(A few measures of the central section have been edited out.)

Maalouf was one of the more surprising of the musical “hybrid” choices at WOMEX 2011. His sound was certainly electric and jazz fusion oriented, but underneath it all, there were references to maqqam, the system of tones that characterize music of the Middle East and Central Asia. He plays a microtonal trumpet that was invented by his father, which enables him to play the quarter tones that are essential to the performance of maqqam. You can hear this readily in his improvisations, although the head of this nostalgic song is fairly Western in sound. “Beirut” is somewhat schizophrenic in its composition, and this seemed to be a running motif in Maalouf’s presentation. Perhaps it is indicative of the pull between Western and Eastern, tradition and modernity in both the city of Beirut and the composer?

Stage lights were pointing directly at the audience (!) making shooting from orchestra and mezzanine areas impossible. I ended up in the “nosebleed section” but liked the way the sound seemed to fill up every bit of the Koncerthuset’s great hall. It made for some grainy and slightly jittery shots, but still captures the feel of the piece, and the space of the hall. Funny how all those world music mavens react to the “Led Zeppelin” section– you’d think they were just WAITING for that electric guitar to rock out!

For more of Michal’s world music videos, visit inter-muse.com

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