Personnel: Amina Alaoui (vocals); Jon Balke (keyboards); Bjarte Eike (violin); Jon Hassell (trumpet, electronics); Barokksolistene (vocals); Andreas Arend (archlute, theorbo); Kheir-Eddine M'Kachiche, Anna Ivanovna Sundin, Per Buhre, Milos Valent, Peter Spissky (violin); Rastko Roknic, Joel Sundin (viola); Kate Hearne (cello, recorder); Tom Pitt (cello); Hans Knut Sveen (harpsichord, clavichord); Mattias Frostenson (double bass); Pedram Khavarzamini (zarb); Helge Norbakken (percussion).
Audio Mixers: Jan Erik Kongshaug; Jon Balke; Manfred Eicher; Amina Alaoui.
An ambitious world fusion project, SIWAN brings together the Norwegian pianist Jon Balke, Moroccan singer Amina Alaoui, the Early Music ensemble Barokksolistene, minimalist trumpeter Jon Hassell, and others in a cross-cultural melange that imagines itself somewhere back in the medieval times of Andalusia, during the era when Spain was dominated by Muslim rule. With the expert help of Barokksolistene (Baroque solists), Balke has composed authentically evocative, Arabic-flavored settings for medieval Christian and Muslim poetic texts, fluently sung by Alaoui who sometimes resembles a serene flamenco singer or, better, a New Age descendant of the great Egyptian diva Oum Kalsoum. Hassell's horn is given ample solo space along with the Algerian violinist Eddine M'Kachiche; they both improvise against the expert zarb (Iranian hand drum) playing of Pedram Khavar Zamini. It's a heady mixture all around, and beautifully produced by ECM founder Manfred Eicher once again. The winning message is that these cultures mingled and fertilized each other in the past and will surely do so again.
Billboard (p.29) - "The sounds hark back to early music, yet, with their blend of disparate styles, sound remarkably fresh."