A great love
June 6, 2008

One of the drawbacks of maintaining a decades-long commitment to the promotion of such a broad and constantly-evolving musical idiom as ambient, is the need to ration one’s listening time; the sheer volume of new ambient that’s being produced in the world today precludes the possibility of any one person ever maintaining encyclopedic, up-to-the-minute knowledge of it all.

Consequently, I’ve tended to comprehensively explore the creative output of a number of key artists on a cyclic basis, periodically expanding the list of artists as I go. However, the sequential nature of this approach means that I can easily remain almost completely ignorant of the work of many other artists – even major ones – for years at a stretch.

And then, one day, I’ll stumble across something which grabs me by the throat and beats me about the head repeatedly with its sheer unadulterated, vibrant, radiant, pulsating wonderfulness.

Something which screams “go out and buy every album this person ever produced right now and spend the next three weeks immersing yourself in their brilliance, you ignorant dolt!”

Something like this:

Truly great art by a truly great artist. The lyrics “a great love cut her life” are both prophetic and acutely poignant in light of Ofra Haza‘s tragic death of AIDS-related complications in 2000, at the age of only 42 – a consequence of contracting the HIV virus from her “great love” – husband, Doron Ashkenazi.  

Thankfully we can still delight in her prodigious musical legacy…

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Sacred sounds from north Africa
April 6, 2008

Over the past few weeks my YouTube wanderings have led me in some interesting new directions, as well as reacquainting me with some long-forgotten classics. In this post I’m focusing on the music of two ancient, but little-known (to Western audiences) Christian traditions of north Africa.

First up is music from the orthodox Christian tradition of Ethiopia. These beautifully hypnotic hymns are part of the liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and are just a couple of the many dozens of similar examples that have now found their way onto the Web. In my opinion this is one little-known ancient musical tradition which definitely deserves a fuller examination:

 

The Ethiopian Orthodox church has a 1000+ year relationship with another ancient Christian tradition of the Near East – the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, founded in 451 CE, which has 11,000,000 adherents in Egypt, and is led by Pope Shenouda III.  

Those who caught last week’s show (UT #702) will have heard me play several Coptic liturgical chants from a recording by the Paris-based Institut du Monde Arabe. Here’s a gorgeous Coptic hymn to the Virgin Mary: