Skip to main content

Yemen Blues North American Tour February - March 2011

From a media release - this music is haunting and extraordinarily beautiful:

Yemen Blues, Spring 2011 Tour Moments of Deep Desert Soul:
The Invocations of Yemen Blues on North American Debut Tour
February 24 in Vancouver, the 26th in Toronto, then Chicago, NYC, LA & other dates throughout the U.S. from February 27 to March 10, 2011

"Yemen Blues is THE discovery of the year" (WDR Funkhaus Europa, Germany)

If Blind Willie Johnson hung out with North African trance musicians or if Stevie Wonder studied Yemenite chants, it would sound like Yemen Blues. Raw yet refined, the group's nine eclectic musicians bang on olive cans, hit elusive microtones, and sing in invented languages.

North America will get its first real taste of the ensemble, powered by lead singer Ravid Kalahani's distinctive charisma, on tour this February and March, as Yemen Blues makes its debut in cities across the continent. Led by musical director and seasoned jazz bassist Omer Avital, the group conjures a world where Arabic and Jewish, African and Middle Eastern, blues and funk all interweave with a depth of a feeling that has sent Moroccan émigrés in Marseilles into ululations and wowed seasoned music professionals at WOMEX.

Kalahani is all about creating what he calls "moments of soul" for audiences, swooping from clear falsetto into a gravelly baritone, switching from Yemenite Arabic to Hebrew to Haitian Creole. Growing up singing Yemenite chants at synagogue, the young Kalahani would make up songs in invented languages and sing them as he walked down the street (a technique he returns to on the rumbling, grooving "Wamid").

Kalahani left home as a young teen and discovered a world of other sounds: soul, blues, West African pop. He spent hours alone listening to music. He absorbed everything he could, finding a resonance in Delta blues voices that reminded him of his own Yemenite heritage. He considered acting, playing trumpet, studying dance.

But singing called. Kalahani found himself performing one evening as part of a modern dance piece. "I was standing there in front of a thousand people and singing in this very high falsetto," Kalahani recalls. "I was in ecstasy. My body felt like it was burning. I decided then and there that this is what I wanted to do with my life."

This ecstasy and what Kalahani calls "a deep place of singing" was tangible to Avital, who couldn't believe his ears when someone played him a recording of Kalahani: "The singer sounded like a super authentic Arabic African singer," recounts Avital. "It was so strong and surprising to hear someone from my generation and background sound so good and authentic and strong. Ravid has the power of traditional Yemenite Jewish music."

Together, Avital and Kalahani worked to find fitting arrangements for Kalahani's original songs. Avital's appreciation for jazz masters like Ellington and Mingus mingled with his understanding of Arabic maqamat, the complex system of modes and melodies he was learning to explore as he studied the oud (Arabic lute). Avital's own musical journey back to his North African and Yemenite Jewish roots paralleled Kalahani's.

"I didn't want to see this amazing material go to waste," Avital notes. "It would have been so easy to ruin it. But we fit, coming from Yemenite tradition, but both with strong blues and African connections. Our musical searches met." So Avital shied away from typical pop approaches: He arranged pieces in the common Yemenite dance meter of 7/4. He avoided the common rendering Arabic modes as either major or minor.

This presented welcome challenges to the group of friends, all top musicians, Avital and Kalahani began to gather for regular jams. Jazz flute player Hadar Noiberg spent months perfecting her intonation, getting just the right feel for the quartertones. Hilla Epstain (cello) and Galia Hai (viola) leaped into the role of rhythm section, powering the songs forward as Avital jumped on the oud. Along with Middle Eastern percussion specialist Yohai Cohen, percussionist Rony Iwryn brought his sixth sense for percussion, honed during a stint in Yemenite Israeli pop star Ofra Haza's band, rattling keys and thrumming out gorgeous beats on olive tins.

"We didn't want any guitars or keyboards, because this isn't really a pop or a world music thing," explains Avital. "We just keep to African rhythms, Eastern sounds, and jazz in the horn section"-which includes trombonist Avi Lebovich (who's played with everyone from Chick Corea to Bootsy Collins) and trumpet player Itamar Borochov. "We keep it raw and that's what makes it interesting. It's a shifting family of voices, not just a sound."

For Kalahani, it's not just music, either: it's a deep invocation. Kalahani sings about his love for the desert, about the unity of language and experience, about gratitude for life's gifts. Songs like "Baraca" and "Min Kalbi" exclaim, "Your language is my language," Kalahani says. "It doesn't matter to which god you pray, so long as the melody comes from heart. This is exactly what I want to sing all the time, what I want to give people when I sing."

Kalahani's voice, backed by Yemen Blues's musical prowess, can indeed leap boundaries of language and religion. At a recent show in Marseilles, France, "there were Muslims and Christians and people of all kinds dancing. The Muslims loved it, and there was something connecting us and reminding them of home," Kalahani reflects. "I want people to enjoy the groove and melodies and be together, with all their different religious and political opinions, and to know there is a base connecting us all. That can change everything."

Yemen Blues, Spring 2011 Tour:

February 24 in Vancouver
Venue Nightclub
Doors open at 8pm - limited seating

February 26 in Toronto
Presented by: Ashkenaz 
9:00 PM @ The Mod Club
$25 Advance, $30 @ the door

U.S. Tour Schedule:

02/27/2011, Sun - Chicago, IL
Old Town School of Folk Music
Tix: $16-$20, Show: 7:30 pm

03/01/2011, Tue - Philadelphia, PA
Rodeph Shalom Synagogue
Tix: $36-$180, Show: 8:00 pm

03/02/2011, Wed - Seattle, WA
The Triple Door
Tix: $25, Doors Open: 5:00 pm, Show: 7:00 pm

03/05/2011, Sat - Berkeley, CA
Freight & Salvage
Tix: $25.50-$30.50, Doors Open: 7:00 pm, Show: 8:00 pm

03/06/2011, Sun - Los Angeles, CA
Tix: $25, Show: 7:00 pm

03/09/2011, Wed - New York, NY
Le Poisson Rouge
Tix: $20, Doors Open: 7:00 pm, Show: 8:00 pm

03/10/2011, Thu - Needham, MA
Somerville Theatre
Tix: $20-$30, Show: 8:00 pm

Image credits from top to bottom:
• erAno
• Laurent Burst


  1. So beautiful!! Want to listen over & over again. Jennifer

  2. So beautiful! Forever listening music. Its awakens very deep existential feelings, like roots that manifest themselves when normally they are hidden.


Post a Comment

What Else Is Hot This Week?

FACTORY presents World Premiere ACTS OF FAITH November 19 to 28 2020 - Free Livestream

 From a media release: World Premiere FACTORY presents  ACTS OF FAITH by David Yee Directed by Nina Lee Aquino Starring Natasha Mumba November 19 – 28, 2020 @ 7:30PM Streamed live for 6 performances Free of charge TORONTO (October 19, 2020) - To kick off its groundbreaking 2020/21 season, Factory presents the world premiere of acts of faith, by multi-award winning Asian Canadian playwright David Yee, directed by Nina Lee Aquino, and starring Natasha Mumba. Written specifically to be performed for a digital platform, acts of faith will stream live to audiences at home for six performances, November 19-28, 2020.  Thanks to the generous support of the TD Bank Group, admission is being offered entirely free of charge to audiences across the country and beyond. acts of faith tells a story about the power of faith, the inescapable persistence of our online identities, and the nature of truth in a digital age. The story follows Faith, a young woman who gets mistaken for a prophet. When a ques

Blues Single | Bushwick Blooze Band: Waiting (Independent / 20 October 2020)

Blues Single Bushwick Blooze Band: Waiting (Independent / 20 October 2020) Stream It From Your Fave Service Waiting is the latest in a string of singles released by Bushwick Blooze Band. The Brooklyn-based blues trio have been performing and recording the blues around the NYC area since 2018. Their first album "Cryin' for the L Train" was released in January 2019, and included covers of famous songs composed by their greatest influencers such as Little Richard, The Allman Brothers Band, Freddie King, and Eddie Vinson.  Bushwick Blooze Band is finishing up the production of their second album "Yes Dear" and unlike the previous cover record, this new album will be their first original contribution to the genres they love. Waiting is an upbeat blues track with a party kind of veneer over solid musicianship. What begins with a classic blues feel transforms into an extended psychadelic flavoured trip. Inventive guitar licks almost make you forget about the virtuosity

Blaise La Bamba & Kotakoli November 7th 2020 Online - PWYC

 From a media release: Batuki Music Society and Alliance Francaise Toronto present A virtual concert featuring Blaise La Bamba & Kotakoli November 7th 2020 at 8:00 PM Enjoy the concert from home! K inshasa’s vibrant nightlife has long been world-famous. It is home to the subculture known informally as the Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People (SAPEUR), which has spread its influence through artists such as Papa Wemba. Blaise La Bamba is part of this scene. He has worked with some of the top names of Congolese music, in particular General Defao. I n 2018, Blaise La Bamba founded Kotakoli , an all-star collective of musicians that perform an energetic mix of Congolese rumba and soukous . In the company of Kotakoli, this veteran musician brings Congolese popular music back to the forefront, with spellbinding dances. The Details Date: Saturday November 7th, 2021  Blaise La Bamba and Kotakoli Virtual Concert Time: 8:00 PM Tickets: Pay what you can This concert is offered to you

CD Release: TriBeCaStan's New Deli Breaks the Time/Space Continuum in New Deli (Feb 7)

From a media release: New Release from Little Known Government of TriBeCaStan : Capital New Deli Found to Have Irregular Time-Space Continuum EverGreene Music - February 7, 2012 TriBeCaStan: News Alert. This morning Aljazzeera reported that the questionable nation of TriBeCaStan ( ) has made scientific breakthroughs in time travel. The unrecognized republic of nomads has broken the code of the time/space continuum. And by broken we mean: it no longer works. Applying sonic techniques once only known to a small group of punk rock shamans, the nation's most prestigious scientific entity, the TriBeCaStani FolkLorkEstra, uses sound alone to simultaneously place listeners in eras separated by decades and terrains separated by oceans. The breakthrough is outlined in an auditory compendium titled New Deli (distributed by the state-run EverGreene Music, set for release February 7, 2012 ), a recording that allows the world to experience a type of soulful networking mor

Jazzy Pop: Shihori - Soul Trip (Independent / 4 September 2020)

Jazzy Pop: Shihori - Soul Trip (Independent / 4 September 2020) New York City based singer and songwriter Shihori's new single Soul Trip is atmospheric and ambient. Interesting rhythms and interwoven melodic vocal lines showcase jazzy harmonic progressions in a slow groove mode.  As a songwriter, she uses electronic effects with impeccable musical taste. As a singer, her flexible vocals range from a sweet soprano to a strong mid-range. A veteran of the Japanese pop scene, Shihori moved to New York City in 2018, a move she talks about in a media release. "I was so surprised when I came to NY for the first time. Independent and strong women are respected and there are lots of different preferences in music and style. I thought, 'oh my God! This place really accepts uniqueness and freedom! I didn't know there is a place like this totally different world that allows you to be yourself. Everybody looks so different. So many races, colors, cultures, fashion, ideas...I am so