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Yair Dalal & the Al Ol Ensemble 

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YAIR DALAL & the AL OL ensemble

According to the liner notes for the new album by Israeli musician Yair Dalal, "Al Ol is the name of a desert wind, a small tornado . . . the spirit of a jinn . . . punished to spin around himself for eternity." Though that image may be more descriptive than it is hopeful, it's also the name of Dalal's experiment in musical detente--an ensemble comprising Israeli and Palestinian musicians exploring their shared musical heritage. Dalal, an Israeli Jew born to parents who had emigrated from Iraq, has studied both klezmer and Arabic classical music, and he draws upon these influences in the music of Al Ol. While the political implications of such a combination provide the hook, Dalal's music can stand on its own. By adapting stereotypical elements of Middle Eastern musics--the dramatic melodies, the undulating rhythmic drive, the haunted vocal stylizations, and the sound of the oud (the Middle Eastern lute found throughout Israeli and Arabic music)--Dalal has created a graciously contemporary take on ancient themes. The instrumentation of Al Ol extends beyond the Middle East, to Indian instruments (sitar and tabla) and two inventions of the West: the clarinet (played here by Eyal Selah, a well-known Israeli artist) and keyboards (played by Sef Saweiti, a Jordanian). From the list of ingredients, you'd think that Al Ol would come out tasting like just another bowl of world-music soup; but Dalal prevents this by keeping the focus--musically and politically--on his own troubled corner of the globe. "For peace to grow and prosper," he has said, "people must get to know and learn to trust one another," and Al Ol is an impressive vehicle for that process. This concert marks the group's U.S. debut. Thursday, September 26, 7:30 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 565-3314.

NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo.

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