Festival review: Sacred Music Festival

As the title of the festival infers this was more about connecting with inner energies and spirits than shaking a leg.

September 16, 2014 22:27
1 minute read.
Stella Chiweshe

AFRICAN ANTICS: Zimbabwean singer-instrumentalist Stella Chiweshe.. (photo credit: BARRY DAVIS)


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If the audiences at the Sacred Music Festival concerts at Mishekenot Sha’ananim were looking for pyrotechnics they had come to the wrong event.

As the title of the festival infers this was more about connecting with inner energies and spirits than shaking a leg.

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Even so, veteran Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconselos brought plenty of joie de vivre to his act, and quite a few members of the audience were moved to sway in their seats as the evergreen sexagenarian musician spun his musical stories. A long solo on the single-string berimbau was a hypnotic experience and, despite the seemingly monotonous sonic output of the basic Brazilian instrument, Vasconselos kept us riveted.

Vasconselos is a gentle soul and he conveyed his messages of love and peace, and the need to care for the planet – citing the beauty and wisdom of the Amazonas – with great delicacy. The Brazilian also got the entire audience on board the emotional-musical trip and we happily joined in the vocal and percussive goings-on.

Zimbabwean singer-instrumentalist Stella Chiweshe was equally charming, and her packed audience was also only too happy to sing and clap along. Chiweshe also exuded an abundance of emotion, sometimes appearing to drop deep down into a well of suffering before emerging with joyous abandon. The 67-yearold German resident also produced some pretty fancy African footwork as she danced across the hall, and her energy level fluctuated from gentle, tongue-in-cheek sentiments to stirring singing of an almost feral nature.

There were plenty of jocular asides and an informal circle gathered around the Zimbabwean in the Jerusalem Music Center lobby after the show.

Chiweshe has had to overcome numerous social and political barriers to get to where she is today, but you would hardly guess that from her captivating bonhomie.

Iranian-born Israeli singer- multi-instrumentalist Amir Shahasar always produces the goods, and he was in his usual fine fettle for his show on September 12. His delivery was consummately smooth and seemingly effortless, as he moved seamlessly from various Persian and Arabic neys (flutes) to the long-necked Kurdish tanbur stringed instrument, and then to a frame drum. Shahasar’s emotive vocals were also a wonder to behold and he left us wanting more – much more.

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