Click to hear: “Niko’s Kalamantiano“
Portland is lucky to have Okbari. The duo of multi-instrumentalist Amos Libby and percussionist Eric LaPerna performs Middle Eastern and Indian music with incredible skill and genuine feel, and does so regularly — their monthly First Friday gigs at Blue, for example, pack the place every time. Without them, the local scene would be missing an entire continent’s worth of music.
Raqs Al Shavarsh is the fourth album they’ve released since joining forces in 1995. It consists of 14 original compositions for oud and Middle Eastern percussion inspired by — and in tribute to — their late master, Udi Alan Shavarsh Bardezbanian (a.k.a. Al Gardner), who passed away in 2006. The album was recorded live in the studio, making it a passable substitute on those nights when you can’t get in the door at Blue (you’ll have to hire your own belly dancers to get the full effect).
The playing is, as always, most impressive. Bluegrass geeks and metalheads that worship guitarists who can shred should hear Libby perform stuff like “Niko’s Kalamantiano.” LaPerna’s work is equally enlightening (When’s the last time you bobbed your head in 14/4 time? Try it — you’ll like it.) Most of the tracks are entirely instrumental, and all are within Armenian, Turkish and Arabic traditions.
These guys are true disciples of this music, as close as you’ll get to hearing the real thing without traveling to Turkey. And again, they wrote this material. Damn.
Okbari play Fri., Oct. 3, at Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland, at 10 p.m. Suggested donation: $5 (21+). Fore more, visit okbari.org.