Jordi Savall / Hespèrion XXI

Ibn Battuta: Le Voyaguer d l'Islam (The Traveler of Islam), 1304-1377

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Ibn Battuta, dubbed the traveler of Islam, was a Moroccan scholar who at the age of 21 began a series of travels that eventually covered all of the Muslim world and several lands beyond. He traversed the Middle East, making the pilgrimage to Mecca and seeing the other great capitals of the region; traveled to what was then El Andalus in Spain and along the Mediterranean coast; recorded the glories of the Byzantine empire in its later stages; traveled to India, where he was appointed the Sultan's ambassador to China and described that culture as well; and definitely made it as far as what is now the western part of Indonesia and perhaps even to Java and the Philippines (the location of a land he called Talawisi is disputed). In an effort ambitious by the standards of Jordi Savall and his Hespèrion XXI ensemble, Battuta's perambulations are described in music. Hespèrion XXI here is less a standing ensemble than a group of musicians assembled for the occasion; the players come from all over the Arab world, from Turkey, Greece, the rest of the Mediterranean, and China (during the Chinese portions of his sojourn). Savall depicts not only Ibn Battuta's impressions but the historical events he witnessed or those of which he experienced in the aftermath. This two-disc set will give listeners a knowledge of a great swath of important but mostly (to Westerners) unfamiliar world history as Islam advanced in Byzantium and Central Asia but lost ground in Spain. The program is put together from two live concerts, one in Abu Dhabi in 2014, and one in Paris two years later. The first one covered the first half of Ibn Battuta's career; the second, his later life. The two halves don't fit together perfectly as a single piece (for example, the first half is narrated in English, while the second is in French), but the method is the same throughout: Ibn Battuta's life is narrated, excerpts from his writing are given and accompanied by appropriate music, and instrumental or vocal pieces for each locale are reconstructed. These reconstructions tend a bit toward the impressionistic; at one point a valiha -- an instrument little played outside of Madagascar -- is used. The booklet (hardly an accurate word for this 386-page monster) includes essays on Ibn Battuta, on the tradition of Islamic travel writing, and on Arab culture, and there is even a letter to Ibn Battuta from a modern observer. As with nearly everything Savall does, this release is extraordinarily rich and historically evocative.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Ibn Battuta: The Traveller of Islam
1 2:01
2 0:59
3 0:30
4 4:46
5 1:17
6 3:31
7 1:23
8 1:46
9 2:04
10 2:04
11 4:30
12 2:05
13 2:27
14 0:47
15 2:41
16 4:08
17 3:05
18 4:21
19 1:03
20 1:22
21 0:20
22 3:09
23 0:58
24 5:19
25 4:10
26 4:10
27 1:26
28 1:32
29 3:25
30 1:34
31 1:30
32 4:07

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Ibn Battuta: The Traveller of Islam
1 2:08
2 2:32
3 2:02
4 4:07
5 1:29
6 2:42
7 2:06
8 2:11
9 3:03
10 2:17
11 1:23
12 2:58
13 2:21
14 3:03
15 3:25
16 2:42
17 4:03
18 4:13
19 3:23
20 3:55
21 2:12
22 3:59
23 5:50
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