Lucid Culture


Zikrayat at Gantry Plaza State Park, Long Island City, NY 8/19/08

Possibly the most incongruously situated show of the year, a Middle Eastern quartet playing often beautifully slinky bellydance music in the shadow of hastily constructed, third world style highrises (whose units sell for millions apiece), looking as if a healthy shove would be enough to send each of them tumbling into the river. Down below in the park, with violin, vocals, ney flute, percussion and an excellent multi-instrumentalist alternating between oud and accordion, Zikrayat had the crowd seated along the amphitheatre-like steps clapping along, rugrats included. They started their hourlong set with three Egyptian film songs before bringing the first of their two bellydancers up in front: to the womens’ immense credit, both managed to stay upright in their high heels while shimmying across the park’s flagstones, no small achievement. Meanwhile, the band ran through a rare 1930s Oum Kaltsoum song, on which the violinist tried in vain to get the crowd to improvise, Arab-style (they couldn’t get their voices around either the scale or his low baritone). They also played a rousing 70s Lebanese pop hit on the familiar theme of being broke but still trying to score with a woman, as well as an original featuring a long, impressive taqsim (improvisation) from the accordionist. They closed with the bellydancers prancing around to some rustically-flavored classical material, the violinist switching to an eerie Egyptian spike fiddle. Despite a refreshingly strong wind gusting in from the river, sometimes roaring into the microphones, the sound guy did an admirable job. This is the kind of show that tests the mettle of a band: if they can pull off something like this under less than ideal circumstances – and Zikrayat did – they ought to sound spectacularly good in a club later in the evening without a bunch of kids running around, squealing and drowning out the music.


The series here this year has been uncommonly good: both Peruvian jazz chanteuse Corina Bartra and Chinese pipa pioneer Min Xiao-Fen’s Blue Pipa Trio have played here. How unlikely could that be? As it turns out, shows at the park are booked by the Queens Council for the Arts, the same folks who brought us this year’s wonderful Latino Cultural Festival at the Queens Theatre in the Park, among other events. If next year is anything like this one, this will be a first-class afterwork concert destination.



August 19, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews

1 Comment »

  1. […] ZIKRAYAT Live at the Gantries! « heaven…i’m in…heaven… […]

    Pingback by gatormade » Blog Archive » zik review! | August 20, 2008 | Reply

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