Album review

Naïssam Jalal – ‘Healing Rituals’

Naïssam Jalal – Healing Rituals

(Les Couleurs du Son. Album review by Tony Dudley-Evans)

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Naïssam Jalal is a flautist, vocalist and composer born to to Syrian parents in France. Keen to explore her musical roots, she studied at the Higher Institute of Arab Music in Damascus, and also later with a private teacher in Cairo before returning to France.  Her music brings together an attractive mix of Western chamber music, jazz and Arab classical music.  

The music of her latest album, Healing Rituals recorded with a quartet featuring Clément Petit on cello, Claude Tchamitchian on double bass, and Zaza Desiderio on drums develops the theme of imaginary healing rituals that address a suffering body: silence that calms and cools the body down, trance that deals with pain and anxiety, and beauty that fosters hope and the desire to live. Thus we have the rituals of ‘vent (wind)’, ‘soleil (sun)’, ‘collines (hills)’, ‘rivière (river)’, ‘terre (earth)’, ‘forêt (forest), ‘lune (moon)’ and ‘brume’ (mist)’.

The music itself has the feel of chamber music with added vocals, plus a strong element of Arab music.  It is essentially structured, but has an improvisatory and rhythmic aspect to it.  “Rituel du Vent” sets the scene with a gentle, soothing ambiance, and this mood is also captured in “Rituel de la Rivière”, which is beautiful and haunting.  “Rituel de la Terre” begins with an ensemble passage that is briefly reminiscent of the orchestral backing to Um Kulthum’s songs, but then moves into a rather mysterious vocal from Jalal.  Other tracks, notably “Rituel du Soleil”, “Rituel des Collines” and “Rituel de la Forêt” are more upbeat, no doubt aiming to bring hope and positivity.

Naïssam Jalal is almost completely unknown in the UK, but is clearly an important musician and bandleader in France, and tours widely in continental Europe and is booked for some of the Canadian festivals this summer.  Her music is a distinctive take on the intersection of jazz, chamber music and Arab music.  It would be good to hear her and her group at a jazz or world music festival in the UK. 

LINK: Live dates

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