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For those uninitiated in the music that accompanies the belly dance, or those who think that belly dancing music was issued exclusively on those cheesy 1960s long-players, go on to the next review unless you are willing to have your cultural misperceptions challenged. The title of this recording by the renowned oud wizard Richard Hagopian -- and his ensemble that includes the great zuna and ney player Omar Faruk Tekbilek and saxophonist Yuri Yukanov, among others -- says it all. Belly dancing music is the jazz of the East. This is music that relies on shifting, careening rhythms; complex melodic and modal figures; and plenty of improvisation to get both the stories in these songs across and the dancers where they need to be in order to reveal the narrative to an audience of one or hundreds. Unlike the early American jazzmen who had no choice but to play their music in whorehouses, these musicians have a time-honored tradition to present their artistry within. The music played here by Hagopian and company reflects not only history, but also innovation -- nothing here reeks of being worn or coming from antiquity. Each tune, whether an original or a folk tune, is approached as a unique entity, as a framework for musical and cultural re-visioning. And if one considers it, this music as it is, forged from Midddle Eastern, European, and Asian cultures, is perhaps the most progressive of all. For ten tracks, there is no let-up in the deeply satisfying, sensual pleasure of the atmospherics and textural wonders Mr. Hagopian and his crew weave, nor is there a lack of musical or aesthetic imagination. Gypsy Fire is pure, sophisticated pleasure.
Performance CreditsRichard Hagopian Primary Artist,Vocals,Ud
Omar Faruk Tekbilek Primary Artist,Ney,Track Performer,Zurna
Ara Dinkjian Guitar
Harold G. Hagopian Violin
Hassan Isikkut Kanoon
Arto Tuncboyaciyan Percussion
Yuri Yunakov Saxophone
Chris Marashlian Bass
Technical CreditsVincent Caro Engineer
Harold G. Hagopian Producer
Omar Faruk Tekbilek Composer
Jerry Bezdikian Graphic Design