Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ustad Massano Tazi

  • Musique classique andalouse de Fès [Ocora, 1988] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Musique classique andalouse de Fès [Ocora, 1988]
Sufi Arab-Andalusian healing music attributed to Ziryab, the legendary "Black Songbird" from Baghdad who Ned Sublette conjectures became a prototypical guitar hero in the court of Cordoba circa 800--a fashion plate and oenophile who supposedly knew 10,000 songs, added a fifth string to his lute, developed his own compositional system, and invented toothpaste. No one knows the facts, of course--the notes say he was based in Granada, for instance--and claims that this is how compositions we're not even positive he wrote sounded a millennium ago seem inflated. Some things are clear, however. The gut-stringed and sometimes hide-backed instruments here haven't been used regularly since the 18th century. The proportion of bowed violins etc. has been reduced from the modern norm. Whatever we think of the theories of humors and elements that underlie Ziryab's system, his cosmology honored timbre above all. And whatever the performers think of those theories, they're Sufi mystics who believe in the music itself. Alternating the vocal and the instrumental, the rhythmic and the arhythmic, the high and the low, the result is lighter and less hypnotic than the Sufi healing music of Oruj Guvenc. Some of its more contemplative sections require dedicated listening, and its timbres take a while to sink in. But that's what timbres are so good at doing, and eventually these calmatives make themselves enjoyable and make themselves felt. A-