Heaven's Dust
(Six Degrees, 2000)

If you're the type to judge a CD by its cover, then you'd be right in judging that Heaven's Dust, the first CD from France-based trio Ekova, is world music. But not world music in any way that you might be imagining.

The trio is composed of Italian-American singer and cellist Dierdre Dubois, Iranian percussionist Arach Khalatbari (who also contributes vocals and clarinet, of all things) and Algerian lutist Mehdi Haddab (also cello and oud). All three live in Paris, but none of them are actually French. They bring together a variety of musical traditions, producing a fascinating blend that can include Celtic and Iranian sounds mixed up with Egyptian and Indian motifs. They are joined on this CD by Cyrille Dufay, who gives the music a decidedly techno flavor.

Much of their music is improvised, based on an opening motif which they then just run with. Their improvisation extends to the language in which they sing. Although you might recognize a word here and there, for the most part, they sing in a completely fluid, invented language, which often contributes to the flavor of the song (whether Eastern or Western, African-styled or wildly Celtic). The one exception to this is "In My Prime," a traditional Celtic tune -- more or less. Although the words are traditional, you'd never know that the tune was Celtic in nature unless you listened very, very closely.

One might think from the description that Ekova's music is wildly undisciplined and unrecognizable as music, but all the disparate threads come together and it works. The musicians obviously know their stuff. Their more melodic tracks are slightly more enjoyable than their wilder tracks, but that is, of course, strictly personal opinion.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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