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Band World Jazz


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It is thirty-three years since Nick Lowe wrote the song “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?”, later covered by Elvis Costello, but on Saturday 27 January multi faith musicians Berakah lit up Oldham’s Grange Arts Centre with a special concert to mark Holocaust Memorial Day which showed that Nick Lowe’s sentiments still resonate strongly in this country.
Organiser John Tummon said that “With all the inter-community tensions which have increased this decade, people are starting to cherish opportunities like this to celebrate our common humanity and there is nothing better than music for making this apparent”.
The atmosphere created on the night by the interplay between the band and the audience was described as “enjoyable, moving and uplifting” by Andrew Dawson, Vicar of St Thomas’s Church in Werneth. Fazal Rahim, the Coordinator of Oldham’s Inter-Faith Forum said that he listened to a lot of music but felt “really connected” to Berakah’s performance. A number of people leaving the concert said that they had come along primarily to support the commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day but found that they really enjoyed themselves.
The informality of Berakah’s stage presence was a welcome change from the ‘me celebrity – you celebrate me’ relationship which usually separates performers from their audience. The band encouraged questions from the audience before the start of their second set and guitarist Mohammed Nazam explained the stories behind some of their songs between numbers.
Even so, there is something of a ‘supergroup’ feel to Berakah, because each member of the band showed their own thrilling virtuosity. Chantelle Duncan’s bluesy voice took the audience’s breath away on the Curtis Mayfield track “People get Ready” and again on the finale – a version of U2’s “I still don’t know what I’m looking for” in which she easily trumped Bono’s breathy version. Many of their numbers started with keyboardist Mark Hinton Stewart laying down subtle, atmospheric synth sounds for others to come in over before coming back into songs later on, usually with elegant electronic piano which showcased his background in English cathedral music. Algerian percussion master and accomplished Rai musician Abdelkader Saadoun provided a rhythmic backdrop which was more complex than most performers manage with a full drum kit. Australian Rex Horan’s electric bass lines provided a strong rhythmic counterpoint and his bass intro to ‘Nasrudin’s Dream’ was worth the entrance money on its own to anyone who has ever tried to grapple with the instrument. Mo Nazam played guitar like a bell throughout and his interplay with Serena Leader, Berakah’s Jewish violinist, was a particular highlight. The sustained, shimmering, musical climax these two managed at the turn of each verse in ‘Nasrudin’s Dream’ was wonderfully dramatic – fusion music at its very best.
. On the evidence of Saturday night at Grange Arts Centre, anyone who comes along to a Berakah gig will be able to hear something from a musical tradition which is familiar to them AND hear it harmonising with musical traditions from other communities; most of all, they will go away with a smile on their face.

- Oldham Evening News


"Music for the Heart " album (10 tracks)



“Music For The Heart�

Guitarist and Composer Mohammed Nazam founded
the new World/Jazz/Classical en-semble BERAKAH in summer 2005. Bringing together musicians of Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage, Berakah is the first UK band of its kind. Featuring virtuoso musicians such as Nazam, classical violinist Serena Leader, Algerian percussion master Abdelkader Saadoun, the soulful vocals of Chantelle Duncan and TV/film composer Mark Hinton Stewart, Berakah brings audiences together through music, challenging cultural stereo-types, raising awareness, encouraging acceptance and building bridges.

Having success-fully toured the UK in 2007 the band are now looking to reach music audiences across the globe.

The word “Berakah�, meaning grace, blessings or forgiveness, is found in both Hebrew and Arabic and sums up the intent of the music perfectly. Each performance showcases dazzling interplay and deeply moving compositions with Jazz, Classical and Middle East-ern elements combining to create a memorable live experience.

Since their debut at the Respect Festival in 2005, Berakah have performed in such pres-tigious venues as The British Library, The British Museum, and a sold out show at St.Paul’s in Covent Garden. In 2007 they undertook a year-long tour of the UK (sponsored by the Arts Council) finishing with a sold out performance in Central London. The Times, in a feature on Berakah, said:

“It is music to make you close your eyes and dance in your head — an arresting confec-tion of jazzy improvisation, catchy Middle Eastern chords and the beat of the darabuka drum.�

The band was formed by Mohammed (Mo) Nazam, (who has played with The Jazz Warri-ors, Steve Williamson and Keith Waithe amongst others) with the aim of encouraging non-violence, peaceful co-existence, dialogue between people of differing faiths, raise aware-ness of common roots of the three main monotheistic faiths and the celebration of diver-sity. Berakah seeks to draw audiences from a variety of faiths, and music lovers generall, so we can can sit with each other and enjoy music in a spirit of togetherness.

Mo Nazam, founding member of Berakah said: ‘Berakah can be enjoyed on so many dif-ferent levels. Artistically, having such strong individual band members means that we can be adventurous musically and try out new things, whilst never losing sight of the feeling and intent behind Berakah’s musical vision, but philosophically as well we have a really important role to play in that we’re bringing meaning back to music, and making it matter again as a way of spreading positivity, rather than being just the soundtrack to the next big blockbuster of mobile phone ad. We are asking all people, whoever they are and whatever their beliefs, to support our message of good music and non-violence.’

Clips from their debut album “Music for the Heart� can be hear on their web-site at

Combining both powerful music and a meaningful philosophy Berakah are helping to make music a powerful force in society once again. Berakah truly make “Music for the Heart�.

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