Sonus

Chanterai: Music of Medieval France

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The influence of Middle Eastern and Arab music isn't what one has usually expected from French music (be it classical, folk or pop) in recent centuries. But during medieval times, Middle Eastern elements were quite prominent in French music, and they certainly do their part to enrich this fine CD by Sonus, an American quartet that was founded in 1988 and made secular medieval repertoire its focus. Containing mostly songs that were written during the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, Chanterai offers a striking marriage of European and Middle Eastern elements. While Hazel Ketchum's vocals and Sonus's use of the harp and the flute sound very European, its use of Middle Eastern instruments like the oud and the saz underscore medieval France's musical debt to the Islamic world -- a major irony given the way the Catholic Church had violently forced so many Muslims and Jews out of Europe. Dorian Discovery has generously provided a lyric sheet, and those who speak any French will see how much the language has evolved. These performances are as hauntingly soulful as they are fascinating.

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