Riad & Takht
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Riad & Takht

Oak Park, California, United States | INDIE

Oak Park, California, United States | INDIE
Band World New Age


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The best kept secret in music


"History of Music"

If you are doing a thesis on Middle Eastern music, then your journey begins here. This recording is in the modal form of Arabic music or the discoveries of the ancient poet/musicians of the Byzantine Empire that traveled from the Middle East and North Africa and followed where Islam trekked from Spain to Southern Europe. On El Tarab El Aseel: Autochthonic Enchantment, there is a kind of purity to the music. It remains unspoiled by mixing consoles and overly anxious producers. The ethnic arrangements are a true representation of a segment of Middle Eastern compositions that are the very foundation of the genre. Incidentally, four years of Latin let me down. I had to look up autochthonic. In this case, it is music from where it is found or indigenous. Perhaps there is a double entendre to improvisations.

Riad Abdel-Gawad is a Harvard trained musician that has more degrees than a Celsius thermometer that warms all from Belgium to France and Southern California to Cincinnati. He trained in Western classical violin, but his album embraces the style of taqasim or Arabic improvisation and tarab the art of musical ecstasy. He utilizes acoustic ethnic instruments and composition skills deeply rooted in the past. Together they make for a recording that is enjoyable and at the same time historically correct.

El Tarab El Aseel: Autochthonic Enchantment is divided into four parts; the first element is called Longa Nahawand. Middle Eastern music is comprised of several modes and unlike Western music, it takes a listener quite some to to hear a pattern in this music, but if you wait long enough it becomes evident. This tune starts out with what sounds like an oriental influence. The fifteen-minute tune is a duel between violin and zither. It is a chase, a canter if you will as the instruments vie for your attention. Deep inside the melody is a spirit of celebration or perhaps discovery.

Qiblah, the second track has a bit more spirit and structure than the first track. It feels and sounds more like an animated dance and the music more akin to folk music. The ticking percussion and whirling melody makes you want to participate, to be part of the performance. The song is somewhat familiar as it has an interpretation familiar to Western ears, but only for a short time before the music turns to new territory once again.

We are fortunate to have a Greek title for track three, Delta. It is usually reserved for the mouth of a river with a rich silt buildup, but in this case it is a depository of singular styles that co-mingle into a lively cacophony of performances featuring the unusual instruments. I truly liked the performance of the nay or Arab flute that lent a bit of magic to the tune.

Finally, the last track Sama'i Sultanah Yakah. The song starts out on a very dramatic note, however the tone changes quickly and the tempo changes into something very Western for a time (no pun intended). The violin resumes its place in the lead and the tune has a push-pull timbre. The drama builds until the rest of the instruments unite into a series of energetic sweeps that seem to repeat in a quick pattern.

If you want to learn more about the Arabic melodic modes, known as maqamat than you can do no better than this recording. If you want to learn about music from not only another country, but from another century, than I recommend this album. After several listens, I truly felt that I was part of the music and after all, that is the magic of all music. - New Age Reporter


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Composer and violinist, Riad Abdel-Gawad apprenticed and performed many years with Islamic art of sound (handasah al sawt) composer and violinist, Abdo Dagher, who taught generations of musicians through oral transmission: note by note, rhythm by rhythm, in which the Sufi (tasawwuf) form of teacher-pupil lineages are evident all of over the Muslim world. Mr. Abdel-Gawad is considered by his teacher and his peers in Egypt to be one of the most serious artists to come out of this distinct stylistic school. Dr. Abdel-Gawad composed two acclaimed albums: El Tarab El Aseel and Egypt: Mother of the World, distributed world-wide by City Hall Records. He has performed in numerous festivals and venues and for organizations around the globe, including: Musik der Welt in Basel, The Institute of the Arab World in Paris, the International Festival of Culture in PyrenĂŠes, the House of Cultures of the World in Berlin, and the Egyptian Academy of Arts in Rome. Dr. Abdel-Gawad earned his Ph.D. in music from Harvard University and presently teaches at Bayan Claremont, an Islamic College at Claremont Lincoln University. Recently, Dr. Abdel-Gawad was interviewed by NPR and his music was featured on the series: Ecstatic Voices - Sacred Music in America. His film credits include music for the documentary, Words of Witness, recently featured on Al Jazeera America. He is the founder of Midan Elmusica Inc. an organization dedicated to disseminating Egyptian music.

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