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Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

All Because Of Love: Seyed Ali Jaberi and the Hamdel Ensemble @ Sage Gateshead – September 19

(Review by Melanie Grundy/Photo supplied)

This fascinating project takes its inspiration from the works of Sufi poet Rumi, a link that is explained in an introductory talk by the ensemble’s producer before the performance. Rumi was a Persian poet, Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic, who spent most of his life in Konya in Central Turkey. Rumi was teaching at the madrassa here when he met Shams-e-Tabrizi and his life as a poet and ascetic truly began; after four years of Shams’ teaching and companionship, he suddenly disappeared. The rest of Rumi’s life was spent searching for Shams and mourning his loss in lyrical verse. It is some of these verses that become the inspiration for the compositions the ensemble presents.


The title All because of Love alludes to the truth and unity of being to which Sufi mystics aspire. Gnosticism is the idea that the universe was created from Divine Light and that there is a spark of that Divine Light trapped within each of us as ego. The aim of the life of a Sufi is to release that spark from the gross matter of the body to reconnect with the Unity of Being in the form of this Divine Light. The Sufis find their way towards enlightenment, through the process of repetition or Zeksh as exemplified in the Sema or whirling dance of the Dervishes. This repetition is intended to constantly remind oneself of the path one has chosen.

Before the performance begins we are asked to turn off our phones and to refrain from taking photographs. We are advised that the relationship between musicians and audience should be to give and gain energy and focus as a two way process. The music is intended as a meditation for both performers and listeners, practiced to focus the senses and help concentration.

The instrumentation of Seyed Ali Jaberi’s Hamdel Ensemble involves double bass, oud, up to four tanbours, daf (Persian frame drum), bells, chimes, udu, two female and up to four male voices. Whilst the double bass is by no means a traditional Persian instrument, it is used in this setting to give either a drone like quality, as with the use of the tanpura in Indian Classical music, or as a source of melodic rhythm more typical of its use in Western music. The tanbours are played up to four at a time, with the same melody at the same pitch creating a layered, dense sonic texture. Watching the players is fascinating, the downward stroke hits the strings rhythmically, whilst on the upward stroke, which creates a more open sound, the players' right hands make beautiful fan-like shapes.

The use of the Daf, the traditional Persian frame drum, creates the rhythmic anchor of all the pieces, but this instrument has a rich sonority owing to the presence of chains around the edge of the frame. The drum can be struck with the hand or moved with a flick of the wrist creating a completely different sound. During one piece, Mohamad Jaberi gives us an absolutely virtuosic display of his talents in a long solo passage for Daf, which then rejoins the other instruments via a glorious improvised Daf/tambour dialogue between Mohamad and Seyed. A crescendo of the Daf rounds off most of the pieces with intense drama.

The vocals throughout the performance are haunting and hypnotic; the fact that most of the audience cannot understand the language doesn’t matter, the intonation clearly communicates the meaning and emotional depth with beautiful layering of male and female voices. Seyed Ali Jaberi’s compositions combine elements of traditional Persian music, in terms of scales and modes, but these are used with a contemporary approach, as exemplified by inclusion of non-traditional instruments such as the double bass and flat-backed oud. The polyphony of the layered voices is also an element, which would not be found in traditional Persian compositions.

At points through the performance, the audience is invited to join the vocalists, with Arash Fayyazi leading the initially tentative participants through their lines, as confidence and volume steadily grows.  A whirling dervish dancer joins the performance for two of the pieces, asking for God’s blessing before she takes her place centre-stage and begins spinning. She wears a full-skirted robe with a weighted hem; the movement of the fabric alone is fascinating before you even begin to consider how she sustains momentum without becoming unbalanced. When she finally stops turning at the end of both songs there is not even a flicker of unsteadiness.

Some of the pieces open with lines from Rumi spoken by Kimia Jaberi; “you are my ailment and antidote”, “madness like rain washes wisdom down the drain” are lines that anchor themselves in memory. There is a stately, almost processional grandeur in some of the pieces, anchored in the solid, steady rhythm of the Daf. Other pieces are utterly joyful and uplifting and the desire to jump up and spin like the dervish dancer is almost overwhelming. At the end of the performance there is an overwhelming sense of satisfaction amongst the audience and souls are smiling as we leave the hall.
Mel G
Seyed Ali Jaberi (composer/tanbour); Kimia Jaberi (vocals/tanbour); Mohammad Jaberi (daf/vocals); Leili Mohseni (vocals); Arash Fayyazi (oud/tambour); Masoud Ghasemi (tambour/percussion); Steve Truman (double bass); Serap Yilmaz (dancer)

1 comment :

Unknown said...

Thanks Melanie.. It was a thunderously good night ... Transported me outta Gateshead .. and invoked a deeply hypnotic and trancey state ..and the whirling dancer was captivating and spell binding ..

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