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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Ibn Baya

By Tom Orr
Published October 31, 2005

Nuba al-Maya: Musica Andalusi
Pneuma

The rich Arabic-based music that thrived in Al-Andalus (the name Spain was known by under Moorish rule) lived on in North Africa following the final 1492 expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain. It lives on also in the work of Ibn Baya, an ensemble named for an Andalusian philosopher and musician who educated people in the ways of the Nuba, the complex music originating in Baghdad before traveling across the Maghreb to Spain. Infused with further mystic and poetic traditions, it's the manner in which the Nuba took root in Morocco that forms the basis of this album. Comprised of 33 sections of varying lengths, the disc proceeds along five distinct mizans  (rhythms) of Nuba, spotlighting the classical splendor with which the entire ensemble plays while also bringing forth passages that emphasize Arab and Andalusian lutes, the three-string citole, bowed rabab and the more familiar viola, recorders, percussion and vocals. Don't even try to listen in short increments—set aside 72 minutes and let this beautiful music from long ago and far away entirely work its magic.