Soriana
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Soriana

Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland | Established. Jan 01, 2014

Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
Established on Jan, 2014
Band World Acoustic

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By JON PARELES
Published: December 8, 2013

On Saturday night at the Asia Society, in the debut concert by a quartet called Sound: The Encounter, ears were more trustworthy than eyes.
At stage right was Basel Rajoub, tenor saxophone in hand, looking like a jazz musician from his neat beard to his sport jacket to his leather shoes. At stage left was the singer and piperSaeid Shanbehzadeh, barefoot and wearing a stylishly pleated and tiered shirt and something like a skirt. He danced with twirls, backward kicks and knee drops as he played the Iranian bagpipes, called the ney anban, with an inflated bag not much smaller than a lamb.

Between them was Najhib, Mr. Shanbehzadeh’s son, also barefoot, seated on two of the three hand drums that he played with fleet precision, with his hands moving so fast they could be a blur. For some pieces, equalizing the international balance, they were joined by Kenan Adnawi, a Syrian who lives in Philadelphia, playing oud and wearing a suit.

Sartorially, it was a culture clash. Musically, it was a blend.

It was a living example of how world-music festivals can rewire world music. Mr. Rajoub, who has fused Arabic music and jazz, was at the Shanghai World Music Festival when he heard a performance by Saeid Shanbehzadeh, playing music from his native Bushehr, in southwestern Iran. Mr. Rajoub recognized melodies he knew from Bedouin songs — although the Iranian versions had lyrics in Persian, not Arabic — and he suggested a collaboration with Mr. Shanbehzadeh, although they don’t share a spoken language. They started rehearsing a year later in Paris, where both Mr. Shanbehzadeh and his son live; Mr. Rajoub lives in Geneva.

They found common ground. Mr. Rajoub plays saxophone, despite its built-in Western scale, with the microtonal bends of Arabic music and, often, with a hooded, contemplative tone similar to that of Middle Eastern reed instruments like the duduk and the ney. (He also played the duclar, a duduk fitted with a clarinet mouthpiece.) Mr. Shanbehzadeh plays traditional melodies on his bagpipes but also uses the instrument in more abstract ways. He let the microphone catch the huffing as the bag filled with air; he unleashed fierce trills and sustained, fluttering dissonant tones. He also played the neydjoti, a reed instrument with two pipes, and the boogh — a large, curved goat horn with a trumpeting tone.

They played adaptations of traditional songs and pieces based on traditional rhythms; one drew on the accelerating beats of an ancient ecstatic healing ceremony. Mr. Rajoub started some songs with zigzag saxophone lines — a hint of jazz — that would thread through the rest of the piece, bringing something rare in traditional Middle Eastern music: counterpoint. In songs about love and faith, Mr. Shanbehzadeh sang with declamatory fervor, easing down to a whisper or pushing the grain in his voice toward a full rasp, commanding the stage with his gestures. From stately or incantatory to fiercely kinetic, the music took an international path homeward. - The New York Times


MUSIQUE Mercredi 09 avril 2014
Basel Rajoub, le ténor du désert
Arnaud Robert
Le prodigieux saxophoniste syrien joue mercredi soir au Cully Jazz Festival

Il faut profiter aujourd’hui d’écouter Basel Rajoub dans une petite salle, avec le pavillon de son saxophone à portée de main. Parce que ce musicien syrien, la jeune trentaine, établi dans le canton de Vaud depuis un peu plus d’un an, devrait faire abondamment parler de lui dans les années à venir. Il y a, dans son jeu, quelque chose de si articulé, d’une poésie sans pose, qu’il sera sans aucun doute la révélation de ce Cully Jazz Festival.

Basel Rajoub naît à Alep, grandit à Damas, il écoute abondamment la collection de disques de ses parents, où Miles Davis et Clifford Brown tiennent le piston, il décide donc de devenir trompettiste. «Malheureusement, j’ai eu un problème de lèvres et j’ai donc dû changer d’instrument. J’avais 25 ans. Il m’a fallu trois ans pour réapprendre.» C’est le saxophone qui s’impose.

Déjà, Basel mêle le jazz de Coltrane et les modes orientaux avec une expressivité qui ne laisse de stupéfier. Après son diplôme obtenu au Conservatoire de Damas, il vit au Liban, en Turquie, en Egypte. «J’avais besoin de me frotter à de nouveaux contextes. Et puis, la guerre a commencé.» Comme tous les Syriens dont l’essentiel de la famille vit encore au pays, le saxophoniste est discret lorsqu’il s’agit d’évoquer la situation.

«Je me souviens qu’un jour, le grand joueur de luth irakien Nassir Shamma était venu nous donner un cours à Damas. Il nous a montré son morceau où il imite le son des bombes. J’ai trouvé cela obscène. J’ai quitté la salle.» Basel Rajoub se méfie de ceux qui s’improvisent ambassadeurs de la paix. «Je ne veux pas me servir de mon pays pour servir ma musique.»

Il préfère parler d’une vieille terre, dont la vieille culture ne succombera à aucune attaque, chimique ou non. Comme certains pionniers (Rabih Abou-Khalil ou aujourd’hui Ibrahim Maalouf), Basel invente surtout un langage qui n’appartient qu’à lui, le carrefour des modernités qui le traversent.

Soriana avec Basel Rajoub, Kenan Adnawi et Andrea Piccioni. Me 9 avril, 21h. www.cullyjazz.ch. Basel Rajoub Trio, Asia (Edict Records). - Le Temps


Discography

Khameer 2008  incognito records
Asia 2011  Edict records

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Bio

Soriana. Contemporary music from the Orient

Basel Rajoub, saxophones, duclar, artistic direction

Kenan Adnawi, oud

Andrea Piccioni, percussion

With Feras Charestan, qanun, for selected pieces

Programme description:

Soriana translates into Our Syria. Part-composed, part-improvised, the programme combines myriad melodic modes and microtonal subtleties of Arabic music, contemporary music, generating a sublime mix of spontaneity and control rooted in a thousand-year-old tradition of improvisation. 

The programme celebrates the artists cultural heritage and pays homage the land that gave them the gift of musical knowledge knowledge that each of the performers carries with them throughout many journeys as it soothes wounds and inspires creation, feeding the imagination as well as the soul. As composer Basel Rajoub put it, This music offers both gratitude and a gift to a homeland left behind.

About the artists:

Basel Rajoub is well known as a saxophonist and composer-improviser who creates contemporary tradition-based music inspired by Middle Eastern rhythms and melodic modes as well as jazz. Born in Aleppo, Syria, he graduated from the Damascus High Institute of Music and is a winner of Radio Monte Carlos Moyen-Orient Music Award. Basel has been active in a variety of contemporary music groups that bring together musicians from different parts of the Middle East, North Africa, and West Asia, and is the founder and leader of the Basel Rajoub ensemble. His latest project, Sound the Encounter. New Music from Iran and Syria, premiered at the Asia Society in New York on 7 December 2014 and received a special review by New York Times. Basel lives in Geneva, Switzerland.

Kenan Adnawi was born in Latakia, Syria, and began studying the oud from an early age. He graduated from the High Institute for Music in Damascus and has been an innovator in bringing together the worlds of traditional Middle Eastern music and Western classical music, for example, by performing works for oud and piano. He has toured widely with Lebanese music monarch Marcel Khalife, and also leads his own quartet. He presently lives in Philadelphia, USA.

Andrea Piccioni is considered one of the greatest exponents of the art of frame drumming and has developed an extraordinary capacity to move through various musical genres and styles. A virtuoso He has re-elaborated the language of the Tamburello and various frame drums in a truly personal, virtuosic and expressive manner. Founder of the FRAME DRUMS ITALIA association, Andrea tours widely with numerous projects and is an experienced teacher as well as the artistic director of FRAMEDRUMSITALIA International Festival. Andrea lives in Rome, Italy.

Feras Chahrestan comes from the city of Al-Hasakeh, in northeast Syria, and studied qanun at the High Institute of Music in Damascus. He performs regularly as a qanun soloist with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra and the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra as well as in the bands Roubai Toueis and Woujouh. Feras lives in Sweden.

LATEST VIMEO LINKS:

1. Soriana at Cully Jazz, April 2014, part 1 of 5

https://vimeo.com/92226551

password: soriana

2. Soriana at Cully Jazz, April 2014, part 2 of 5

https://vimeo.com/92235312

password: soriana

3. http://vimeo.com/87424219 

LATEST SOUNDCLOUD LINKS:

https://soundcloud.com/basel-rajoub/sets/asia-album

Band Members