The group Stellamara is comprised of vocalist Sonja
Drakulich, Gari Hegedus, Susu Pam[anin, Tobias Roberson, Jamie Paulos and Beth
Bahia Cohen. This recording also
features some guest artists. The group
core is Sonja Drakulich and Gari Hegedus, who have written and arranged the
compositions on this disk.
The overall flavor of this group is Arabic, Turkish, and
Persian. Musical instrumentation
includes hammered dulcimer, keyboards, mandocello, various Middle Eastern
drums, viola, and the striking vocals of Sonja Drakulich. The combination of Ms. Drakulich and Mr.
Hegedus gives us a very professionally composed and produced work.
This CD contains a total of twelve tracks at a total running
time of 62:22. The cover designs are
worth noting for their lovely composition and style. This is a Hearts of Space release. From the opening track Szerelem we get the feel of the
entire work. The soft yet clearly
defined vocals of Ms. Drakulich open the CD and while never overpowering any of
the tracks, it is the focus of most of these compositions. The lyrics on this piece are Hungarian, and
the piece is derived from a traditional Hungarian work. In some cases, the accompanying liner notes
contain translations of the lyrics.
Resulina is much more Middle Eastern in flavor, more
traditional. There is energy in this
piece, again highlighting the vocals but also very defined in the drumming and
string work. Zablejalo Mi Agance is a traditional Bulgarian composition. The viola takes on a “gypsy violin” feel,
very forlorn and melancholy which is also reflected in Ms. Drakulichs vocal
style, which fits with the lyrics. There
is a complete translation of a very sad tale which sets the tone for the
composition itself. Do take the time to
read through the liner notes for the translations.
The tempo picks up with Baraka, still conveying the Middle
Eastern flavor, but with an upbeat swing.
Rhythm is the focus here, augmented by Ms. Drakulichs voice. Nida features Portuguese lyrics, again included in the liner
notes, and is a blessing for the traveler set to music. Again, the feel of traditional folk music,
featuring strings and some back drumming.
Kurdi Taksim is a short improvisational piece featuring Gari
Hegedus on the oud (pronounced “ud”).
This is a Middle Eastern lute, the ancestor to the European lute. This short piece highlights Mr. Hegedus
proficiency with the instrument and is very delightful. The title trackSeven
Valleys is a very
melancholy piece, very Turkish, a love song according to the lyrics. Again featuring the vocals of Ms. Drakulich,
with Gari Hegedus on divan saz and baglama, the Turkish stringed instruments
similar to lutes, and a daff, or a tambourine.
Firtina continues in the same vein, but more upbeat and
without the vocals. A much faster paced
piece, again very Turkish in flavor featuring Gari Hegedus with the same
assortment of instruments. Maliks returns to the Portuguese lyrics, another travelers
blessing from the reading of the lyrics.
The piece features the sarod, an Indian stringed instrument, backed by
the oud and the tambura. Ms. Drakulich
provides the vocals and Tobias Roberson fills in with the frame drum. A very lovely piece, very lyrical, soft and
Kyrie Eleison focuses on Sonja Drakulichs vocals arranged to
harmonize with herself. The instrumental
accompaniment is minimal, allowing Ms. Drakulich to dominate this piece with
her amazing vocal display. This piece is
adapted from the13th Century Gradual of Eleanor of Britiany and shows the
groups ability to adapt and use Medieval Music as part of their repertoire.
Persephone is a modern piece, placing violin and viola in
the forefront of the piece, and surrounding it with tanbur, oud and
keyboards. A very smooth piece, it has a
Middle East meets West feeling to it and is
interesting in its composition and construction. An interesting addition to this work,
highlighting the artists’ ability.
Sturmica is based on a traditional Balkan piece, again
featuring the vocals of Ms. Drakulich, and has interesting lyrics that lead
into a strong ending composition.
Upbeat, the piece finishes by once again highlighting the groups ability
to present music with a Middle Eastern feel that is appealing to the Western
Overall, this is a powerful showing for the group,
highlighting their musical abilities and strong compositions. This is a good choice as an introduction
piece to the group, having various styles of their music. It is a very interesting side trip into the
World Music genre.
by MA Foster