Morcheeba Live: As good as ever

Morcheeba plays the 9:30 Club Since moving to the US nearly three years ago, I have not had a chance to see many live concerts. I saw The Gypsy Kings live on my 30th birthday at Wolf Trap and really enjoyed it. Back then, I made it a point to see more concerts, but we got busy and did not have the time or energy to commit to attending major events.

However, things are getting less chaotic here at the Tynes House. We are slowly settling into our new home and Spring is almost here, which means time for some fun. So last week, we made our way to the 9:30 Club in DC to see Morcheeba, a band I discovered through Pandora, live.

I have been listening to Morcheeba for a year now and they have made their way to the top of the list of my favorite bands. I can listen to their album Big Calm over and over again and it always makes me smile. My favorite songs: The Sea, Friction and Blindfold. Played live, the band sounded fantastic. They were as good as the recording. The performance of the lead guitarist was impressive, as was the performance of the fairly new lead singer.

The only disappointment was the audience. Few of them seemed fully engaged, which I attribute to the uptight nature of DC in general. I felt I stood out somehow because I was among the few that knew all the lyrics and swayed constantly to the music. Although the concert was sold out and people seemed happy when they left, I wondered if the crowd uptightness was a DC thing or it was because it was a Monday. Regardless, we had a great time. I will definitely keep my eyes open for upcoming live concerts. The picture here was from the hubby’s mobile phone from our balcony seat.

Meanwhile, I continue listening to Pandora. I recently discovered a band called Bitter:Sweet, which plays chilled out trip-hop tunes that appeal to me. The advent of online customized radio stations such as Pandora and is making my life more enjoyable, that’s for sure!

Living on my own planet

Sometimes I wonder if I live on my own planet. The current reason this thought is going through my head is because I only got to listen to Amy Winehouse’s fantastic album Back to Black last weekend on our way to the beach.

The album is a gem in every sense of the word! Winehouse’s voice is so powerful that it gives you goosebumps instantly. Her breathtaking album was released last year and it took me all this time to get around to listening to it.

I was really blown away by the talent of this young British soul singer who according to The New Yorker is "a fierce English performer whose voice combines the smoky depths of a jazz chanteuse with the heated passion of a soul singer." From Rehab to You Know I’m No Good to Back to Black, every song on this album is a hit! Really, where was I all this time? How could I have missed such an incredible talent? Time to leave the planet!

Jordanian radio station grabs NAB award

I just stumbled upon this news item on Arabian Business, and yes it did put a huge smile on my face.

Jordanian music station bags NAB award

Jordanian music station, Play 99.6 will receive this year’s NAB International Broadcasting Excellence Award during the International Reception on Wednesday, April 18 at NAB 2007 in Las Vegas. The awards recognize international broadcasters who have demonstrated leadership and successfully served their audience through innovative broadcasting and outstanding community service.

Play 99.6 led educational workshops to improve the role of radio in solving social and community problems. It included broadcasters from Egypt, Lebanon and Syria in its work. It also led Project Peace, a campaign that drew attention to the horrors of war in the Middle East, and collected US $78,000 to provide food and medical supplies to war victims in the region. Source: [Arabian Business]

I listened to play 99.6 briefly before my exodus from Jordan and they did indeed sound very professional. As someone who grew up listening to Radio Jordan (the one and only), I’m still baffled by the recent radio revolution in Jordan. I really can’t keep track of all the new radio stations launched in the Kingdom in the past few years. According to Ahmad, not all of them are up to par. Well, at least one of them manged to win an international award. Way to go Play 99.

Ruba Saqr speaks out on music censorship

I just finished watching a fairly recent interview with Jordanian singer Ruba Saqr, during which she talks about the censorship of musical expression in the Middle East. I enjoyed the interview a great deal, as some points she raised were spot on. I also enjoyed hearing her perform her song I’m a lantern, which is, as I understand it, dedicated to the city of Amman. Ruba’s voice is still just as beautiful as I remember from back in the days when I used to hear her perform in Amman.

Here is a blurb about her and her views.

Having worked as a reporter for several years, Ruba Saqr has written several articles to different Jordanian publications about the need to support underground musicians, and the need to change perceptions of musicians, in particular Arab female musicians in her part of the world. Ruba Saqr believes that female musicians are often reduced to being performers or singers and are seldom acknowledged by producers as full-fledged musicians who can write their own lyrics and music. She has experienced that some female musicians are pushed away from the music scene by society because it is not viewed as a "respectable" vocation, especially in traditional circles.

You can read more here. And you can hear more of her songs along with singer Ramzi Rais here. I love the improvisations on the song Gulli walla tahbaeeh ya 3ein. You can listen to it here. According to the website, Ruba is working on her debut album, which she expects to finish by the end of 2007. I wish her the best of luck.

Hypnotized by the ‘Sprinting Gazelle’

Reem Kilani's Sprinting Gazelle album cover
Among the many wonderful gifts that our friends Luma and Shawn gave us during their short, but very sweet visit this weekend was a pile of awesome new music. The album that grabbed my attention immediately was Reem Kilani’s Sprinting Gazelle.

I have been listening to this debut album since last night and this is my assessment: it is the best Arabic music I have heard in a very, very long time. What makes it unique is Kelani’s tantalizing voice and the fact that the music is based upon Palestinian folk songs that deal with every day issues, like building a house with a garden around it.

Kelani kicks off her music with the gripping Mawwal, which succeeded in transporting this listener to a different land during a different era right from the very first note. Goose bumps come later on. On more than one occasion, I found myself dancing and swaying to her tunes all by myself in our living room. Yes, it is that hypnotic. Artists like Kelani are the ones who rekindle my interest in Arabic music, which is currently plagued by trashy pop that is so off-putting.

Here is what one reviewer on Amazon thought of the album:

Think Blues of the finest nuance and transpose its disposition first to Palestine and the contingent necessity for many of its natives to relocate. This music is party to the powerful response to a tragedy. That said, Sprinting Gazelle, by Reen Kelani, is one of the most exhilerating [sic] musical experiences I’ve encountered. So brilliantly performed, it’s impossible to believe that this is a debut effort. The rating system is inadequate to do it justice. Her singing is up there with Alim Qasimov, Dimi Mint Abba, and Aster Aweke. Emotionally, her collection is more diverse than any issued by the aforementioned luminaries. For this, she is superbly abetted by musicians and production of uncanny majesty. Even were she never to produce more recorded work, her position on the top deck of cherished CDs is assured.

Luma paid a hefty sum to get her hands on this album, which for some reason is not widely available in the US. "It was worth every cent," Luma told me. She is right. It is definitely worth it.

Opening Pandora’s box!

Thanks to my bother-in-law, David, I got acquainted with one of the coolest free on-line radio stations out there: Pandora. The amazing thing about this radio is that it selects music for you based upon your taste. For example, let’s say you like Massive Attack, so you add them to your list. Based on this specific choice, Pandora might select something for you along the same lines, like Thievery Cooperation.

I have been listening to Pandora for the past two days non-stop. It really is pretty cool. It introduced me to a number of new bands and artists that I’d not heard of that were similar to my choices. I’m enjoying it a great deal. I’m listening to Pandora as we speak, as it plays a song by an artist called Mary Black. I have never heard of her before but she is pretty darn good. So for all the music fans out there, make sure to pay a visit (no I don’t make any money from this). It really is worth your time. And yeah, it is free!