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Racines Sacrées
Traditional Quadish Maria [1.22]
Roula SAFAR Incantation à Ishtar (2008/9) [4.44]
Roula SAFAR and Paul MINDY Qaddish: prière de louanges (2006/09) [4.26]
Roula SAFAR Urtenu (2008/09) [2.55]
Grigor NAREKATSI (951-1003) arr. Roula SAFAR Havoun [4.21]
Antoine BEYLOUNI (b. 1930) Abouned bachmayo [2.59]
Byzantine Chant Alleluia [3.00]
Roula SAFAR Aasheq el Hob (2008/9) [2.25]
Florence BASCHET Femmes - excerpts (2001) [5.30]
Levi YITZHAK (1740 - 1810) arr. Roula SAFAR Meyerke, main Suhn (2009) [4.28]
Plainchant Alleluia [1.50]
Traditional arr. Roula SAFAR Athanatai [4.16]
Francois-Bernard MACHE Rasna (1982) [5.22]
Karim HADDAD Meditatio 1 [5.13]
Roula SAFAR (mezzo, guitar, percussion); Paul Mindy (harmonic flute)
rec. details of location not given, 21-24 May 2009. DDD

Experience Classicsonline

Born in the Lebanon, exiled in Paris owing to the war in Beirut, mezzo-soprano Roula SAFAR grew up in a musical family studying singing, piano and flute. In Paris her studies homed in on classical singing and she developed an operatic career with a repertoire ranging from Mozart through Gounod to contemporary. Her response to her exile was to develop settings of poems and texts to her own music, reflecting her middle-eastern roots and musical heritage.
In the programme on this disc, Racines Sacrées (Sacred Roots), Safar mixes traditional Middle-Eastern settings with her own musical versions of texts, the results ranging from traditional Byzantine chant to sprechgesang. The texts are in a wide variety of languages, reflecting Lebanon's role as a cross roads in the Middle East. Here we have texts in Sumerian, Akkadian (the oldest known Semitic language), Aramaic, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The oldest of these were written in Mesopotamia and Syria in the second millennium BC.
The music is predominantly monody, ornamented in the way of Byzantine chant and later Arabic models. Safar accompanies herself on percussion (cymbals, Tibetan cowls, tambourine) and guitar with Paul Mindy providing harmonic flute on one track. In the final piece, by Karim Haddad, Safar is accompanied by atmospheric noises off tape.
Safar uses a variety of modes and so the music incorporates Arabic ¾ tones, ¼ tones and 1/3 tones as well as micro-intervals. The result is rather eclectic, as Safar's own pieces rub shoulders with more ancient music and modern treatments of ancient texts. There is also a commonality, a feeling that all the music stems from the same group of traditions. Even the Western plainchant takes on a new cast.
There are extensive notes about the artists, the background to the recital and the songs themselves. Unfortunately, though evocative descriptions of the music are included, actual texts are missing so that one lacks the knowledge of exactly what Safar is saying.
If you are interested in Middle-Eastern music or in non-Western liturgical chant then you should try this disc. It imaginatively mixes modern and ancient in a stylish synthesis.
Robert Hugill


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