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The Gilded Serpent presents...
Music from Egypt, Turkey, Armenia, Greece,
the heart of MIMI SPENCER" 2001

CD reviewed by Sadira

Mimi Spencer is a well-known virtuoso in the musical world. Not only has she played Kanoun and sung for many dancers, she is appropriately acknowledged for her devotion and mastery of ethnomusicology. Mimi has played with a variety of musicians, many of which are virtuosos in their own musical talents. Mimi is well known for her work with the band , Jazayer, along with Vince Delgado, Devija Croll and guest musicians.   This latest CD from Mimi is a solo performance on the kanoun, with backup rhythm on the riq by Vince Delgado, and acoustic bass with Thomas Shader. Mimi has taken well-known classical pieces from Egypt, Arrmenia, and Greece, having recomposed and arranged them in a passionate mix. She also includes a beautiful array of new songs that she has developed and written herself. 

Anyone with a love for music who listens to music from Classical Egyptian to North Indian Raga, will be spellbound by this CD.  

Mimi takes well known classical Egyptian favorites such as “Ya Msaharni”, a song written for Umm Kulthum, and develops the richness that belongs in the music with the soul of the singer who inspired this song. Tutah, a well known Egyptian instrumental piece that has been overused in dance routines, is brought forth in it's entire complexity, with strong melodic phrases and calmer pacing than that which we have become used to. It's a pleasure to listen to musical instrumentation that has come from a musical background first and foremost, instead of adapting to a dancer's preference.  The Kanoun is used as the main instrumentation throughout. The absence of using the traditional dumbek with it's heavy over-laying rhythms, brings a haunting, melodic phrasing to the music. The background rhythm of the riq, is in counterpoint to the arrangement, a holding solid base without overpowering the kanoun’s beauty. This is the first time I have heard an arrangement where the dumbek or tabla was not the ever-present heavy rhythm keeper, and it is a beautiful change. It renders each piece into a more flowing form of music.  The third piece on the CD, called: “RIGHT WHERE I WANT TO BE” , composed and arranged by Mimi, is a wonderful blend of North Indian style phrasing. It begins with a mesmerizing, almost trance like beginning and moves into a joyful, somewhat jazzy rendition that reminded me of a waterfall rushing down a lush mountain.

The unusual rhythm pattern creates a whole new tableau of feelings and impressions. 

In some of the pieces, the kanoun takes on a folkloric, beautifully lyrical drive, that sounds like harp and dulcimer music.  I am partial to the Armenian pieces that Mimi has included in her repertoire. It is only a few musicians who can carry the distinct Armenian style of music, with it's variance in playing technique and stylization. From the perspective of a musician or dancer who recognizes these important differences in stylizing; it is a delight to hear these songs done from their countries of origin.  This is a passionate CD. With it, you will enjoy exploring all the countries, regions, stylizing and personal signature of the talent of Mimi Spencer.

There are pieces that are a joy to dance with if a dancer is accomplished enough to interpret and understand the nuances in non-cabaret styled music. This music is a gift from the heart, carrying the passion and dedication Mimi has given to the music world. The last piece on the CD is from Greece and it is soulful and compelling.  I feel that I must acknowledge the amount of work Mimi has put into her linear notes. As a dancer and a student of music, it has always seemed to me, that linear notes regarding the rhythm of the piece, it's cultural background, and musical framework, is an important part of non Western forms of music. Sadly, it is usually missing from most other tapes and CDs. Even the best musicians do not always include the amount of detail that Mimi offers in her linear notes with each musical piece. The more a dancer learns about the music, its nuances, its framework and stylizing, the better she becomes at interpreting music and understanding the emotions inherent with the different makams, thus leading her to become a more proficient dancer. It is not just the rhythm that makes the dance; it is all of the qualities inherent in each stylization.  Whether you are a dancer or music aficionado, Mimi's “RIGHT WHERE I WANT TO BE” on compact disk is a superb collection.

This CD can be purchased through Vince's web site here:

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