As I see it, using the word journey to describe the genre “world music” is a cliché that people like to use. Usually that word is empty. To have a real journey you need to start from one point and get to another physically or spiritually; this journey should be interesting for the listeners, preferably experiencing something or understanding something new. When was the last time you felt like you are going on a journey through a music album?
Mark Eliyahu is influenced by a wide and ancient world, from Central Asia and the Caucasus region passing through ancient Persia and the Middle East towards creating a sound that combines Jewish and Arab music with mystical and Western harmonies.
Mark Eliyahu is an Israeli composer and producer. He plays the Persian Kamanche (a bowed string instrument) and Turkish Baglama.
Mark’s parents immigrated from the Caucasus region when Mark was 6 years old. His father and mother played classical music and he grew up listening to operas and concerts as his musical influences. His father, Dr. Piris Eliyahu is a musicologist and a composer, and used to conduct classical orchestras.
At one point, his father changed his musical direction from classical music to classical eastern music and in 2009 he was the first musician in the history of Israel to receive the Prime Minister’s Prize for eastern music composition.
Mark learned how to play a classical violin between the ages of 4-12. When Mark was 16 years old, Ross Daly came to Israel on a visit from Greece, who is one of the pioneers in the genre “world music”. Mark was interested in learning that style of music.
“At 16, I left school with the full support of my parents. Ross Daly agreed that I will come to live and study with him. So I went alone to Greece where I first heard Kamanche and was captivated by its magic. My father was looking for a master in Kamanche so that I can learn from him. And that’s how as a 16 and a half year old boy I moved to Azerbaijan.”
He lived for two years in Azerbaijan, far from reality.
“I left everything, the world of parties and friends. I lived two years in a tough and hostile environment, my teacher was the only one I had something in common with. His wife hated me and I was sleeping with his children in the same room with no privacy. I spent every day 16-18 hours playing and practicing. There were moments that I nearly broke down, I thought I might not be able to learn the Kamanche. But I knew it was my destiny and it’s like a training camp. The teacher (Adalat Vazirov) himself told me to relax, that I’m working too hard, but I put myself in a crazy regime and rarely left the house. Passing between learning the formulas and homesickness.”
A year ago I had the privilege to listen to Mark and his father Piris playing together in a show.
I experienced something that had never happened to me before. On one hand I wanted the show never to end, watching them play, listening to the music, it was so powerful, amazing and inspiring. But on the other hand I wanted it to end because otherwise everyone would hear me crying out loud (out of excitement and joy) – than it would make me into that embracing girl crying out loud. Listening to Mark’s performance, it’s impossible to ignore the incredible capacity of precision and excellence he displays. He closes his eyes and focuses, he is one with the sound of his instrument; the Kamanche.
This wonderful instrument by Mark Eliyahu, the Kamanche, rising above all the other musical instruments, is one of the most amazing instruments that I ever listened to. The sound of the Kamanche is coming from the desert sands, connecting to harmonies and creating a spectacular world of melodies decorated with Oriental music.
Leave words and language aside, just listen. As strong as words can be, this music illustrates the power of melody alone. This music and sound creates its own language, allowing you to go on your own journey.
Until next time,
JCC Israeli Shlicha\Emissary