Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other 10-piece experimental middle eastern jazz groups that include a trumpet, sax, and Arabic vocals. Then again to call Haram an experimental jazz ensemble would be misleading and redundant. Besides, by its very nature jazz music is experimental. With Haram, there are instruments going madly off in all directions. Fearless leader Gord Grdina is a maestro; conducting and giving instructions from his seat while playing what sounds like a Middle Eastern Bouzouki.
Then there’s the singing. Not only are every single one of Grdina’s cohorts wicked musicians who possess wicked talent, the singing in Arabic adds a whole other dimension and level rarely seen in jazz music. And it works. They could compared to a band of traveling gypsies, though it’s the wrong geographical area. Still, I would love to see them on a bill with Gogol Bordello, Vagabond Opera, and something containing Franz Nicolay. That would definitely be one of the weirdest shows known to mankind.
Did I mention they are all white? Not that that really matters in the long run, but there aren’t two white musicians out there who sing in Arabic, and play middle eastern music. In Canada. In Vancouver. They were also a really good pairing for the headliners that night – Snowblink. In fact, I would argue that Snowblink was overshadowed and outshone by these mystical creatures. It was a fantastic show and a fantastic lesson in language, culture, geography, and above all, music. If I was stranded on the Sinai Peninsula, Suez Canal, Arabian Desert, the West Bank or the Gaza Strip or was at a Jewish wake, this is the music I would want playing as I wait for my destiny. Definitely worth while!
RIYL: Vagabond Opera, Gogol Bordello, The Decemberists, Dharmakassa