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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

A Review Of

The Gathering Season

by Solace

 

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Summary

This album contains a series of original compositions, mostly by Jeremiah Soto, based on Middle Eastern rhythms. Because of this, it could be an interesting choice for fusion performances.

Songs tend to be repetitious with a lot of drumming that feels almost ritualistic in nature, which would make it perfect for a format such as American Tribal Style that requires a consistent rhythm. I could see myself using the slower, mellow songs for veil, floor work, balancing a sword or candle, or standing undulations. I probably wouldn't use the faster songs for dance performances because they don't have a very high energy level, but they could have merit for practice.

The Gathering Season Album Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Musical Style Moody, mysterious Western aesthetic with Middle Eastern rhythms
Instruments Synthesizer, oud, saz, sitar
Dance Style Best Suited To... American Tribal Style, Theatrical, Goth-friendly, other fusion
Recommended Dance Skill Level All levels
Length of Music 57:32 minutes
Number of Songs 12
Packaging Informative song listing on the label

 

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Description

This collection of music is played primarily on synthesizer, with some saz and oud. It consists of original compositions by the musicians based on traditional Middle Eastern rhythms. Although percussion is very prominent throughout, it has the tone of ritualistic drumming rather than high-energy accents. When listening to it in my car, I found it erased the stress of dealing with California rush-hour traffic. That's nice for relaxation, but as a dancer I usually prefer not to lull my audience unless I'm doing veil work or sword balancing.

Although I probably wouldn't be likely to use the faster songs on this collection in a performance, I could imagine myself using this music in the following ways:

  • "Get up and dance" music for an open floor at a belly dance festival or hafla.
  • Background music at a restaurant or belly dance bazaar.
  • Practice music for drumming, finger cymbals, or just plain dancing.
  • Classroom use. The slow, long, repetitious songs could be great for drilling students on rhythms such as karsilima or maqsoum.
  • Accompaniment to movement meditation.
  • Music for a theatrical dance such as a temple scene portrayal

This music has been popular among American Tribal Style dancers for group improvisation, as well. Its consistent rhythmic structure would make it well suited to the format.

There are 12 tracks altogether.

On most songs, the rhythms are very easy to hear, and reasonably consistent. Even the songs that change rhythms mid-stream do it in a way that a newcomer to Middle Eastern music could probably follow. The 4/4, maqsoum, ayyoub, and Saidi rhythms should be reasonably easy for a beginner to practice with, although I wouldn't encourage beginners to perform to this music because its repetitious nature would be challenging for a beginner to interpret in an interesting way. For performing, this music needs a more experienced dancer with more practice in mesmerizing audiences. The oud solo provides an excellent introduction for beginners to the free-form taxim. The 6/8, samai, Saudi, and karsilama (called kashlama on the CD label) are much more challenging and best suited to experienced dancers.

 

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Songs Included

Song Title

Length

Nationality

Music Clip?

Translation?

Comments

Paradise Lost 4:33 U.S.A. Yes Not applicable Instrumentals have the flavor of chanting, not really a melody-oriented song. Mellow karsilama.
Huda 3:35 U.S.A. No Not applicable Very, very repetitive. Only a very skilled dancer could make it interesting. Musically interesting because drumming starts out sparse and builds to powerful level. 4/4, malfuf, ayyoub.
Desert Journey 7:01 U.S.A. Yes Not applicable Could be good for sword. Starts out slow, and gradually builds in speed, complexity, and volume. Mysterious tone at beginning good for floor work. Moves into bolero which suits more flowing moves while standing. Next section is Saidi, which could be good for shimmies and hip accents. Ends with maqsoum.
The Sultan's Dance 4:14 U.S.A. No Not applicable Medium-speed maqsoum. Probably ok as entrance music or tribal-style group improvisation.
Aenaem 6:26 U.S.A. Yes Not applicable Samai rhythm. Because of 10/8 rhythm, not a good choice for beginning dancers or even intermediates. But if you're a skilled enough dancer to tackle this challenging rhythm, it's a wonderful piece of music. I liked it very much.
Qabil 3:30 U.S.A. No Not applicable Drum solo in 6/8 rhythm. Rolling feel to it. Not high energy, but appealing.
Eyes Like Cats 5:55 U.S.A. Yes Not applicable Medium speed. Kind of boring. Ayyoub, Saidi.
Harvest Moon 4:34 U.S.A. No Not applicable Medium speed. If you're intrigued by Saudi rhythm but don't care much for Arabic music, you should give this a try. Mellow, low-key melody.
Saaba 2:41 U.S.A. No Not applicable Pleasant oud solo. Nice for slow dancing, including standing undulations, floor work, or balancing. The most traditional-sounding track on the CD.
Hujayni 4:12 U.S.A. No Not applicable Medium-speed. Heavy drumming. Kind of boring. 4/4 rhythm.
Sudan 4:39 U.S.A. No Not applicable Soft, mellow, flowing. Starts out very soft, very slow. Gradually builds. Might be nice for veil work. 4/4 rhythm.
Journey's End 6:12 U.S.A. Yes Not applicable My favorite track on the entire CD. Rolling 6/8 rhythm. Playful percussion. Feels moody, mysterious. Listening to it in traffic has a mellow, stress-reducing effect on me.

 

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Is It Right for You?

You Will Probably Enjoy This Music If...

  • You really liked the music by Ramal LaMarr that many belly dancers used in the mid-1980's. (Atéa used LaMarr's music on her video Bellydance! Magical Motion.) The music on The Gathering Season has a somewhat similar flavor to it.
  • You like music that has a moody, repetitious, somewhat ritualistic feel to it.
  • You're looking for something with a steady, easy-to-hear beat that's not too fast for practicing finger cymbals or dance at home.
  • You like New Age music. Although this does not have the high-pitched flute sound common in much New Age music, the shamanistic drumming might appeal.
  • You like using non-traditional music.

This Music Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You tend to favor music that has been popular in the Middle East: music that you might hear played at a wedding, in a nightclub, or on the radio in Egypt or Turkey.
  • You favor ethnic-sounding music played on traditional instruments.
  • You like to use high energy music with sharp accents.

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

What I Liked:

  • The beautiful henna design imprinted onto the CD itself.
  • Soothing to listen to in California rush-hour traffic -- it lulled away the stress.
  • Excellent musicianship.
  • Interesting music composition. I particularly liked the way some songs started out slow, soft, and simply arranged, then gradually built in speed, complexity, and volume. This was skillfully done.
  • For each song, the label identifies which Middle Eastern rhythm(s) it employs. This could prove very helpful to a student who wants unique music to accompany practicing finger cymbals or drums but doesn't yet know the rhythms well enough to recognize them by listening.
  • Many of the songs have a mysterious mood, which I found appealing.
  • It used a variety of interesting rhythms, some of which are hard to find such as samai (10/8) and Saudi (Khaleegy).

What I Didn't Like:

  • Many of the songs are quite long: more than 4 minutes. Given that U.S. audiences are used to "top 40 radio" for their pop music and bits of television story squeezed in between commercials, it's often hard for a dancer to hold audience attention when an individual song in her performance lasts more than about 3 or 3 1/2 minutes. That means that a dancer who wants to use one of these songs in a show would need to choose between cutting it or risking having the audience's attention wander.
  • Some of the faster and medium-speed songs are repetitious to the point of boring me.
  • The back cover label is extremely difficult to read due to low contrast between the color of the typeface and the background graphic.

 

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Conclusion

The style of dance that this music fits best would probably be American Tribal Style and its derivations - those that involve leader/follower improvisation. This is because the music's unchanging, almost hypnotic beat provides a predictable foundation upon which such leading/following can take place. This music would also be well suited to other fusion-oriented dance styles.

Apart from dance-related uses, I find that I enjoy listening to this music in my car because it tends to soothe the stress of being in heavy traffic.

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Disclosures

I have nothing to disclose. I've never met Jeremiah Soto, nor any of the other artists who worked with him on this collection. We've never even exchanged e-mail.

 

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To Buy It

The Gathering Season Album Cover

Artist: Solace
Album Title: The Gathering Season

Eventide Productions
P.O. Box 203
Redlands, CA 92373
U.S.A.

Telephone: (+1) (909) 862-8244
Fax: (+1) (909) 796-1712
Email: emprod100@aol.com

Web Site: www.soundsofsolace.com

Amazon Store: U.S.

 

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