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Jonas Hellborg: Aram Of The Two Rivers: Live In Syria

Jim Santella By

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Swedish bass guitarist Jonas Hellborg recorded these two sessions in September 1996. Hand drums and tambourine back the Middle Eastern melodies; all were composed by Hellborg. Ney player Mased Sri al Deen joins the bass guitarist on the first three tracks; violinist Hadi Backdonas appears on the last three. Blending classical guitar, jazz, and world music in his live performances, Hellborg has created suites that flow evenly from one movement to the next. The riqq is a percussion instrument similar to the tambourine, while the two derbukas are small pot-like hand drums; here, they easily assume the role of bongos, congas, or bass drum. The ney is an end-blown flute; fluid and sensual like a Japanese shakuhachi, but lighter in sound quality.

Hellborg’s suites rely on polyrhythms and modal harmonic structures to maintain a Middle Eastern mood. Several movements contain dance-like rhythms; some use a duple meter and a few use the waltz-like triple meter. "Aram of Damascus" and "Sham" feature flute and classical guitar sounds at a moderate tempo, while "Akkadia 11" runs up-tempo with a funky electric bass beat. With his versatile bass guitar, Hellborg is able to pluck firmly and deliberately in the manner of a flamenco guitarist, or tap out streams of funk-driven syncopation in the manner of a television or movie soundtrack artist. "Aram of Zoba," up-tempo in a Middle Eastern dance style, introduces Backdonas’ electric violin. Another versatile instrument, the electric violin allows Backdonas to wail in a vocal manner with wah-wah effects at times, and gentle melodies with echo, at other times. Compared to an acoustic model, Backdonas’ instrument seems to maintain all elements of technique while sacrificing some of the expected round, resonant violin timbre. Like a bolero, "Suriya" closes the performance with a percussion riff behind bass guitar and violin melodies. The performances are pleasant and interesting, while drawing upon the ethnic styles found in several cultures.

Track Listing: Aram of Damascus; Sham; Akkadia 11; Aram of Zoba; Salah al Din; Suriya.

Personnel: Jonas Hellborg- bass guitar; Mased Sri al Deen

Title: Aram Of The Two Rivers: Live In Syria | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Bardo Records

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