Rachel & Eliyahu, Open The Gates Review
Bringing us Jewish Middle Eastern music with the perfect blend of contemporary and traditional influences is a beautiful duet comprised of Eliyahu Sills and Rachel Valfer. The couple met as they explored music from around the world as The Qadim Ensemble. Rachel and Eliyahu are the founders of the acclaimed Qadim Ensemble and The Ladino Project. Eastern Wind, their 2019 album with The Qadim Ensemble, presented music in multiple languages from around the Middle East. The music received rave reviews for its musicianship, soulfulness, and authenticity, reaching #7 on Billboard’s World Music charts. The highly popular duo based in the Bay Area is now excited to release Open the Gates on January 31st, 2020. The album is a collection of Jewish Middle Eastern music presented in contemporary and traditional style and approach. The eight tracks find inspiration in the historical and mystical melodies of antiquity. Mizrahi music, or music of immigrants from Arab lands, was long deemed inferior by Ashkenazi (European) Jews. But now, as young Jewish people around the world seek connection to their ancestral origins through music. “Jews in Israel with ancestry from far-flung regions such as Azerbaijan, Bukhara, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, are coming together to play ancient tunes in new ways,” Valfer says. “These songs are being fused and recreated in so many original and exquisite combinations. There is a turning towards the East to incorporate its ancient musical traditions to create the new.”Positives:: Valfer and Sills present a wide range of feels and instrumentation on the eight tracks. The consistent musicianship and beautiful singing is the glue that binds the project. Bottom Line: Open the Gates presents traditional songs in Hebrew and Ladino along with piyyutim, Hebrew liturgical poems sung or chanted during religious services and community gatherings. “Piyyutim were normally sung at festive events such as holidays. But for the past 20 years, these melodies are no longer relegated to the Shabbat (sabbath) lunch table,” says Valfer. Sills and Valfer produced Open the Gates after spending much of the past decade interpreting and building bridges between musical styles from multiple religions and cultures, including Jewish, Arabic, Turkish and Persian. Joining them on the recording are several long-term Qadim Ensemble collaborators from Iran, Morocco, Syrian, and the US, (including Hamid Saeidi, the first Persian musician to win a Grammy Award,) playing instruments such as the Turkish ney, Arabic oud, Persian santoor, and Arabic percussion. Western musical elements, subtle harmonies, and some Western instruments (upright bass, and drum kit,) offer a vibrant color palette, making an organic blend of ancient and modern without losing nuance and timelessness. Valfer’s oud and singing of “El gianat Egoz” is stunning. Her vocal range is expressive and possesses a warm, inviting timbre throughout. Zedan’s percussion builds the track as Sills ney, and flute playing is gorgeous. “Irme Kero Madre” shows just how talented Sills is as a multi-instrumentalist, as he expertly performs on upright bass, both arco, and pizzicato. Valfer also shows her skills on the guitar, and again, her voice is superb as are her middle eastern ornaments to the melody. Overall, this is a magical collection of playing and singing that is full of heart, passion, and virtuosity. That’s the short of it!
Connect with Rachel & Eliyahu: Website |
Open The Gates
El Ginat Egoz
Sha'ar P'tah Dodi - Open the Gates, Beloved
Irme Kero Madre
Release Date: January 31, 2020