Music Review: Nomad Songs

Spirituality & Health Magazine
reviewed by John Malkin

Nomad Songs
Stephan Micus
ECM Records

Stephan Micus describes himself as a musical nomad; he periodically travels the world with open ears to discover indigenous instruments, along with the histories that embody the world’s musical cultures. The German-born composer then creates original compositions that are emotional and innovative, complete with vocals delivered in a singing language that Micus himself has developed over 21 albums.

Nomad Songs features multitrack recording by Micus as he plays an array of instruments from Botswana, Morocco, Bali, Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Ireland, and Japan. Micus plays some instruments here for the first time, including the African genbri, a Moroccan bass lute with three strings and camel skin stretched over a wooden body, traditionally played by descendants of former black slaves of sub-Saharan West Africa in all-night healing ceremonies. The rich, deep tones of the genbri open the song “The Promise” and are soon joined by Micus’s haunting vocals.

Where Micus plays familiar instruments he often stretches for a new invention: on “Sea of Grass” he plays two tin whistles simultaneously. “The Stars” is an ethereal musical journey with two 14-string guitars of his own design.

“All over the world there were people who lived over hundreds or thousands of years in complete harmony with nature and caused no damage to the environment,” explains Micus in the album liner notes. “Yet always—instead of being admired for this tremendous achievement—these people are looked down upon. It shows that we have no understanding of what is important in life.” 

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