This is a collection of Christmas songs, mostly Christian hymns, played by the band Desert Wind. These arrangements incorporate drumming by Middle Eastern percussion instruments such as riqq and tabla, playing Middle Eastern rhythms. The melody lines are played in Desert Wind's signature style, on instruments including assorted flutes, piano, mandolin, harpsichord, recorder, and others. Out of 15 songs in the collection, 3 were composed by Alan Scott Bachman and the rest are traditional Christmas music.
For the most part, the use of the Middle Eastern percussion is very subtle. Although there's an occasional tabla accent, for the most part the drums keep a low profile and often I can't really discern which rhythm the percussion was playing. It's there, but it's very understated. Most people probably wouldn't even notice it was there, unless they were told to look for it. I find this to be a valid artistic decision, compatible with the songs that are used.
In general, the format for each song opens with a bit of lead-in, followed by the main melody of the song played in a reasonably straightforward way. After a time or two through the verse and chorus, the musicians then transition into an extended improvisation section. These improvisations tend to be entirely different melodies, rather than variations on the original, so if you were to come into a song in the middle of one of these you would probably not be able to identify which song was currently playing. I enjoy the improvisations - they are musically interesting, and well executed. But they also dilute the Christmas-ish feel of the songs, which could be either a benefit or an issue, depending on what you're intending to use the music for.
I found the arrangements of all these songs to be fairly mellow and low-key. For belly dancing, I might be able to envision doing a quiet-mood piece such as a veil performance or balancing a candle on my head to one of these songs, but none of the songs were high-energy enough for me to choose them for an exciting entrance or a powerful finale. Since most of the songs are Christian hymns, they might be appealing for a church Christmas pageant or liturgical dance presentation.
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This collection of songs is certainly suitable for the typical things that people use Christmas music for, such as background music while driving in a car, mood music in a restaurant, etc. The use of Middle Eastern percussion provides a tie-in to Middle Eastern music, but is so subtle that most people probably wouldn't notice it's there. Although performed by a band that also plays Middle Eastern music, I wouldn't describe this album as being "belly dance music" at all. It's Christmas music.
I personally wouldn't use the Christian hymns for belly dance performances unless it was within the context of a liturgical dance or Christmas pageant, with folkloric costuming. But the more secular songs such as Alan Bachman's own compositions could be fun to use for a belly dance performance at a holiday hafla.
I've had minimal contact with Alan Bachman. I have had brief conversations with him while buying his music at local dance festivals, but I've never had a chance to get well-acquainted with him and I've never had an opportunity to work with his band for a performance to live music.
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