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Haran by Pharoah's Daughter

Reviewed by Katharine Heller


Have you ever wondered what would happen if Pink Floyd and PJ Harvey crossed paths in a cafe in Israel and subsequently took a road trip to South Africa? What if they met up with Radiohead in Morocco along the way? The result would be close to what you'll find in Haran, the latest achievement of the Jewish folk group, Pharaoh's Daughter. Infusing an eclectic instrumental blend of traditional Judaic tunes with Arabic rhythm and African beats, Haran is an infectiously beautiful album full of haunting joy.

Pharaoh's Daughter is fronted by New York native, Basya Schechter, whose musical inspirations come from her own experiences growing up Orthodox, and later during her travels through the Middle East and West Africa. Backed by a fine set of musicians whose skills range from classical to jazz and instruments that run the gamut from recorder to accordion, Haran is the kind of album that radiates with spiritual energy while maintaining a rock and roll intensity.

In the age of iTunes with a constant demand for hit singles, albums that tell a story are a rare treat. Haran starts out with the ethereal "By Way of Haran" and is followed by the clever and catchy "Ka Ribon," an intensely psychedelic tune that slowly builds with delightful frenetic energy. The rest of the tracks range from hypnotic to trippy. "Hagar," a tremendously flirtatious tune blends nicely into "Enpesare," one of the more exciting and energetic songs on Haran. More demure tunes like "Yona" bring an end to this journey, but the second to last track, "Hashomer," reminds you that Pharaoh's Daughter, well, rocks.

The lyrics fluctuate between Aramaic, Hebrew and Ladino and there are a few songs with free form vocals by Schechter that are reminiscent of spiritual chants. Don't worry about brushing up on that Talmudic reading; the passion behind each song is so well translated by Schechter's beautiful voice and her very capable musicians that you feel fluent. Haran is the kind of album that gives Pharaoh's Daughter the staying power most musicians strive for. Let's just hope they'll keep inviting us along for the ride.

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