Omar Faruk Tekbilek

Alif: Love Supreme

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The latest release from Turkish-Egyptian multi-instrumentalist Omar Faruk Tekbilek is all about love, and its sense of romance spills across all 12 tracks, from the lush "Gardener" to the heavy melodicism of "Lachin." The songs themselves are all traditional, but Tekbilek, a master of the flute known as the ney and many other instruments, brings a timeless sensibility to the music. While there's a definite Middle Eastern underpinning to everything, in part thanks to percussionist extraordinaire Steve Shehan, whose remarkable senses offer the muscle behind the music, the melodies are sometimes sweetened a little for Western consumption, as on "Forbidden Love," where the voices rest on clouds of synthesizer, and at times the feel is pan-Mediterranean, bringing in strains of Greek and Italian feel to the mix. There's nothing wrong with that at all, and its heart's in the right place. The love songs aren't all romance -- they're an exploration of the different forms of love, be it a love of life, or divine love (as exemplified by the epic title track, showing Tekbilek's Sufi upbringing), and Tekbilek brings in some excellent collaborators, both vocal and instrumental, including the flamenco guitar of José Rodrigues Muñoz, who brings in an influence that originated in North Africa before landing in Spain. The end result of all this is an album of beautiful songs, like the classic "Dark Eyes," performed with grace and sensitivity, and sometimes a sense of real adventure.

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