Gig Review:
Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, London SE1
Thursday, 25th March 2004, 7.30pm
Photo of Daphna Sadeh And The Voyagers
Daphna Sadeh And The Voyagers
L to R: Koby Israelite, Numan Elyer, Daphna Sadeh, Stewart Curtis, Nim Schwartz
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Photo of Daphna Sadeh
Daphna Sadeh in full swing

Daphna Sadeh And The Voyagers

Nomadica - Roots Revisited presented by Multiculti in association with
Jewish Music Institute SOAS
Purcell Room
South Bank Centre
London SE1
Thursday, 25th March 2004, 7.30pm


Daphna Sadeh - composer, arranger, double bass
Stewart Curtis - saxophone, clarinet, flutes
Koby Israelite - accordion
Nim Schwartz - oud
Numan Elyer - percussion
Guest Musicians:
Tigran Aleksanyan - duduk, zourna
David Lasserson - viola


  1. Middle Eastern Tango - D. Sadeh
  2. Night Train to the East - D. Sadeh
  3. La Rosa Enflorese - Ladino song (Trad.)
  4. Laila (Ancient Memories) - D. Sadeh
  5. Dream Hunter (Inner Sound) - D. Sadeh
  6. Paradise (Awakening) - D. Sadeh


  7. A Farewell To My Father
  8. Taksim (duduk, zurna)
  9. Debka - Folklore Bedouin (Trad.)
10. The Voyager Song - Traditional Jewish (Bukhara)
11. Out of Border - D. Sadeh

All arrangements by D. Sadeh

Date of Review: 2004/03/28

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Photo of Koby Israelite, accordion, Daphna Sadeh, double bass, and Stewart Curtis, clarinet
Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers with Guest Musicians David Lasserson, viola (far left) and Tigran Aleksanyan, duduk (far right)

Take The Night Train To The East

Part of a short season of four concerts under the overall umbrella title of Nomadica - Roots Revisited, presented by Multiculti in association with the Jewish Music Institute, SOAS, London, Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers made their South Bank debut at the Purcell Room on 25th March.

This remarkable all-star line-up band is going places fast since its inception last year. Led by phenomenal Israeli born bassist and composer/arranger Daphna Sadeh, the band also consists of British multi-woodwind ace Stewart Curtis, Israeli born multi-instrumentalist demon Koby Israelite on accordion, Israeli born oud wizard Nim Schwartz, and Turkish born percussion fiend and darabuka innovator (he is generally credited as the creator of the all-finger style of playing this drum) Numan Elyer. For the second set tonight, Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers were joined by guest musicians the outstanding Tigran Aleksanyan on duduk and zurna, who has been associated with The Voyagers before, and renowned Viola virtuoso David Lasserson.

Photo of Daphna Sadeh, Stewart Curtis (here on flute), and Numan Elyer
From left - Numan Elyer, Daphna Sadeh, and Stewart Curtis (here on flute)

The Purcell Room filled up quickly and in good time to a more than respectable level, near enough to capacity. Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers made a swinging start to another of their extraordinary performances with the Piazzolla-meets-Middle Eastern music Middle Eastern Tango. Substitute the accordion with bandoneon and the blend would have been even stronger. Stewart Curtis' tenor solo soared and danced in an almost bop-meets-tango fashion that simply left you breathless already. Night Train To The East took us further east and set a pace, and a wonderfully swinging one, that set the scene for the rest of this marvelous performance with ensemble playing that was just perfection. Not, of course, that one would expect anything less from Daphna Sadeh and her Voyagers. Ms. Sadeh is a hard taskmaster, not only on her fellow band members but especially on herself. She is also a quite incredible facilitator very much in the tradition of Charlie Mingus, of whom she often reminds remarkably in every way, and gives her fellow Voyagers plenty of opportunity to shine and indeed supports them without ego.

The next number, La Rosa Enflorese, based on the traditional Ladino song of the same title, gave some respite with its slower tempo and contemplative mood and its haunting beauty, but on the other hand got your pulse racing again with Stewart Curtis' recorder and Koby Israelite's accordion solos. What Curtis extracts from the humble, some would say lack-lustre, recorder utterly defies credulity. After hearing Curtis, you'll never look at the recorder the same way again. He makes it positively glamorous, a peer to his other axes, not a poor relation.

Photo of Nim Schwartz
Nim Schwartz

Laila gripped you with its marvelous ensemble playing and Curtis' sweet and sexy piccolo, as well as with riveting solos from Daphna Sadeh's bass and Numan Elyer's percussion. The performance kept rising to ever loftier levels, and there was no let up with Dream Hunter and its haunting bass intro and flute melody, both seductive and dream-like. The mood was sustained by Curtis' playful, almost wispy, flute improv and Nim Schwartz's evocative oud solo.

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Photo of Daphna Sadeh
The charismatic Daphna Sadeh

Photo of Stewart Curtis, on tenor sax
Stewart Curtis, on tenor

Photo of Koby Israelite
Koby Israelite

Photo of Tigran Aleksanyan
Tigran Aleksanyan on duduk

Just as you might have thought Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers couldn't possibly step up to yet a further level, they did with the closer of the first set, Paradise. They positively took us there with this ecstatic piece. Exhilarating improvs from Koby Israelite's accordion, Nim Schwartz's oud and Stewart Curtis' clarinet whipped you into ever more dizzying heights of musical ecstasy. Audience appreciation throughout was thunderous for such an intimate auditorium, and Daphna Sadeh held the audience in the palm of her hand with her charming banter and charisma throughout.

Photo of Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers
Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers, from L: Koby Israelite, accordion, Numan Elyer, darbuka, Daphna Sadeh, bass, Stewart Curtis, tenor,
Nim Schwartz, oud, and guest musician Tigran Aleksanyan, zurna

In view of what was to follow with the second set, the interval was a well-needed break for audience and especially no doubt musicians alike. Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers did the highly improbable, if not impossible, of following the sensational first set with an equally sensational and breathtaking second.

For the touching A Farewell To My Father, Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers were joined by David Lasserson on viola. Lasserson is one of that rare breed of musicians who, although best known as a classical performer, is also successfully and equally at home in world music and jazz. Here, Daphna Sadeh allowed herself extensive improvs that were both thoughtful and exhilarating, along with exciting solos from David Lasserson on viola, Koby Israelite on accordion, Nim Schwartz on oud and Stewart Curtis on tenor sax.

Photo of Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers, with David Lasserson and Tigran Aleksanyan
From L: David Lasserson, viola, Koby Israelite, accordion, Numan Elyer, darbuka, Daphna Sadeh, bass, Stewart Curtis, piccolo,
Nim Schwartz, oud, and Tigran Aleksanyan, duduk
Photo of Numan Elyer
Numan Elyer

Photo of Daphna Sadeh
Daphna Sadeh in rehearsal

Photo of Tigran Aleksanyan
Tigran Aleksanyan on zurna

Photo of Stewart Curtis
Stewart Curtis, here on flute

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When it comes to dramatic entrances, it would be very hard to beat Tigran Aleksanyan's. Suddenly, apparently coming out of nowhere yet everywhere was the piercing sound of his zurna as he started his Taksim, a classic Middle Eastern improvisation, proceeding down the aisle through the auditorium and onto the stage in a stately, almost regal manner in his ceremonial Armenian robe. To a quiet accompaniment of accordion, viola and bass, Aleksanyan's Taksim continued to astound and enthrall.

The thrills continued with the exuberant Debka and adventurous solos from Koby Israelite's accordion, David Lasserson's viola, the exhilarating piccolo of Stewart Curtis, the solid yet flighty bass of Daphna Sadeh, and the enchanting duduk of Tigran Aleksanyan. (The duduk is a curious instrument with the cylindrical bore of a chalumeau but a double reed; it is found through most of the Caucasus and the Middle East but in Armenia its art has attained its highest levels.)

Photo of David Lasserson
David Lasserson

Raising this outstanding performance still further, the unforgettable The Voyager Song took us still further east, to Central Asia, with this traditional song from the Bukharan Jewish diaspora of Uzbekistan, one of the oldest. The atmosphere was ultra high-voltage by now, but there was no let up. Electrifying solos by Israelite, Aleksanyan on duduk, Curtis on clarinet and Lasserson drove the pace to an explosive frenzy of a climax.

How do you follow such a climactic end? If you're Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers, with an encore of Out Of Border! The sheer ecstasy was taken ever higher and higher with thrilling improvs from David Lasserson's viola, Tigran Aleksanyan's duduk, Stewart Curtis' clarinet-on-steroids, and an equally steroidal percussion solo by Numan Elyer.

Photo of Koby Israelite, Numan Elyer, Daphna Sadeh
Koby Israelite, Numan Elyer, Daphna Sadeh

A performance as extraordinary as that of Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers is always more of an experience than mere performance. Your spine is tingled, your heartstrings are pulled, your hair stands on end. It's impossible to do full justice to a performance as brilliant as this.

You've simply got to catch the sensational Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers live. Take the night train to the east!


© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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