Jareeda Magazine, May, 2004 Cover Story Desert Wind by Sarina


You've seen Desert Wind's Alan Scott Bachman on the cover of Jareeda before. Known as one of the innovators of Americanized "tribal fusion / world-beat" music, Alan and his recordings are highly acclaimed throughout the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. Fast forward ten years, and here he is with Andalin Bachman, hanging out at Rakkasah - West, 2004. Desert Wind started in 1981 in Portland, Oregon with Alan on mandolin, wind instrument and keyboards and Robert Dexter on Middle East percussion. Right about that time they played for Mezdulene's dance in Portland, Oregon, and many festivals. When Alan moved to Utah, Desert Wind evolved. Seven years ago or so, Alan introduced Andalin to the world of Middle Eastern music and dance. For an award winning jazz flutist, this was an exciting entrance into a whole new universe of musical expression. For Desert Wind, Andalin added a powerfully new dimension in musical improvisation. Today Desert Wind has up to seven members, with Alan and Andalin at the core.

Music Philosophy of Desert Wind

Desert Wind's music, composed mostly by Alan, is a fusion of Eastern and Western musical influences. The music is not "purist Middle Eastern." While it is what Alan likes to hear himself, this music is also intended to be a gateway for Americans to learn new rhythms and ways of listening to musical influences from other cultures. There are millions of Americans who simply do not want to listen to pure Middle Eastern music, often because they do not understand enough of the communication elements in the music.

Desert Wind's music intends to be one of the portals. In fact, this was Alan's experience. While taking doumbek lessons from Polly Ferber in Portland, Oregon, Alan was exposed to Middle Eastern music. It was simply "okay" at the time. But then Bob Dexter, who was in the class, played the Light Rain "Dream Dancer" album. This moved Alan deeply into an understanding of the universal nature of this music. Desert Wind owes much to Light Rain for their pioneering leap of faith. Through this music dancer's spouses are often able to get into the music their partners are experiencing. The universe is enormous, and there is enough room for the "purists" and the "fusionists." A wide variety of choices is what this country is all about. May all the choices flourish.

Another philosophy is gleaned through Desert Wind's performance goal to let the dancers shine. The dancers, musicians and audience form a three way circle of energy which creates a synergistic experience. That can only happen when the egos of all are set aside for the greatest artistic effect.

In the Beginning

Alan's fascination with exotic Middle Eastern rhythms and scales, not to mention the dazzling dancers, naturally propelled his music into the realm of belly dance. Drawing from his classic rock and diverse Eastman School of Music background, Alan progressed into the style of music which has become known as Middle Eastern tribal fusion. Alan has made every effort through the latest keyboard technology to capture the natural sounds of Middle Eastern instruments such as the oud, sarode and kanoon, while at the same time celebrating familiar sounds from Western culture such as the harp, cello and violin. A great example is his collaboration with Doug Adams, courtesy of Light Rain, on the "Desert Rain" chiftitelli from the World Dance, 2 CD set.

Early on, Alan was able to envision sensual belly dance moves in his compositions. Kali Ma: Dances of Transformation by Desert Wind was just the beginning. Originally released as a cassette tape in 1991, Kali Ma, includes a complete belly dance routine and has become and remains a best seller in Germany for over ten years. Since then Alan has produced nine (9) more Desert Wind CDs, all of which are carried by major American and International Music Distributors. It is no surprise that through Alan's contact with the enlightened women of belly dance, he was led to explore and musically depict the mysteries of the Goddess in such CD productions as Gaia, Earth Goddess: Ritual Dances of the Mother, Return to the Goddess: In Chants and Song and even the feminine divine Shekhina, Hebrew Goddess: Restoring the Balance.

Enter Andalin

Although perhaps a hard act to follow the Goddess saga, this winner of the "Selmer Award for Excellence in Jazz Performance" had no hesitation in adding flute color to this wonderful tapestry of Middle Eastern tribal fusion. Having performed jazz professionally for over fifteen years, she was delighted to find her music illustrated in the movement of dance. She will forever recall that enchanting evening in Portland when Morocco opened up on stage in a spontaneous duet with Andalin's unabashed improvisation to Desert Wind's "Sahara" from the World Dance, 2 CD set. As a result, that very CD set was shortly thereafter completed with the inclusion of Alan Scott Bachman's "Power Flute." To Andalin's delight, she saw her music take new life as Saqra, www.saqra.net, created her popular veil instructional video to that song.

Moving On

This cover story may sound like an advertisement for World Dance, which has in fact become another best seller for Desert Wind on the world stage. Yet Desert Wind has continued to evolve. Alan and Andalin have combined forces and crossed barriers into unexplored musical territory. Who would guess that a band now residing in Salt Lake City, Utah would have attracted the unified energy of Arabs, Christians and Jews alike to create "Christmas: Rhythms of the Holy Land." Alan had done several recordings with famed bay area hand drummer, Rami Ziadeh. When he learned that Rami, a Palestinian Christian, was born near Bethlehem on Christmas Day, Alan was ready to do that seasonal CD! Released just before 9/11, this CD has received rave reviews and was featured as the CD of the day for over two years at www.christmasreviews.com.

On Tour

By now, Andalin has joined Alan in an extensive array of live performances ranging from the opening of the first ever "International Academy Awards of Middle Eastern Dance" in Los Angeles, California to Rakkasah-East in Somerset, New Jersey. They are annual regulars at the Bedouin Bazaar in San Diego and have garnered a standing room only audience for the popular and now annual "After Hours Party." Each year they have found their way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the Spirit of the Desert New Year Celebration. For the Church of Religious Science they proudly count performances in Huntington Beach and Santa Rosa, California, among many others. Desert Wind has even found time to participate in their own back yard with such presentations as Utah's Annual Belly Dance Festival produced by Kismet and Thia's now annual Spring Festival. Currently they are planning events in Boulder, Colorado, Jackson Wyoming and Portland, Oregon. With enough notice, they are thrilled to perform for and with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dancers throughout the country. With increased CD sales, Desert Wind has found that touring is becoming increasingly more and feasible.

Flute Fest

In response to numerous requests for a belly dance "flute" CD, Alan recently produced "Flute Fest." Already picked up by numerous music distributors, "Flute Fest" is also available through Pe-Ko International Records and online at aol.com, borders.com, barnesandnoble.com, fluteworld.com, bestbuy.com and amazon.com. In the belly dance community Audrena, Mezdulene, Zaina and numerous other dance instructors carry the title. Here is another Desert Wind gem. While Alan and Andalin envisioned the dancers who would bring this CD to life, they are also gratified by its immediate acceptance into the mainstream music market. Not only are the dancers singing its praise, but so are flutists, jazz musicians and belly dance spouses who welcome this Middle Eastern / Mediterranean / Jazz / Rock / Fusion musical experience. ~ Even classical musicians are commending Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" as performed by Alan on his Boston / Steinway grand piano, but with a new layer of flute, complete with tabla! It is no wonder that this CD was dedicated to "the dancers, dreamers and believers who awakened this flute fantasy" as well as to "Miles Davis and Ludwig Van Beethoven" in the same breath!

The Band

An article on Desert Wind would not be complete without an honorable mention to Rajab Harrous and George Grant who have recorded and performed with Desert Wind since Alan began his recording work in Salt Lake City, Utah. Regular performances include from as few as three performers to the full seven piece live band consisting of Alan on keyboards, mandolins and vocals, Andalin on flute and wind synthesizer, Rajab on riq and doumbek, Terence Hansen on guitars and vocals, Berno Danylik on acoustic and electric bass and vocals, Dave Beutler on trap drums, and "Zjari" on vocals. Guest appearances often include Brett "Angus" Bowen on bass and lead doumbek and congas, and George Grant on assorted percussion instruments and tablas.

Other singers and musicians who have crossed musical paths with Desert Wind are too numerous to mention here, but gratefully acknowledged in the ten CDs produced along the course of Desert Wind's journey. Always open to new musical ideas, Alan and Andalin welcome the opportunity to work with dancers, directors and other musicians in the ever evolving theater of Middle Eastern dance.

Living Legacy

Desert Wind music has been featured in numerous professional belly dance videos including IAMED and presentations by such teachers as Suzanna Del Vecchio, Fahtiem, Mezdulene, Saqra, Tahya, Ali Baba Studio, Yasmina, Raven & Zephira, Zaina Hart, Sahara Shimmer and many others. Used by CBS Television and recently the Fox Television Network, Alan Bachman's prolific ability is a legacy in progress. Many accolades have been written about the music of Desert Wind, and several reviews are summarized on the Desert Wind Reviews page. A few descriptions include: "vibrant and uplifting," "powerfully exuberant with pop/rock and Middle Eastern influences," "sexy and anthemic," " [these recordings have] a strong pulse and hot core, and they groove the body as well as the mind," and "brimming with passion and life." Visit www.desertwindmusic.com for much more. Music Design, Inc. recently described "Flute Fest" as an "intoxicating hybrid of east and west." Perhaps this enticing and easy listening blend of Mid-East fusion is the reason so many new comers to belly dance include Desert Wind CDs in their collections. Zaina Hart in writing for The Belly Dancer Magazine seems to have echoed many comments on previously released Desert Wind titles when she said that Flute Fest is ". . . a must have for any dancer's tool kit."