Ayman Fanous and Jason Kao Hwang, Zilzal
Grego Appelgate Edwards
February 18, 2014
Two sons of immigrants, from Egypt and China, respectively, in the world we live in today--each have dual cultural backgrounds to call upon, if everything is right. That is the case with violinist Jason Kao Hwang and guitarist-bouzoki player Ayman Fanous. There is the music of the homeland somewhere embedded in their musical minds and there is what they have invented themselves out of structural-improvisational forms they have absorbed here in the US.
You can hear that come across very clearly and brilliantly on their duo recording Zilzal (Innova 869). It's music with the freedom to explore tonalities and sound color. Each has his very own way. Neither sounds quite like anybody else.
The full set of improvisations take us to the world we are in now--one with a communications network and patterns of migration that continually enrich the culture we experience. But we do have to do a little looking for it. On the surface of pop culture there is some kind of homogeneity that can be found globally in one form or another. Some of that, even much of that can be vacuous, a white bread of bland product.
You get the opposite here. There is great freedom, technique harnessed to the ends of making a statement musically, and the sort of magic that results when all of that works, comes together.
This is experimentally open music. It is not a compendium of riffs and licks, far from it. Listening to it is to enter a kaleidoscope of modern expression, expression with rootedness in a new 3rd musical territory that is neither exactly modern in the a-cultural sense nor traditional in the constant need to affirm the previous.
There is some new conge-gating going on here, and it is rather exciting, I must say. Listen!