1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Galeet Dardashti (lead vocals, guitar, 2nd Doumbek on track 6)
Lauren DeAlbert (tabla, doumbek, riq, tar, castanets, zills, didgeridoo, vocals)
Michal Raizen (cello, vocals)
Emily Pinkerton (violin, rabel, banjo, 2nd vocals)
I discovered Divahn when my Doumbek teacher, Lauren DeAlbert (who plays with them), gave me a copy of the album. When I first put it on, I was absolutely stunned. Put away any pre-conceptions that you may have about what Jewish music sounds like - this is no klezmer! Divahn's music resonates with a deep, exotic kind of beauty. There is a latent intensity throughout the entire album that I believe would appeal to many fans of heavier styles of music, and the band's professional, progressive approach to the music is top notch. The range of the group is quite varied, mostly due to the fact that the Jewish groups from which this music comes have, voluntarily or involuntarily, lived in many different places throughout history, influencing and being influenced by the multitude of different cultures around them. Each of the 10 tracks presents a wholly new and exciting musical direction, and the CD never drags or feels stale. I highly recommend this album for open-minded music lovers.
Track 1 is entitled "Shabekhi Yerushalayim," and the words come straight from the Hebrew Bible - Psalm 147. The music was composed by Avihu Medina, an Israeli composer, in 1948, although Divahn obviously allowed quite a bit of artistic freedom to slip in. It opens up with, of all things, a Didgeridoo, played by none other than Lauren DeAlbert. Underneath the roaring drone of the Didge enters a sad, mournful violin, with subtle Doumbek embellishments underneath. Then, the Cello comes in, launching the song into a rousing, passionate rendition of the sacred text. The group weaves deftly and intensely through the number, finishing with a powerful climax.
Next, we have one of my favorite tracks on the album, "Dror Yikra." The track begins with a kind of dark atmosphere, with harmonized, quiet vocals and intricate tablaplaying. The song slowly builds with a subtle vocal counterpoint between Galeet and Emily...and then, suddenly, DeAlbert kicks the song into double time with the full band harmonizing. The song CONTINUES to build up in intensity, until hitting a point where Galeet is literally singing her heart out, followed by a really sweet syncopated - I should honestly say riff - climax. A 4 part vocal harmony serves as a stunning epilogue to the number.
"Yigdal" is an infectious tune consisting of Hebrew lyrics and traditional Iranian music. It is awesome.
"Ya Ribon Alam" features words in Aramaic, written in the 16th century, and traditional Iraqi music touched up with a Southern flair (banjo!). It is an excellent light-hearted compliment to the intensity of the first 3 tracks, and is incredibly catchy. Galeet really sings her heart out on this one!
"Duerme" is probably my favorite track on the album. It is very old Sephardic love song, sung in Ladino (a kind of proto-Spanish, I believe). This track is the most "Spanish" sounding on the album, and it is absolutely beautiful. Although I'm trying not to focus TOO much on Galeet, I can't help but say how stunning her vocal performance is on this track. This track is the embodiment of "timeless."
"Va'amartem Zevakh Pesakh" is, by contrast, perhaps the most Middle Eastern and/or Jewish sounding track on the album. With dualing Doumbeks (hell yeah!) and unbelievably catchy vocals, this song is another highlight of the album for me. Curiously enough, it reminds me in some ways of Bizet's famous "Habanera" suite, with that same kind of swagger and seductive quality. It also features a Doumbek solo, which is freaking great. Traditional Iraqi music, Hebrew words.
Next we have "Yodukha Rayonai," originating from Turkey. Apparently, the music comes from a popular traditional Turkish folk song that the Jewish diaspora in Turkey chose for a Pizmon. Lauren is again on the tablas, giving the song an entirely different feel from what I'd imagine it normally sounds like.
Some very cool cello and violin solos, as well as a sick closing tabla solo by Lauren. :)
"Cuando el Rey Nimrod" is another immensely catchy Ladino folk song. Following DeAlbert's suggestion, the group transposed the verses into 7/8, giving it a very cool syncopated feel. It kicks back into common time for the chorus. Like the previous Ladino track, this song definitely sounds very "Spanish," including some nice Flamenco guitar, while maintaining that Middle Eastern twist. Also features an awesome Cello solo.
"Scalerica de Oro" is a haunting, beautiful ballad on par with "Duerme" in terms of emotional intensity. Apparently, the song is about a bride-to-be who has no money to offer as a dowry.
The final track of the album, "Shekharkhoret," is a fittingly dramatic and emotional closer. Starting with delicate pizzicato cello underneath a meandering violin, Galeet enters singing incredibly soulfully, with string accompanyment, as the song slowly builds into an impassioned, beautiful frenzy. The pace really picks up when DeAlbert enters into a brief Doumbek solo, answered by a violin solo and then ending with wordless vocals over incredible cello riffs and violin leads. The song was traditionally sung at Mizrakhi weddings as the women gathered would dance around the bride, and the title means "dark woman."
I strongly urge everyone to check out this record...it is incredible.