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Written in fRoots issue 334, 2011


Muziekpublique 003 (2010)

Brussels folk and world music arts organisation Muziekpublique has gathered six Belgian-resident musicians from different countries and traditions to perform together in concerts where both they and the audience are in the dark, in order to focus on hearing rather than sight. A strong idea, but there’s more: the beautifully and unusually designed CD packaging has titling in braille, probably one of the very few CDs to do so, and the project supports the work of Light For The World, a Belgian NGO that cares for blind children in Africa.
     So far, so novel and worthwhile. But the music?
     It’s a lovely album, whatever the lighting conditions. Duduk and shvi from Armenia’s Vardan Hovanissian, vocals from Madagascar’s Talike Gellé, vocals, hoddu and guitar from Senegal’s Malick Pathe Sow, Turkey’s Emre Gültekin on vocals, kopuz, baglama and guitar, Osvaldo Hernandez Napoles from Mexico on percussion and cuatro, and Karim Baggili, Belgian singer, guitarist, ud-player and bassist of Jordanian-Yugoslav origin. Sensitive musicians who listen and play only when they can really contribute, they’ve created a fulfilling string of varied, distinctive and finely-formed songs and instrumentals that draw on all their repertoires and compositions.
     On a usual gig the dominance of the eye can distract from the occasional auditory clanger, but not so in these dark-concerts (come to that, not usually on a record either). That could mean over-carefulness, but there’s plenty of freedom and life, and the six have obviously overcome the initial problem of lack of the visual cues that sighted performers take for granted.
We’re not told whether the studio lights were off for the making of the album, but it clearly captures the essence of the music in the concerts. On YouTube there’s a video from one of them, which seemed a witty touch; actually, though, it’s from the last number of the show, when subtle lighting creeps in, gradually adding to the sensory experience and perhaps making the audience even gladder of their sight.


© 2011 Andrew Cronshaw

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