"Like the exquisite architecture and gardens of the Alhambra, this image of cultural harmony is a vision of paradise on earth." Stephen Hill, Producer, Hearts of Space
"This album lends itself to many moods and will appeal to listeners of diverse backgrounds and musical tastes. Sit back and immerse yourselves in the beauty of the music of Al-Andalus and be rejuvenated.” John Damis
“In today’s turbulent times the era of Al-Andalus (Spain 711-1492 AD) serves as a historic beacon of tolerance when Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in peaceful co-existence. The open exchange of ideas during this epoch resulted in a cultural, social and economic blossoming that significantly contributed to the emergence of the European Renaissance. The Al-Andalus Ensemble locates its creative impetus in the rebirth of Al-Andalus in the cultural landscape of today.
This creation brings the music of the Al-Andalus Ensemble to a new level by integrating instruments and musicians from Africa (Tarik is Moroccan American), Europe (Julia is European American) and Asia (Charlie is Palestinian-American) and treating the listener to a confluence of the best of the East and West. Thus, this album embodies the new vision of America as a modern society that embraces its cosmopolitan cultural heritage and soulfully merges classical, jazz and contemporary music with musical traditions from the Middle East, North Africa and Spain.
Delicately attuned to one another these twenty one strings remind us that the intricate interplay of diverse voices is the geography of cultural harmony. Harmony by its very nature juxtaposes contrasting notes to create a sound which is more than the sum of its parts. 21 Strings calls on the timeless power of harmony to weave a divine fabric that wraps the listener in a space of calmness and tranquility.
This album lends itself to many moods and will appeal to listeners of diverse backgrounds and musical tastes. Sit back and immerse yourselves in the beauty of the music of Al-Andalus and be rejuvenated.”
John Damis, North African Specialist, Director Emeritus, Portland State University, Middle East Studies Center.
“The vaunted convivencia or “coexistence” of Christian, Muslim and Jewish cultures occurred against an almost continual background of political, military and religious strife. Yet, then as now, the elusive ideal of coexistence and mutual respect remains a powerful touchstone for human society. And today this ideal is alive and active in a valiant class of artists and musicians who’ve dedicated their public lives to living out the dream of authentic cross-cultural collaboration.
Such has been the mission of the group Al-Andalus since its inception, as well as the background of this project, which results from the collaboration of a Moroccan-born artist and virtuoso oud player, an American woman who improbably became a Flamenco guitarist, and a creative American violinist best known for his work with the Windham Hill group Shadowfax during the halcyon days of new age music.
Far from the scholarly approach of Early Music or the traditionalism of much World Music, this collaboration yields a vigorous new hybrid: a contemporary chamber trio skillfully creating new and original music, retaining the essential soul and spirit of the Arab, North African, Jewish, and Iberian sources, while pushing into new territory.
As you listen it’s not hard to imagine a candlelit summer night in 14th century Granada in one of the magnificent courtyards of the Alhambra. Fountains murmur in the background as an ensemble of court musicians play the antecedents of this music. The interplay is rich, the melodies beguiling, the rhythms hypnotic. And while the oud had not quite evolved into the guitar, and the violin would have to wait a hundred years to be developed in Italy, one of its Middle Eastern bowed string forerunners would surely have been heard on one of these magical nights.
Like the exquisite architecture and gardens of the Alhambra, this image of cultural harmony is a vision of paradise on earth. Politically — we’ll have to keep working on it. In the meantime, we have the music.”
Stephen Hill, Producer, Hearts of Space
TARIK BANZI (Composer, Multi-instrumentalist & Visual Artist) traces his roots back to Al-Andalus, Spain. He was born to one of the old Andalusian families in Tetuan, Morocco and grew up immersed in the Andalusian musical tradition. Tarik has performed for such notables as Queen Sofia of Spain and Princess Haifa Al-Saud of Saudia Arabia. He has collaborated with flamenco and Jazz masters such as Paco de Lucia, Manolo Sanlucar, Enrique Morente and Jorge Pardo where Tarik introduced mainstays to modern flamenco such as the darbuka (clay or metal drum) and Udu (clay pot drum). Tarik’s students Fain Duenas and Vicente Molina went on to form the Grammy nominated World music group Radio Tarifa. Tarik’s diversity can be seen in the works of Classical, Jazz, Folk, New Age, Rock and World Music artists from Billy Oskay (Nightnoise), Guadalquivir, La Trinca, Tijeritas, Michael Shreive and Graham Leer (Carlos Santana), Dan Crary, Carolyn Cruso, Lief Sorby, Magical Strings, Paul Winter, John Doan, Oregon Repertory Singers and Enrique Valdivieso. Tarik has composed scores of soundtracks for cinema & film including Delirios de Amor (Felix Rotaeta, Antonio Banderas), Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Henry IV, Othello, Bodas de Sangre (Garcia Lorca) and Salome’ (Nuria Espert). Tarik is a featured Arts Bridge Scholar and has guest lectured at many universities including Denver University, Syracuse University, Western Carolina University, etc. Tarik is an accomplished visual artist who completed his Doctoral studies in Fine Arts at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain and further studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. His artwork is included in collections throughout the world.
CHARLIE BISHARAT (violin) While you might not recognize the name, you would instantly identify the violin artistry of Charlie Bisharat. His work has graced the albums of such pop phenoms as Alanis Morissette, The Rolling Stones, Jane’s Addiction, and Aerosmith. His diversity can be heard on the works of Jazz and World Music artists Strunz & Farah, Don Grusin, and Oscar Castro-Neves. And his accomplishments have been featured in scores of soundtracks from Swordfish, Texas Rangers, Steal Big Steal Little to on-screen performances of Austin Powers Gold Member, The Drew Carey Show and Friends. A Grammy Award-winning performer, Mr. Bisharat has toured the world time and again with Jazz and New Age groups as varied as Shadowfax, Kitaro, Yanni and John Tesh. He has composed and produced tracks for record-setting album projects as well. His range of styles has led him from pop to jazz to classical, where he is often heard subbing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. His wide array of skills is best exemplified on his own recording on Universal Music Group’s Along The Amazon, an all-star album featuring some of jazz and pop’s greatest artists. A published author as well, Charlie has written and recorded the jazz improvisational book and CD Beyond Classical Violin for Cherry Lane Music. Mr. Bisharat’s compositions have been featured in movies and television as well as a myriad of recording projects. His works for small ensembles range from the original opus Lying In Wait by the all-female quartet Cello, to string arrangements for rock guitarist Andy Summers of The Police. Charlie continues to travel the globe performing in concert and recording with some of the most accomplished musicians of our day.
JULIA BANZI (Ph.D) (guitarist, ethnomusicologist) The world of guitar boasts few women who ignite the sound of the guitar, and in the flamenco culture, even fewer still. Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, Julia lived in Spain for over a decade where she specialized in flamenco and established herself as one of a very few female flamenco guitarists worldwide. In Andalucia’s Granada, Sanlucar de Barrameda and later at Madrid’s Amor de Dios studios, Julia worked accompanying notable dance instructors such as Ciro, La Tate & Manolete and studied with some of Spain’s finest guitarists including Manolo Sanlucar, Isidro Muñoz, David Serva, Felipe Maya and Rafael Morales. Her passion for flamenco led her to explore its roots. After obtaining a B.A. degree in music from Lewis & Clark College, she went on to complete her Ph.D. Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. As an ethnomusicologist Julia is especially interested in constructing historical ethnographies—that is seeking ways in understanding how the long past influences and shapes present musical changes. The two main geographic areas she explores are North Africa and Spain. Her special interest is the melding of varied cultures converging in Al-Andalus. In Morocco, her focus is on women’s Andalusian ensembles. In Spain, she focuses on the flamenco guitar tradition and the processes of when, why, and how performance traditions become obsolete. She has taught a wide range of courses on World Music, American popular music and culture as well as the business of music and music technology. Artist, composer and one of a very few female flamenco guitarists worldwide, her work reflects her over twenty years of living, studying and performing in North Africa and Spain. She teaches guitar at Reed College and Lewis & Clark College.