Oriental Voyage

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Think of Abaji as a kind of Middle Eastern Michael Hedges. He's certainly the master of several instruments, from clarinet to flute, to all manner of plucked strings (including a specially-built double-necked oud and guitar). There's a strong Mediterranean feel to much of the music on Oriental Voyage, such as on "Raml," where the Greek influence is quite apparent. But for the most part, this is impossible to pin down -- little bits of this and that creep in, helping it transcend borders. He's a meditative, rather than wild player, but that's for the good -- it allows his pieces to open gradually and flower, absorbing the listener. Even his singing, which has a rough, breathy quality, is more hypnotic that assertive. A bluesy quality informs some of the tracks, like "Min Samarkand," but it's desert, rather than Delta blues. Abaji has a unique musical vision, one that happily crosses cultures and helps unify them. A singular and exceptional record that defies easy categorization.

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