Essential Moodafaruka

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Essential Moodafaruka Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Through three CDs, the Houston-based ensemble Moodafaruka have delivered a broad base of acoustic guitar-oriented world fusion music that owes allegiance to Spanish, East European classical, and Middle Eastern musics. The band's founder and guidance counselor, Rom Ryan, has dictated fairly simplistic terms to his bandmates on how they surround his style and approach. John Palmer, the CEO of the Megawave label, has chosen the selections, admittedly his favorites. He has also programmed the CD in a manner to display the progression of their style perfectly, and offers two new tracks that further defines where the group is as of this 2008 release date. The earliest works, from La Luna Lounge, range from its minimalist title track, reminiscent of a TV OK Corral shootout theme, to the mystery trend "Potions & Charms" with tabla and oohing vocals. Two more tracks from their second effort, Zazu, reflect contemporary flamenco, tango, or slight funk elements. But the next five selections, from Blame It on the Moon, showcase the dual-guitar tandem of Ryan and Katja Grimm with a larger group, and gives an indication that Moodafaruka have much more up their sleeves. There's distinct Arabic music infused in the multiple dialects, especially during two outstanding tracks -- the dancing, sensual "Deseo y Vuelo" and the violin-accented "Akurafadoom." There's more drama and dynamic range on the other three cuts, including a bolero waltz with castanets and a slower classical-styled waltz. The new material gives further pause to the idea that the band is still expanding. "Guitarra de la Noche" contemporizes the Spanish tradition, while another waltz, "Orpheus Rising," has a similar sound to Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair." As the group is still fairly young and finding its place in world music, buoyed by success at the SXSW festival, this certainly is a good overview of the band -- so far.

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