03/05/2024Multi-Cultural Ensemble Halva Presents 3rd Album Reimagining The Traditional Sounds Of Eastern Europe

Taking a more classical approach this time around, we bring you the recently released third album by Halva, a multi-cultural ensemble that has a penchant for reimagining "traditional Eastern European styles" with virtuosic aplomb. Their wholly original compositions from the hand of Belgian band leader and violinist Nicolaas Cottenie are marked by dazzling virtuosity and a talent for musical storytelling; albeit the majority of their music is instrumental. The group released its klezmer-inspired debut album "The Sweetest Klezmer Orchestra" in 2018, followed by the sophomore full-length "Dinner in Sofia" in 2020 – placing a focus on Romanian, Bulgarian and Greek music – and now returns to present "Musafir" on Ghent-based Zephyrus Records.

Co-produced with Belgian De Centrale cultural center, "Musafir" again directs its attention to the traditional Bulgarian, Romanian and Greek repertoire and, as a word, is a universe unto itself. In German one might say it is 'Bedeutungsschwanger' ('pregnant with meaning'). The word 'musafir' exists in both Romanian and Greek culture, as well as in Turkish, and is rooted in Arabic. It has different meanings in each language such as guest, traveller or stranger, but also obvious overlaps, leaving room for interpretation. In the case of this album, "the title 'Musafir' refers to the vulnerability of ‘the stranger’, to the sadness of leaving home, or being forced to leave; to the suffocating feelings of loneliness, desperation and helplessness that come along with that, and to the inherent fact of being dependent on hospitality in a faraway land. But on the other hand, it also refers to the joy of feeling connected to and accepted by others, the excitement of discovering new worlds and the satisfaction of building a worthy life."

Being a 'musafir' is a feeling many of us are well familiar with and will be able to relate to. As such, listening to the eleven tracks on this album has a high potential to reflect the listeners' individual experience. Beyond that, however, what we have here are wonderful arrangements, reminiscent of the old yet beautifully rephrased in the here and now. Melancholy and pensive at times, then increasingly festive and jovial, "Musafir" is an invitation to celebrate this short life on this round planet of ours in its many facets and to rejoice in every new encounter for what it's worth, even when stuck in "Traffic in Selanik". Remember, we are all just passing through.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom