Orient an Ecumenical Tour of Music, Culture, and Religion

Orient Noir
Piranha 2645
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If you want a musical tour of Middle Eastern and North African rhythms as they might have sounded in the 1930s when Western grooves etched themselves into the musical landscape, Orient Noir is your ticket. It’s a set of offerings assembled by Dr. Bertram Nickolay, a German scientist, computer programmer, and intellectual who also happens to collect world music, especially “Jiddish” music–Yiddish songs, klezmer, and Sephardic traditions. This collection branches across religious, geographical, and cultural borders. We get Nubian wedding dance music, pop songs, Turkish chants, Lebanese cafĂ© bands, Serbian songs, New York City musicians…. You name it. Some of the music was on Euro charts back in the 1970s, such as Efendi Garden’s “The Garden,” a stellar example of what was once labeled Krautrock. It also includes The Klezmatics’ “I Ain’t Afraid,” one of the finest songs I know that takes down religious zealots of all stripes. It’s closing refrain line “I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your God” pretty much sums up about half of what’s wrong with the world these days. World music aficionados will recognize names such as Watcha Clan and Mahmoud Fadl, but most of the performers are not as well known. Some of the artists package themselves as avant-garde, but a track such as “We Daret El Ayam” sounds as if it’s in search of a black-and-white movie and “Maka Shelishit” as if we’ve been transported to a dusty casbah. Intriguing stuff throughout.

For something more contemporary, check out The Klezmatics singing “I Ain’t Afraid.” 

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