Friday, December 22, 2006

Qayna - 15/12/2006@Espace Toots, Brussels

Naziha Meftah, Laïla Amezian, Anissa Rouass - voc
Abid Bahri - oud, saz, comp
Ariane de Bièvre - fl, bansuri
Céline Bodson, Véronique Dekock, Karina Staripolski, Aurélia Boven - string quartet
Stefaan Willems - b
Peter Schneider, Jessica Tamsma - percussion

I went to this because Anissa Rouass is the receptionist at the clinic where IVN used to work, and it's a good thing I did. As you might guess from the personnel, it's an extensive and ambitious project.

Most jazz-world fusion efforts (or jazz with strings albums) I've heard, without being bad, don't really amount to much, so I was happily surprised by how totally I was taken with Qayna. The whole thing flowed almost uninterrupted and thus could easily be seen as one long work, rather than a series of songs strung together.

The saz/oud, flute/bansuri and string quartet worked together very well, whether on vibrant melodies, meditative interludes or rhythmic passages. The quartet occasionally got into some more dissonant areas that were seamlessly integrated: impressive, without calling attention to themselves. One percussionist used mostly North African hand drums while the other used a floor tom, cymbals and assorted small stuff. The bassist added a jazzy touch, mostly holding down enthusiastic vamps. The three singers sang together, alone or in duets, but there were also instrumental passages. The oldest of the three had a smoky voice that seemed like it was coming straight from an old 78 warped by the North African heat.