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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Reem Kelani

By Bruce Miller
Published March 16, 2007

Sprinting Gazelle: Palestinian Songs from the Motherland and the Diaspora
Fuse 048

The debut album from this Palestinian singer/percussionist, as much a researcher of Palestinian music as a performer, is breathtaking. Featuring an ensemble of players from around the globe, and lyrics from singers and poets throughout the vast Palestinian diaspora, Kelani has created an album of “world” music in the most honest sense. One listen to the album’s opener, “As Nazarene Women Crossed the Meadow”—a droning acappella song women sang as their men marched off to join the Ottoman army—reveals a voice of authority and vulnerability. The band’s jazz chops do nothing to take away from Kelani’s voice, or her respect from the lyricists. However, Sprinting Gazelle is at its best on tracks like “The Cameleer Tormented My Heart,” which the singer heard in Lebanese refugee camps for Palestinian women. Clapping and hand percussion lay the foundation for bobbing clarinet and violin, over which Kelani’s voice keens beautifully.