Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Ancient Near Eastern music live

ARAMAIC WATCH: Sacred Imaginations: New and Ancient Music from the Near East has just been performed in London and Paris, and is on tonight in Berlin. Peter Culshaw has a review of the London performance at The Arts Desk: Sacred Imaginations, Kings Place. Ambitious reimagining of early Christian music is a triumph. Excerpts:
The two singing revelations of the first half were the Russian five piece choir the Doros Male Vocal Ensemble, whose voices were moving in their rich spiritual power and the astonishing Abeer Nehme, who I had caught at the Fes Festival and raved about then. She also does do more popular material in her native Lebanon, but the beautiful Christian songs, sung in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, had the impression of plugging us into raw, intense early centuries of Christianity.


Susheela Raman’s singing also featured in the second half – her presence added some yang to the purity of Abeer Nehme’s yin – some dirt and a suggestion of more pagan, shamanistic elements that were incorporated into the early religion. Mary was no longer virginal. The highlights of this section were a Syriac hymn and a Gnostic text “Thunder Perfect Mind” and “Leatos”, a last rites song with the Greek singers and Raman with additional text by theosophist G R S Meade which had a filmic, end-of-days atmosphere and could and no doubt will be revved up to be even more apocalyptical in subsequent shows. Another spirited and moving number was “Sogandinium” an Aramaic hymn of the crucifixion where Raman was backed the Russian Doros singers to breathtaking effect.
More on Abeer Nehme is here, although unfortunately the link to the video has rotted. For more on Thunder, Perfect Mind, go here and follow the links. The latter has received much attention in recent years, most notably the Prada advert that used it. And a while ago I met someone who had lines of its Coptic text tattooed on his arm.