Surrender to the Unfamiliar

Two colorful performances of traditional and contemporary Middle Eastern music by the Dara Anissi Ensemble took place at the Saranac Fire Hall November 19 and 20, with Dara Anissi on the oud, Martin Shamoonpour on the daf, recorder, and amazing bagpipes made of a large animal’s bladder (maybe a pig or possibly a camel) and Nikolai Ruskin on the doumbek, violin, and ney. One simply had to let go of all attachment to familiar Western musical rhetoric of diatonic scales and predictable meters and surrender oneself to a different, exotic sound-world of modality, “bent” tones, uneven meters, and complex layered rhythms. The three musicians are very tightly attuned to each other, listening and watching intently for musical cues, as there was a lot of improvisation and A LOT of DRAMA. The music was full of surprises and excitement. The audience was perfectly happy to surrender themselves to a not-so-everyday music experience – they really loved it! Saturday’s show was sparsely attended at around 30, but the vibe was really nice and mellow. Sunday afternoon we had to pull out every chair we could find to seat 100. The Fire Hall rocked!

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