Please listen to these folks:
The Yuval Ron Ensemble
They're amazing. I attended their concert of Moroccan and Andalusian music on Wednesday and was blown away. The ensemble, according to their bio, "includes Arabic, Jewish and Christian artists who unite the sacred music traditions of Judaism, Sufism and the Armenian Church into an unusual mystical, spiritual and inspiring musical celebration." I read this prior to the concert and thought, blah, blah, blah, how nice, interfaith cooperation, another pleasant pastiche that won't reflect the best of any individual tradition but instead trade intensity for accessibility. I've been to plenty of these, and support any attempts to break down walls. Musical quality, or lack thereof, is almost beside the point.
The Yuval Ron Ensemble did not fall into this category. They were astonishing on all levels, from technical skill (in no painting have I ever seen an array of colors equal to that created by woodwind player Yeghish Manukayan) to an ability to reach out and pretty much grab my soul from its moorings, and caress and twist it through sound and words. They looked completely at peace onstage; you could tell they genuinely liked one another, believed passionately in their message, and were driven to share it with all who listened. Najwa Gibran, the Arabic singer, has one of the most beautiful and strong voices I've ever heard--it swooped and whispered, demanded, cajoled and comforted, and helped weave art from what could have been, in the hands of less capable musicians, a generic Middle Eastern soup.
I just downloaded one of their CDs, and can't wait to recreate some of Wednesday evening here in my living room.
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