Review | Songlines

Norwegian Oud

Top of the World

Rating: ★★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details


Yinon Muallem & Guy Mintus
Yinon Muallem


Galileo Music


Conceived and recorded throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Norwegian Oud is the latest album from oud player, percussionist, and composer Yinon Muallem. Born in Israel and later settling in Turkey, Muallem’s musical vocabulary is decidedly international and eclectic, as evidenced by the sheer variety of styles represented on this album. Beginning with the titular Beatles standard, co-arranged with jazz pianist Eyal Lovett, the familiar melody is permutated into a joyful ensemble arrangement, with Erdi Arslan’s duduk soaring on top. This is followed by ‘Father’, a last-minute addition to the album, which is the opening track’s emotional opposite, dedicated to Muallem’s father David, who sadly passed away late in the album’s production. ‘Sevdicegim Shecharhoret’, featuring Turkish singer Chance (born Şansın Tüzün), is a reimagining of a popular Ladino song, performed here for the first time in both Turkish and Hebrew. Album highlight ‘SMS to India’ ventures into Indian Karnatic melodicism, with some stunning unison passages and rhythmic interplay between Muallem and his cross-cultural ensemble, building to a euphoric climax. ‘Hicaz Saz Semaisi – Oriental Circles’ effortlessly segues from Ottoman classical – replete with Ariel Qassis’ rippling qanun and Muallem’s bendir and daf (frame drums) – into an energetic original composition, the stately ten-beat semai rhythm of the former giving way to a brooding 7/8.

Despite the eclecticism on display, the album maintains strong cohesion throughout, due to Muallem’s excellent melodic sense and impeccable choice of collaborators. While it was recorded in difficult and traumatic times, Norwegian Oud is a masterful cross-section of modal music, encapsulating both bittersweet melancholy and joyous optimism.

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