March 23, 1997

Play it Again, Indiana

Eckart Rahn is to music what Indiana Jones was to archeology. In 28 years, the Arizona–based Celestial Harmonies has recorded the music of 40 countries. "Many of those countries have a multitude of languages and cultures within their borders," he said. Celestial Harmonies, the first release of which was the now legendary Tibetan Bells in 1971, aims for a synthesis of the sounds of East and West, past and present.

But the music industry still struggles to define the label. "World music is a derogatory term and, in essence, it is an imperialistic term," Rahn said.

"Strictly speaking, Mozart is world music and it should be filed under the German–Austrian section. If it is PNG music, it is an anthropologist who does the research, but if it is Austria, it would be a musicologist.

"First, there was no label, so we were filed in 'imports jazz'. Then it was 'new age', and here it was called 'ambient', whatever that is supposed to mean. Now it is 'world music'."

Rahn prefers to describe the music he records as written and improvised classical. To date, Celestial Harmonies has made 15 recording in Australia, including Queensland Aboriginal musician Matthew Doyle and David Hudson.

Celestial Harmonies' international reputation has been built on its recordings of previously unknown indigenous music.

The company has a small niche in the global market, but is famous for keeping its titles listed indefinitely and for daring to travel to the musicians, no matter where they live.

Its latest releases include the music of Cambodia and Armenia. The largest project the company has undertaken, the Music of Islam, is now in production.

What ensures Celestial Harmonies CDs are accessible to all are the encyclopedic background notes that explain music in context with geography, politics, history and culture of the region before examining the talents of the musicians and vocalists in detail.

  • Carmel Egan

October 13, 1996


Followers of New Age music too often are charmed by triviality And its deadly shortcomings will usually stifle the character of another genre in any musical marriage.

But Omar Faruk Tekbilek, a Turk living in New York, has convincingly imposed Western melodic ideas on to traditional Middle Eastern musical structures Now this is New Age.

Faruk's range of instruments includes seldom heard Arabian obscurities accompanied by synthesizers, flugelhorn and violin. This work may be the Western ear's Rosetta Stone through which we can interpret the seemingly impenetrable sounds of the Near East and North Africa.

Says Faruk of this album: "In essence, we are the flowers owned by the one and only Gardener." Yes, well I knew that. But hippie sentiments aside, this is a beautiful record.

  • Pete Best