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Album Review: Origin
Elise Lebec
Cover image of the album Origin by Elise Lebec
Elise Lebec
2017 / Bay Area Film Company
44 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Elise Lebec’s Origin is an unusual listening experience! Subtitled One World Turning Project: Volume 1, the album was born as the beginning of a spiritual illumination and epiphany that compelled Lebec to “embark on an intuitive, cross-cultural musical journey of discovery, deep creative expression, and a calling to use it as a vehicle for bringing disparate cultures together.” The music is being called “New Age/World Fusion” for its blend of western and exotic Egyptian instrumentation and vocals as well as for its mix of traditional ethnic music styles and contemporary pop and rap music. All nine tracks are vocals, chants, and/or rap. There are no purely instrumental pieces although the instrumentation plays a very important part in the music.

Lebec is joined by a long list of musicians and vocalists (38) from the US and Egypt, making this a truly international project. While I fully appreciate the intent of the music, I personally don’t like rap. I totally “get” that Lebec is trying to bridge many gaps with this album - cultural, religious, generational, etc. - and I absolutely agree that we humans need to try with any means possible to unify as a world citizenry - but rap music drives me nuts. The non-rap tracks are very enjoyable and often very beautiful.

Origin begins with “Taaly Maaya: Come With Me,” a haunting, rhythmic invocation sung in English and Arabic by Lebec. Dark and dramatic with a Middle Eastern vibe, it’s a fascinating opener that tells you immediately that this album is not going to be a “snooze”! “Queen of Light” features violinist Charlie Bisharat - always a highlight! Some of the other instrumentation in this song is more exotic, and it is one of my favorites. “Cairo Morning” features a rap by Mahmoud Abu Zaed and a chant by Sheikh Mahmoud el Tahomy. “Bolero” is a passionate love song with lead vocals by Lebec and a chant by Sheikh Mahmoud el Tahomy. “Rumi Song” features Arabic singer Mai Mustafa and rap by Mahmoud Abu Zaed. “Sekhmet: The Goddess Awakens” is a march-like chant by twelve female vocalists: “We are the fire, the sun and the moon, the salt of the earth, the origin.” I really like the powerful spirit of this one! “Sufi Dance” is kind of a strange combination of rap, gospel and Middle Eastern musical styles. “Hob Elahy: God Is Within” begins with a beautiful hymn-like vocal by Lebec. Within the piece is a rap written and performed by Turon Davis called “God Is Light.” This very interesting concluding piece demonstrates the broad differences even within our own western music and how those differences can work together to communicate a common message.

Origin is available from www.EliseLebec.com, Amazon and iTunes.
July 10, 2017