SAFE HAVEN (2017)
1. Masha’s Theme (Everybody Loves Hommous)
2. Las Estreyas (trad.)
3. Dynamic Tension
4. In the Mountain’s Shadow
5. Bunny’s Tangelos
6. Shir LaShalom (Rosenblum/Rotblit)
7. Safe Haven
8. Yalla Tnam Rima (trad. lullaby)
9. The Traveller’s Companion
10. Taqasim Hijaz (M. Lelo – Bonus Track)
All compositions and arrangements by S. Vandegraaff.
1. Masha's Theme is an instrumental composition in mixed time signatures that introduces the Masha's Legacy instrumental cast. Elsen Price delivers the soaring opening contrabass solo over 28/8 in maqam hijaz. This is followed by a development of the opening theme, a melodic tool employed for modulation in many international musical cultures. A second ostinato in 40/8 is then introduced as a backing for Mahammd Lelo’s Q’noon taqasim (solo), before the saxophone and ‘oud expose the second melody. Stuart’s alto then explores the melodic possibilities available over the chordal structure of this section, before returning to the 40/8 ostinato. The percussionists then have their turn taking the lead in an exhilarating exchange, before the recapitulation of the original theme leads to the finale. Deep research has indicated that Eastern Europe is where the best chickpeas are grown, so by musically mixing these ingredients in an Aussie Middle-Eastern kitchen, the demonstrable truth is that Everybody Loves Hommous!
2. Las Estreyas (The Stars) is a traditional Ladino song, with vocal performed by Miriam Waks and instrumental solos from Nick Southcott (piano) and Stuart Vandegraaff (alto sax). Ladino was the language spoken by the Jews of Spain, it's now kept alive predominantly through the efforts of just a few artists internationally. The presentation here is in Bolero-Son style evoking the spirit of old school Cuban son masters, driven by the percussion of Kurdish Turk Adem Yilmaz and Coptic Egyptian/Aussie James Tawadros. A truly pan global presentation, the culmination of hundreds of years of musical evolution: new school made of old-school constituent parts!
3. Dynamic Tension, written in 3 parts is a dance feature composition representing points of cultural intersection. The opening 'oud solo over sheftatelli rhythm is followed by a second statement from the Q'noon, with a third voice added later by the soprano saxophone. Three statements from three backgrounds that later trade ideas and agree to coexist in a mutually beneficial state of Dynamic Tension.
4. In the Mountain's Shadow. True and enduring love has an unpredictable undulation on its course that can lift one up or bring one down depending on the phase of the cycle: the invested intensity of emotion often leads to conflict or disagreement. The comfort when on the lower ebb of the cycle is that Love’s Mountain is still there, unmovable and eternal, even when one is in the icy cold of its Shadow.
5. Bunny's Tangelos is a joyful tribute to good friends and the honesty of living in a peaceful state of abundance close to nature. Written near Coffs Harbour in May 2015 during a week-long stay between concerts, Bunny's tangelos for breakfast had become part of Stuart’s daily ritual of stretching, practice, composition, simple healthy eating and afternoon adventures with true friends.
6. Shir LaShalom (Song for Peace) (Rosenblum/Rotblit arr. S. Vandegraaff) is an iconic Hebrew anthem for peace, changed into maqam Kurd (Phrygian mode) arranged here in a style inspired by the orchestrations of the great Egyptian composers such as Mohammed 'Abd al-Wahab. With vocal performed here in Hebrew by Miriam Waks and solos on ‘oud (Adnaan Barake) and nay nawa (Stuart Vandegraaff) the song's power is as undeniable as its universal message.
7. Safe Haven was written in response to the growing international problem of the displacement of good people due to political upheaval, conflict, social and ethnic marginalisation. The composition is in 3 sections representing 1. Home, 2. The Journey and 3. Arrival at the refuge. The opening is a statement of the opening theme in an urgent and compelling 14/8 time signature in maqam Bayati. This leads to the unaccompanied piano solo representing a sudden departure and voyage in a leaky boat across the sea, full of fear, hope and aspiration. The final section is in the Andalusian rhythm Buleria taken from Flamenco but with Arabic origin, representing arrival at the destination: exhilaration, safety for a while, hope for a new future. But the final sting returns to maqam Bayati, modulated now to a different key. Forced return to a home situation that has radically changed and now no longer looks like home.
8. Yalla Tnam Rima is a traditional lullaby with which mothers sing their babies to sleep all over the Arabic world. After the Q’noon taqasim in maqam Bayati from Mahammd Lelo, the vocal is tenderly performed by Ghada Daher-Elmowy. Simple, austere and heartfelt.
9. The Traveller's Companion is our final dance feature in three sections. Drawing deeply on his Greek heritage, the opening taksimi is performed by bassist/co-producer Christopher Soulos before he introduces the universal dance rhythm 3:3:2, and the opening melody on soprano sax. This leads to a traditional sounding section and Q'noon solo from Mahammd Lelo in Baladi rhythm, maqam Hijaz. This is followed by a zar (ritual trance rhythm) drum solo and recapitulation of the opening theme. Let's dance!
10. Taqasim Hijaz - Mahammd Lelo - Q'noon (Bonus Track).
All compositions by Stuart Vandegraaff except Las Estreyas (trad arr. S. Vandegraaff), Shir LaShalom (Rosenblum/Rotblit arr. S. Vandegraaff, use by personal permission) and Yalla Tnam Rima (trad arr. S. Vandegraaff).
The stars of the heavens, my dear
They are the ones who light up,
In them there is no firmness,
Girl of my heart,
My passion is enough for me.
The first time I saw you, my dear
In my soul you entered,
Sunshine you gave me,
Girl of my heart,
In my eyes you gleam.
One thing I'll tell you, my dear
The world does not remain like this,
In many things I thought,
Girl of my heart,
I still can not reach you.
Be patient with yourself, my dear
These days you expect what is coming,
May we be brilliant,
Girl of my heart,
My love is focused on you.
for our Mothers
Let the sun rise,
light up the morning.
The purest of prayers
will not bring us back.
He whose candle was snuffed out,
and was buried in the dust:
bitter crying won't wake him up
and won't bring him back.
Allow the sun to penetrate
through the flowers,
don't look back
let go of those departed.
Lift your eyes with hope,
not through the rifle’s sights,
sing a song for love
and not for wars.
Nobody will bring us back
from a dead and darkened pit,
neither the victory cheer
nor songs of praise will help.
So just sing a song for peace,
don't whisper a prayer.
Just sing a song for peace,
in a loud shout.
for our Ancestors
Words: Yaakov Rotblit
Music: Yair Rosenblum
Yalla Tnam Rima
Come Rima, sleep!
Hurry to sleep Rima, may she become sleepy.
May she grow up knowing respect and humility,
May she grow healthier each day.
May she go to sleep
and I will cook a delicious pigeon.
Go pigeon bird, don't believe what I am saying,
I just say it so that Rima will sleep.
Rima, Rima, beautiful rose of the prairies,
you have shining blond hair,
The ones who love you shall kiss you,
the ones who hate you have nothing to attain.
Oh, merchants of grapes and of jojoba,
tell my mother and my father
that villains have kidnapped me
from below the tent of Majdaliyyeh.
I will take you on a little trip, to a place
where there are prunes under the apricot tree
and each time the wind blows,
I will pick an apricot for Rima.
Hey Lina, lend us your kettle and your bowl
So that we can wash Rima’s clothes
and hang them up on the jasmine tree.
for our Children