it would just be crap, but it was pretty terrific.

PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 2:49 am
by Tom McPhillips
joel wrote:
A couple of more-or-less related suggestions:



Thanks for the pointers Joel...

I've just discovered this...

"Alchemy" by Al-Andalus, Tarik & Julia Banzi

which I came across on the Mapamundi program I get as a podcast...
I'm not sure I've really got my ears around it yet - the vocals seem a bit unfocused, but the oud playing is great as is the overall feel of the album.

As a result of my Goth adventure I've been trawling through some interesting stuff and Locus Musicus are another band that seems to stand out. I'm still somewhat open mouthed by the fact that all these Goths have got so into what I had hitherto thought was a rather esoteric (classical) blind alley, (you know the sort of dark end of the street we forumisters often like to anorak around in...) It seems that this phenomenon is directly attributable to Dead Can Dance. Now that's a band I've tried to listen to and but my attention always seems to wanders off... Just found out that Dead Can Dance is a pun on "Decadence" - never worked that one out...

Aman Aman remains on my "Most-Played" list nonetheless

Now about Devotchka, I downloaded a previous album since the new wasn't on Itunes yet in the US, I'd agree the music is interesting and the vocal isn't...

PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:01 am
by joel
Thank you for Tarik and Julia Banzi. There's even a YouTube clip. Sound is a bit dodgy, but good enough to get the idea.

PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 12:07 pm
by Tom McPhillips
joel wrote:Thank you for Tarik and Julia Banzi. There's even a YouTube clip. Sound is a bit dodgy, but good enough to get the idea.


Since I wrote that, I've listened a couple more times more, and I think it's a great find, the feel is very jazzy which normally would turn me off with this kind of music, but here the delivery is more "laid-back" and improvisational and it works, combining intricate flamenco-ish oud and violin with an Arabc sweep, and her vocals are fine, but the male vocals especially in the "Arab chorus" sections are a bit perfunctory and would benefit with stronger voices. But certainly enjoyable enough for me to seek out their earlier release.

And thanks for your suggestions, I found the Capella De Ministrers disk on itunes, and yes, great percussion. I ended up getting a few disks in the same Alpha series as the Marions Les Roses CD, what a really great series!

Currently reading Will Ferguson's "Hitching Rides With Buddha" which describes his journey following the sakura from Sata to Hokkaido, - how's the cherry blossom going this year? Making it out to any hanami parties?

dozo odaigini!

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 3:51 am
by joel
Tom McPhillips wrote:Since I wrote that, I've listened a couple more times more, and I think it's a great find, the feel is very jazzy which normally would turn me off with this kind of music, but here the delivery is more "laid-back" and improvisational and it works, combining intricate flamenco-ish oud and violin with an Arabc sweep, and her vocals are fine, but the male vocals especially in the "Arab chorus" sections are a bit perfunctory and would benefit with stronger voices. But certainly enjoyable enough for me to seek out their earlier release.
It never fails to surprise me how much there is in common between say Mingus' music and that of the big Cairo orchestras. Really good Arab music has a strong sense of swing. How much of that is down to the influence of Tango is a question. But there is no question that Tango had a huge influence on early 20th century Cairo music scene. Check out the Topic compilation Women of Egypt from the 20s and 30s.

how's the cherry blossom going this year? Making it out to any hanami parties? dozo odaigini!

domo domo. The Sakura has just arrived at Inokashira. I guess there'll be many drunken hanami parties tonight. We're off to a tasting of recent "lesser" Vosne-Romaneé vintages, so I'll also be seeing double-sakura on the way home.

PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:12 am
by Tom McPhillips
well since it was sakura season we consoled ourselves with sushi tonight in Manhattan, my wife had a sakura flavored red bean dessert - I wish I was over there.... hanami-ni-ing! Sickness for a home I've never known there... but home-sickness nonetheless!

I was listening to the Iudicii Signum disk in the car this morning and I really felt like "this was where I came in" to this music back in 1973 or so. One of the comments I made about the Tarik and Julia Banzi disck is that the voices weren't perfect. It seems like we're used to hearing classically trained perfect voices with this genre/repertoire, which I'm sure wasn't how it was originally heard or performed. I could go on and on about this, but basically it's good to hear this music being performed by singers that haven't followed that classical track. The popularization of this music has led to bands making selections of this music, rather than investigating a particular moment or style. I think that diminishes the work. I'd rather hear something particular however esoteric than something too general... Estampie's CD's, for example, since they actually have an audience that they're no doubt delighted to cater to, have in the process now become generic as they are following a "proven" formula, which is the very opposite of what I hope to listen to next...

domo gotchisosamadeshita!