26 April 2018

Pointless video post – ‘Hidden Dance’ by Gao Hong and Issam Rafea

Yesterday, for our sixth wedding anniversary, Jessie and I went out to the Cedar to hear two instrumental masters do improvised duets on two lutes. Dr Gao Hong 高虹 (who is from my wife’s hometown of Luoyang, Henan Province) is a world-renowned talent on the pipa 琵琶 (Chinese lute), a student of the late Shanghai lute master Lin Shicheng 林石城, who has been recognised both in China and the United States and who has participated in several cross-cultural and international music groups, and is currently on the faculty at Carleton College where she directs a Chinese music ensemble. Dr Issam Rafea عصام رافع is a likewise world-famous Kuwaiti-Syrian oud عود (Perso-Arabian lute) master, symphonic composer, chair of the department of Arabic music at the High Institute of Music in Damascus and conductor for the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic music.

These two apparently met some time back and decided to do some impromptu recording sessions, out of which came their joint album Life As Is earlier this year. This concert we went to was sublime. Two masters of similarly-descended (but wildly divergent, soundwise) instruments carrying on what I can only describe as a conversation in music, on various themes. Though Gao herself did much of the introductory speaking and Rafea was quite a bit more reserved, and even their musical styles reflected their differing personalities, the two of them clearly had a musical-spiritual chemistry that shone through. For someone like me with no instrumental talent to speak of (and paltry vocal talent in comparison to the rest of my family), it was really something astonishing to listen to.

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