Middle Eastern musicians could not make it out of America’s most diverse college without a slice of blue-eyed soul, a jolt of jazz and a bit of African thunder.
It was a musical smoothie in SWC’s music blender and it tasted great. Dornob, a group of wizardly Middle Eastern musicians played Persian, Turkish and Arabic melodies and allowed a pair of gifted Jaguars to sit in.
More fun than serious, the sextet group transformed a bland room into a musical paradise. When the first chord was struck, the room slowly slipped into a trance with the soft singing and mellow Persian instruments.
Stacey Barnett, a legendary SWC vocal music alumna and Performing Arts Hall of Famer, stood out as usual, singing a sweet, soft melody like a chilly Philadelphia a cappella group standing around a burning trash can on 42nd Street. Barnett could probably front just about any band in the world, but fit with the Persian ensemble like an exquisite Persian tapestry on an ivory tile floor.
Sweet ney flute filled the air like an ocean breeze on a hot evening. Luckily no cobras were in attendance because they would have been instantly hypnotized.
Dornob showed great chemistry during “Two Lovers.” A vocal line led in the song followed one by one by musicians who added their own personal voice. SWC Professor of Music Todd Caschetta lent helping hands on the drums, tambourine, suspended cymbal and snare drum, his African training and rock-n-roll pedigree putting some bite into the entrancing groove.
Segments of the concert were too busy. New instruments joined in like kids slipping into an R-rated movie. There were times when the sound was jumbled and overly dense. It caused confusion as instruments fought for primacy.
While soothing, the music became repetitive. A meditative ambience filled the room like fog. For some this was welcomed, but others dozed off.
Realizing this, group leader Farhad Bahrami dropped in a pinch of New Orleans and made his band perform new material on the spot. Surprisingly, the improvised pieces popped out more than the prepared material. Musicians listened to each other and found moments to step up and avoid a disturbance in The Force.
Dornob was at its best when it was at its loosest. On rare instances when a musician fumbled, he would shoot a quick glance at a bandmate and smile as if almost to say, “Yeah I messed up, but I’m having too much fun to care.”
Omar Lopez and Bahrami turned the tides on the calm night by ending with a friendly competition. They had a back and forth battle between the fretless bass and electronic oud, trying to up one the other. This provided much-needed energy on a rather relaxing night.
Dornob opened the way into another room. An appreciative audience was happy to go in.