CD REVIEW – MIDDLE-EARTH ENSEMBLE“PASSAGE”

By Lucia, President of SAMEDA (luciadance.com)

For those of you new to San Diego or to the Middle Eastern Dance community, let me introduce The Middle-Earth Ensemble, a talented San Diego based group* that performs and composes music for a variety of Middle Eastern dance and special events. The ensemble represents a unique fusion – a blend of Mediterranean and Arabic rhythms with folk, jazz, classical, rock and improvisational music.
The Middle Earth Ensemble (“Middle-Earth”) has performed at many venues – internationally and in the United States. They are the 2006 Golden Belly Award Winners – Zaghareet Magazine for their outstanding musical works. Despite their busy schedule, Middle-Earth has produced their 3rd CD (first professionally mastered), titled “Passage”. This CD is a fine blend of classical Arabic music, influenced by Middle-Earth’s notable sparkling fusion blends.
When first listening to Passage, I was impressed with the soulful, unique gypsy infused sound. It reminds me of a journey through Spain, Turkey and the Middle East. In track fifteen, a visit to old world Spain is delivered. The rhythms are complex and dramatic. This CD demonstrates Middle-Earth’s diverse repertoire. A collection of delightful music – for any occasion and dancers of all levels.

Track One: Gibraltar: 4:33 min- A classical, beautiful and soulful belly dance entrance piece – great for veil and spins with different melodic and rhythmic sections. The accents are soft with a nice tabla finale.    

Track Two: El Helwa Di: 5:41 An arrangement of a traditional Egyptian folk piece originally famed by Ahmed Abdalla. With guitar and flute infusion, this piece becomes a blend of Moorish and Gypsy inspiration.

Track Three: Passage: 4:01 – The title track includes Indian tablas and demonstrates the fusion the Middle-Earth has created, capturing an urgency and tension/release throughout its journey    

Track Four: Uskudara Giderken: 4:56 - A beautiful classical Turkish song with heavy string instruments and flute accents. Enjoy the journey this gypsy journey.

Track Five: Cairo Beats:  4:17 – Frank Lazzaro demonstrates his playful and keen percussion skills in this drum solo– an enjoyable piece for dancers of intermediate-professional levels. Great for teaching and performing!

Track Six:Galiciana: 4:21 -  Wonderful flute and percussion infused with violin and oud. A lively, smooth piece – nice to perform before a strong drum solo.    
  
Track Seven: King Ramzy: 4:44 – an original piece by Middle-Earth. Track Sixteen is a remix version. This song will appeal to tribal belly dancers with its hint of mystical fusion yet distinctive instrumentality.

Track Eight: Rompi-Rompi: 5:02 -  This charming, lively and famed Turkish song is well performed and will appeal to many gypsy-Turkish dance aficionados. Enjoyable to performers of all levels. This song is one of my favorites on the CD because of the festive singing and instrumental blends. 

Track Nine: Mirayah’s Veil: 6:07 -  a dream-like ballad set to a chiftetelli and marked by harmonics of 12 string acoustic guitar and stirring vocals. Perfect for veil, candles and slow dramatic moves.

Track Ten: Shobi Time: 2:24 – Once again, Frank Lazzaro demonstrates his clean, distinctive style of percussion talents – a drum solo delight for dancers of all levels. Includes chobi, saidi, gawhazee rhythms with a nice finish. 
 
Track Eleven: Tamr Henna 6:38: A cover (close to the original) of a famous traditional Egyptian piece. Middle-Earth adds distinct flute and violin instrumentality to create a new work with a dash of Celtic – Moorish influence.

Track Twelve: Lileta 3:26. An Andalucían piece sung in Spanish. Very gypsy and passionately performed. A nice piece to perform with gypsy-flamenco attire, perhaps with a Spanish fan or manton.

Track Thirteen: Nadya 3:55 - This is one of Middle-Earth’s notable folkloric pieces – with a nice Mizmar inspired section. This song contains a sassy and playful flavor – one can use a cane in the beginning section of the piece.

Track Fourteen: Ottomar : 4:49 – This dramatic ballad contains a blend of violin-tabla instruments with a heavy bass at times. The melody is beautifully haunting, with distinctive sections for shimmies, layering and graceful arm movements.   

Track Fifteen: La Leyenda Del Beso: 3:43 – An original arrangement of a traditional classical Spanish ballad. With distinctive rumba sections, this piece can be performed in full skirt Gypsy attire, with fans/veil and passionate accents.      

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 For music purchases or details about Middle-Earth,  please visit their website at www.middleearthband.net. For booking information – call Frank Lazzaro at (760) 703-1487.

*BAND MEMBERS:
Anthony Sarain- Sax, flute
Robert Rotzler-Mandolin, violin
Frank Lazzaro- Dumbek, percussion
Walid Chlioui "Toonsee"- Oud
Andy Villas-Boas- Bass, vocals
Michael Mesleh – Oud, guitar