Saturday, November 01, 2008

Blues de l'orient

I would like to wholeheartedly recommend the French documentary Blues de l'orient, created by Florence Strauss. It is a personal testimony to Arabic music from the horizon of several musicians in the middle east. Personally I have been an avid listener to electronic music for several years, and have earlier had a hard time understanding Arabic music. But from watching this documentary, I saw a connection and similarities in the monotonous or hypnotic aspects of techno related music, to some of the the classic forms of Arabic music that the documentary displays. It is really quite interesting.

Please bear with me while I elaborate. Because I really think I caught a glimpse of the subtle similarities that amounts into the transcendent aim of both the middle eastern and western strands of music. There is one scene that caught my attention especially: as it portrayed people danced ecstatically. This had a religious connection, as the dancers sought to experience Allah trough music and dance.

Even though it may be a world apart, I think that this is not so entirely different from what one might experience when attending the more underground techno parties of different European cities. The raver who might consider him or herself atheist can reach an altered state of consciousness or ecstasy and the
Islamic Sufi's might call it communion with Allah. While the former is often not religiously oriented, the way that Arabs and electronic composers of the west kind loosely relate is very interesting. Or of ravers and spiritual dancing as a phenomena as a whole.

In Europe the electronic DJ in the west creates mixes in which each and every song blends into a continuous whole. The separate songs no longer begins and ends, but they are instead unified. Back to the Blues de l'orient one of the Arabic musicians explained how one song could last for hours. That this song to the untrained ear might just seem like an endless repetition, but when involved and actively listening the listener can appreciate the subtle variations. I think it's worth noting that the same applies to techno as a whole for the outsider. Especially the more rhythmically oriented forms of techno that focus less upon melodies.

Also worth noting is that parts of the documentary focused upon the aspect that both Jews and Arabs in the region shared the same cultural heritage in the form of classical Arabic music. I cannot help but to think this is hopeful. To phrase a song from the British electronic act Faithless: Tonight, God is a DJ.

"It's a natural grace
Of watching young life shape
It's in minor keys Solutions and remedies
Enemies becoming friends
When bitterness ends

This is my church
This is where i heal my hurts
For tonight God is a dj"

As Faithless so beautifully put it: Music can unite. Music can heal wounds. Faithless is of course referring to the Club as the Church of the young. Music can also be a remedy to deep social conflicts. Absolutely not the only one, but since it is often forgotten, I think it should be noted as such. This is the strength of Blues de l'orient, since it reveals the bonds that unites humanity and it's instinctive connection beyond national and political borders.

An ending note: Only because I focus upon techno and electronic music in this blog-post, this ecstatic aspect of modern European and American music can of course be seen elsewhere. It exists in rock music and lets not forget jazz and blues. Closer to Scandinavia is probably our own form of folkmusik embedded in our historical roots. I would like to mention Nina Simone's chanting in the song Sinnerman as an example of how American spiritual music can sound like.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have seen the movie and loved it. I would like to get a DVD for my husband, where can I can it?