Amina Alaoui is a vocalist, pianist, and composer steeped in the history of Andalusian music, the fusion of Arab, Spanish, Persian, and Portuguese styles that evolved in the courts of Moorish Spain in the ninth century. Her intent, stated poetically in the album's liner notes, is to use the fusion of styles that flourished centuries ago as the foundation for a modern music without boundaries. Arco Iris translates as rainbow, a metaphor for the way the musics of the Iberian Peninsula and Northern Africa blend into and color each other. Alaoui, and the five musicians that accompany her, produce a powerful, contemplative sound that stirs deep feeing with its deliberate tempos and intricate instrumental work. Still, the main focus remains Alaoui's soulful, passionate vocals. They take up an immense emotional space, reminding listeners of the limited range of most pop music. The record opens with "Hado" (Fate), a chilling solo performance that shows Alaoui's vocal range and masterful control as she slides up and down the scale adding ornamentations to her vocal lines. "Búscate en Mí" (Seek Yourself Within Me) is a poem by Saint Teresa of Avila set to Alaoui's music. The solemn instrumental work of violinist Saïfalla Ben Abderrazak and oud player Sofiane Negra set the stage for Alaoui's understated vocal. "Fado Al-Mu'tamid" and "Fado Al-Mu'tamid" feature the mandolin of Eduardo Miranda, who adds a Brazilian lilt to his accompaniment that lets Alaoui dig deep into the melancholy of the songs. "Oh Andaluces" (Oh Andalusians) may be the most emotional song on the record, featuring Alaoui's stunningly emotional vocals accompanied only by José Luis Montón's smoldering flamenco guitar. With the exception of "Las Morillas de Jaén" (Moorish Girls of Jaén), a midtempo tune marked by Montón's dramatic flamenco guitar and Idriss Agnel's inventive percussion accents, and the driving Andalusian workout of "Ya Laylo Layl," the tunes here are taken at a measured tempo that serves to accent their emotional weight.
“This music transcribes an Iberian peninsula carried towards a dialogue with the potential of what might be. It is a poetic geography that entertains the dream of the impossible: human horizons that transcend borders, lyrical Mediterranean idioms that are open to the universe and the intelligence of being, of mutual communication. Song and music explore this possibility in order to open up another path: original expression.” Amina Alaoui.
Following her outstanding ECM debut performance as the lyrical voice of Jon Balke’s “Siwan” recording of 2007/8, Amina Alaoui explores a rainbow of musical possibilities on her own “Arco Iris”. It is an emotionally powerful album that soars through related idioms. This time, says Alaoui in her liner notes, there is “no need to discuss the origins of fado, flamenco or Al Andalusi” for the music itself investigates the common crucible of the styles: Amina’s delivery, and the performances of her superb ensemble, make the interconnections of the genres self-evident. Yet as she also points out, “you must first have assimilated your own roots, in order to absorb the culture of the other...” Historical awareness, study and discernment are essential but more is needed: “I am an artist of the present. I abstain from simply copying the styles of the past.” The songs are from many sources, and the texts and some of the melodies span a thousand years. Amina sets mystic poems by St. Teresa of Avila and by 11th century king of Seville Al Mutamid Ibn Abbad, and nature poetry of Ibn Khafaja. There is 20th century fado from the pen of Antonio de Sousa Freitas and the well-known 15th century text “Las Morillas de Jaén” which Amina puts to her own music.
(01). Hado [Fate] (02). Búscate en Mí [Seek Yourself Within Me] (03). Fado Al-Mu'tamid (04). Flor de Nieve [Sunflower] (05). Oh Andaluces [Oh Andalusians] (06). Ya Laylo Layl (07). Fado Menor [Fadio in Minor] (08). B?scate En M?, Var. (09). Morad?a (10). Las Morillas de Jaén [Moorish Girls of Jaén] (11). Que Faré [What Shall I Do?] (12). Arco Iris [Rainbow]
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