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Greek folk music compilation weaves a spell

The Dance of Heaven's Ghosts
The Dance of Heaven's Ghosts
By various artists

HEMIsphere / Capitol Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the August 30, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

The term "world beat" evokes certain images, certain sounds in the mind: Latin America and Africa are the dominant forms of the "world beat" scene. Which is understandable given the predominance of dance forms in those traditions. But there are other traditions, too, equally rich, equally riveting.

Among the more complex musical traditions is that of Greece. The meeting point – often bloody – between East and West, Europe and Asia, Greece's music is drawn equally from European folk and Middle Eastern religious musics. A new sampler of traditional Greek music shows a sound that is as "world beat" as one can imagine. "The Dance of Heaven's Ghosts" features 14 songs by 11 different artists, most of them women singers. It is a uniquely Mediterranean music, marrying the Arabic north coast of Africa with the sunny European south.

In fact, if you 've ever listened to some truly riveting Arabic folk and thought, "Wow, that would make some damn fine drinking music," only to realize that in most Islamic countries alcohol is frowned on, if not banned, you're in luck here. Pour yourself a glass of ouzo, spin this disc and let yourself fall into the trance.