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Little Earth

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 28, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

On Little Earth, Rahim AlHaj set out to create a musical confluence, a caravanserai for artists from around the globe. The artistic gesture of the album emerges from the fact that humanity numbers nearly seven billion, all inhabitants of this our home, a place he came to call Little Earth . So, Rahim built a musical meeting place on Little Earth of newly composed works. Each composition needed to speak from its own singular identity, from its center. Each musical partner had to remember a musical birthplace. Every one of these deep-reaching musicians was given opportunity to voice his or her mind and heart in a musical conversation with Rahim, then each returned to a place much like where they began. Return is always homeward. Home is always somewhere on Little Earth a very small place in the vastness of space. This is world music of the first order. On these 2-CDs, a project two years in the making, Rahim gathers together around his oud and compositions collaborators from not only different cultures, but different genres to present his vision of our. Featuring some of the most renowned players from every corner of Little Earth, including guitarist extraordinaire Bill Frisell, indie rock royalty Peter Buck, Native American renaissance man and multi-grammy winner Robert Mirabal, Cape Verde diva Maria De Barros, Chinese pipa virtuoso Liu Fang, Argentina's acclaimed Santa Fe Guitar Quartet, world-renowned percussionist Glen Velez and many more.


Artistry and exile often run together, and exile has always had a way of making music world. During the Iraq-Iran war, conservatory trained oud master Rahim AlHaj set Why? - the poetic lament of a friend - to music, and earned himself a couple of years in one of Saddam s prisons before being expelled, minus his instruments. Now based in Albuquerque, where like all itinerant artists AlHaj soon made new alliances, he tours and records widely, and has garnered multiple Grammy nominations. Little Earth is a two-disc encounter between AlHaj and an unlikely gathering of friends, including guitarist Bill Frisell, accordion ace Guy Klucevsek, percussionist Glen Velez and numerous others. The oud finds particular resonance with a variety of stringed instrument, as on River, an extended AlHaj duet with Liu Fang on the p ip a, a fretted Chinese lute; Rocio, with Roshan Jamal Bhartiya on sitar; The Other Time, with Malian kora player Yacouba Sissoko; the melded classical string traditions of the Middle East and Europe on Going Home, with the Little Earth Orchestra; or the audible early music, baroque and Latin American influences of Fly Away, with the Santa Fe Guitar Quartet. The vocal pairings are particularly compelling, as on Missing You/Mae Querida, wherein singer Maria de Barros takes a native Cape Verdean morna into new Arabic-language territory. Native American singer-flautist-percussionist Robert Mirabal reworks AlHaj s Arabic lullaby in the Tewa language to haunting effect, in a song that transcends identifiable local roots. And on Qassim - AlHaj s tribute to a cousin killed by U.S. forces in Iraq­Stephen Kent s didjeridu moves past the instrument s easy clichés, unveiling its vocal potential while providing a solid foundation for the improvised oud figures. AlHaj closes with a repudiation of the trumped-up Iran-Iraq conflict, in a duet with Iranian ney (end-blown flute) player Hossein Omoumi on Waterfall, a sprightly Sunni men s dance from western Iraq. Unlike so many confected world-music encounters - without straining credibility or insulting the listener s intelligence, while grounded in a particular artistic tradition - Little Earth finds revelatory and highly productive connections with musicians and genres from around the planet. - Michael Stone --RootsWorld.com

Rahim AlHaj was hounded out of Iraq in the early 1990s after his song Why? became a hit among the anti-Saddam political resistance. But the tag protest singer hangs no better on him than it did on Bob Dylan: AlHaj, who now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is an impressively broad-based musician, and this two-CD album showcases his facility as a contemporary composer of mostly instrumental music. AlHaj plays the oud, a guitarlike instrument that s adaptable to many settings, and he was trained in both Western classical music and the Arabic melodic technique known as maqam. So crossing genres comes naturally to him, and he freely melds styles as he plays with guests including guitarists Bill Frisell and Peter Buck, Cape Verdean singer Maria de Barros, Indian sitarist Rashan Jamal Bhartiya, Chinese pipa player Liu Fang, and American Indian flutist Robert Mirabal. Despite the extensive, impressive guest roster, this is definitively AlHaj s album: He didn t just invite these artists to jam but rather composed music that capitalizes on their talents and their artistic multilingualism. It was a dream, to compose music for all the world, he has said of Little Earth. It s a dream to listen to as well. - Keith Goetzman --Utne Reader

Little Earth is Alhaj's eighth album and is his most ambitious project so far because this time around he s branched out from his traditions to interact with musicians from America, Africa, Europe and Asia. The results are not surprisingly a little uneven, but there is much to recommend in this two CD set. To Rahim Alhaj's advantage, the oud or lute s sound is not unfamiliar to the western ear, and its tones fit in well with most of our string music traditions. Bluegrass and jam band fans will hear commonalities between Alhaj s playing and that of western masters such as David Grisman or Bela Fleck. The music itself - however loose sounding it may appear - is not jam based, and each composition in this set has been composed and annotated in the Arabic tradition. The challenge, then, was how to get players from other cultures to play within an Iraqi musical framework while honouring their own traditions to create music that is a synthesis of the various players backgrounds. Thankfully, while studying Magam - the traditional Iraqi song form - as a young person, Alhaj was also instructed in western classical music, so Going Home and Sama I Baghdad the two compositions written as complex chamber pieces for the Little Earth Orchestra come off without a hitch. Careful listeners will hear lots of musical in jokes as Alhaj continually plays with western classical forms to set up his listeners for crescendos and climaxes that never arrive. If this sounds too clever or academic for you, rest assured that Alhaj s playing is graced with such verve and humour that the pieces never drag or get bogged down by their own cleverness. Acoustic music fans will naturally be drawn to Fly Away a collaboration between Alhaj and the Santa Fe Guitar quartet. The lovely interplay between the guitars and the oud reveals a musician who is completely confident in his playing as he explores the subtle tonal variations within the piece. Equally mesmerising is Morning in Hyattsville which features Bill Frisell on electric guitar and Laurie Anderson alumnus, Eyvind Kang on viola. Alhaj s personal friend and REM guitarist, Peter Buck makes an appearance on Athens to Baghdad - a track which joyfully explores and asserts the universal nature of music making. String players will bask in the simple clear beauty of Rocio a duet with Rhoshan Jamal Bartiya on sitar and The Other Time which features Yacouba Sissoko, the Malian master musician on the kora. Both of these tracks sound utterly unaffected; there is no evidence of strain or over-reaching anywhere in this collection, and one is continually struck by the relaxed and natural conversations between instruments. The only overtly political track is Qaasim and it is not surprisingly the most powerful piece of music on the album. It is a composition that tries to make sense of the loss brought about by war as it commemorates the life of Alhaj s cousin who was killed during the most recent US occupation. Featuring the insistent sounds of Stephen Kent s didjeridoo, it is a low rhythmic piece that emulates an Iraqi woman s cries of grieving and loss. For most of us, Middle Eastern music still sounds foreign and difficult to appreciate. Like many other forms of traditional music from reggae to salsa, the untrained ear often finds it challenging to move beyond rhythms that seem indistinguishable from one another when we first encounter the songs, but albums like this one go a long way towards bringing music from the region to us in a way that we can appreciate and understand. Little Earth is an important release that deserves a wide audience. - Doug Heselgrave --No Depression

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Sama'i Baghdad
  2. The Searching
  3. Sailors Three
  4. Morning In Hyattsville
  5. The Other Time - Yacouba Sissoko
  6. Rocío - Roshan Jamal Bhartiya
  7. Missing You / Mae Querida
  8. Dance of the Palms

Disc: 2

  1. Fly Away - Santa Fe Guitar Quartet
  2. Going Home
  3. Athens to Baghdad
  4. Lullaby - Robert Mirabal
  5. River (The Passage)
  6. Qaasim - Stephen Kent
  7. Waterfall

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 28, 2010)
  • Original Release Date: September 28, 2010
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Ur Music
  • Run Time: 119 minutes
  • ASIN: B003Z41F52
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,957 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: MP3 Music
Rahim AlHaj, master of the oud, may have created his masterpiece with this work. It is a double album of collaborations with musicians from radically different genres and all corners of the world. But while many projects of this type develop a scattershot feel, AlHaj manages to unify the work with his unique vision. He spent years on this project, and the effort really shows up in the disc.

I've been lucky enough to see him perform live several times, including collaborations with different artists that led to some of the standout cuts on this album. He's a masterful musician who is never afraid to push himself into areas that he's not sure will work. His discipline, personality, fearlessness and years of tireless devotion have culminated in an album not quite like anything I've ever heard before. Amazing stuff--well worth owning.

EDIT: Since I don't see the guest musicians on Amazon's track listings, I'll include them here for reference.

1. Sama'i Baghdad, feat. Little Earth Orchestra (string quintet + percussion)
2. The Searching, feat. Guy Klucevsek: accordion; Katie Harlow: cello; Issa Malluf: riq, daf
3. Sailors Three (oud solo)
4. Morning in Hyattsville, feat. Bill Frisell: guitar; Eyvind Kang: viola
5. The Other Time, feat. Yacouba Sissoko: Kora (21-string West African harp-lute)
6. Rocio, feat. Roshan Jamal Bhartiya: sitar
7. Missing You/Mae Querida, feat. Maria de Barros: vocals
8. Dance of the Palms, feat. Glen Velez: frame drum, riq, shaker

1. Fly Away, feat. Santa Fe Guitar Quartet
2. Going Home, feat. Little Earth Orchestra (string quintet + percussion)
3. Athens to Baghdad, feat.
Read more ›
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This album had some new sounds to it and i was able to see it performed live. The use of different ethnic musicians from around the world while making a new sound is the best trait of this album. If you like middle eastern music and other ethic sounds then i recomend this album
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Beautiful collaborations!
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