CD Review/ gig preview: Hijaz – Chemsi

Hijaz Chemsi
(CD Zephyrus ZEP012. Concert Saturday 28th May, Union Chapel , Review/Preview by Jane Stringfellow)

Chemsi meaning “My Sun” in Arabic is the latest album from Belgian band Hijaz, releeased last year.

The band comprises musicians from Tunisia, Greece, Morocco and Armenia as well as Belgium, and the music blends jazz with Arabic scales, North African and Middle Eastern Instrumentation and Greek Rembetika.

The result is extremely atmospheric, music that transports you to the warmth of a North African Spice market as you listen. Rhymically exciting and full of excellent individual performances what impresses most is the whole rather than the sum of the parts.

A jazz foundation is skilfully provided by Belgian-Greek pianist (Niko Deman), bass (Vincent Noiret) and drum kit (Chryster Aerts). However what makes the band distinctive is the interplay between these instruments and traditional Middle Eastern and North African ones.

Tunisian Moufadhel Adhoum ’s performance on the oud (an Arabic precursor to the lute and guitar) demonstrates his virtuosity – particularly solos in “Ila Sadiqui” and “Leaving Adana”. Moroccan Azzedine Jazouli’s varied percussion evident throughout the album, provides driving rhythms in “Sidi Bou Said” and a wonderful solo in “Mr JPS.” Middle Eastern flutes played by Armenian Vardan Hovanissian and Tunisian Houssem Bel Kadhi inject both a joyful and melancholy sound.

Hijaz have several guests on this album – on violin is Belgian Tcha Limberger playing a stunning solo on “Ila Sadiqui” and on tabla is French-Indian Prabhu Edouard adding a South Asian twist.

This music will interest jazz and world music lovers alike. Expect an evening of musical journeys, virtuosity and rarely-heard combinations and musical flavours.

Hijaz will be playing in London for the first time at the Union Chapel, Islington on Saturday 28 May at 7 30pm.

Hijaz have been brought to London by Arts Canteen, a new arts organisation set up to improve links between artists and musicians from the Mediterranean and Middle East and the rest of Europe.

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