This ensemble of Jewish and Arab musicians is on a mission to prove that music really is the best
Eliyahu and the Qadim Ensemble are out with a new CD, “Eastern Wind,” in a project that the band describes as “playing for peace.”
That remains to be seen, but the CD is certainly a stab at eclectic instrumentation.
Besides Jewish and Arabic artists, the tracks feature a host of instruments many listeners probably never heard of before, or maybe they have, but weren’t aware of it. Ever hear of the ney? How about the bansuri flute? The zarb? The darbuka?
(Just for the record, the ney is a reed flute from the Middle East; the bansuri is a bamboo flute from India; the zarb is a Persian drum; the darbuka, a Turkish drum.)
Brought together, these instruments, and others, create music that is fresh — probably because it is new to many American ears — but old at its roots. The CD features folk tunes, love songs and improvisations dating back to the 12th century; it taps into musical influences from Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Yemen and Armenia.
Eliyahu is really Eliyahu Sills, a flautist who has studied Middle Eastern music. He played many New York nightclubs as a sideman or bandleader before beginning his love affair with flutes.
The word “Qadim” in Qadim Ensemble is found in both Hebrew and Arabic; it means ancient as well as “that which will come.” The quartet, which is from the Bay Area, performs music from all Near Eastern cultures.
Whether “Eastern Wind” will draw Jews and Arabs closer together is a question for another day, and the music is not for everyone (Top 40 buffs should look elsewhere for entertainment), but the style of this CD is rich and layered with the influences of many cultures. If you have even a passing interest in the anthropology of music genres, then “Eastern Wind” is a must for your CD tower.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)