“I find my creativity in the moment I try to keep in touch with the two parts of my essence; when I try to detach “me” from the earth and approach “me” to the sky. So, the Arts for me are only the tools and not the goal, they are the tools to evoke the other part of “us”.
—Bob Salmieri, musician, composer, poet, and leader of Milagro Acustico
Rubáiyyát of Omar Khayyam is the third CD by the Rome-based group Milagro Acustico. Like their second CD I Storie Ò Cafè Di Lu Furestiero, Rubáiyyát of Omar Khayyam is a “concept” recording, developing a theme, with each composition flowing naturally into the next—somewhat like a symphony. The group’s leader, Bob Salmieri, became inspired to compose music for Omar Khayyam’s quatrain when he encountered the book at a newsstand. He picked it up, read the first few pages, and was immediately inspired to create music for this work.
Bob Salmieri is a composer who when working on one musical project is always looking ahead to the next one as well. In I Storie Ò Cafè Di Lu Furestiero, we are given a hint to the group’s next release with a track simply titled ” Rubáiyyát”. ( Rubáiyyát of Omar Khayyam continues this tradition; the instrumental piece “The Wine” is subtitled “Omar meets the ‘Arabian Poets of Sicily’”, preparing us for Salmieri’s next work). While both releases could fit under the category of “New Age” music, they are really much more interesting than that. The music could as easily be described as jazz, yet it actually falls somewhere in between the cracks of the usual marketing terms and becomes a unique blend of what has become known as world music.
On Rubáiyyát of Omar Khayyam, Milagro Acustico have expanded their palette of instruments and sounds. Not only have they added such instruments as the Persian santur and the Armenian duduk (Salmieri learned to play the duduk for this recording, not a big stretch since he already plays both saxophone and clarinet), but guest artists such as Maryam Borhani and Javad Ghaffari add Persian vocals and Fabio Dell’armi adds outstanding flamenco vocals and guitar.
Even though the musicians of Milagro Acustico live in Rome, they are all of Sicilian descent. This heritage is apparent in their musical viewpoint. Sicily is a country situated at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Sea, and thus takes its musical influences from the surrounding areas. Milagro Acustico making a CD that includes so-called “outside” sounds is logical and even relevant when thinking of modern Sicilian music.
Omar Khayyam was born in 1040 in Persia during one of the highest periods for Islamic culture. He was not only a fine poet, but also a mathematician and astronomer. Although his famous quatrain’s meaning may still be under debate, this does not distract from the beauty of the words or their melodic quality. This beauty and lyrical quality is what inspired Salmieri to set Khayyam’s famous work to music.
Salmieri’s lyrics are not just a mere translation of Khayyam’s poetry, though. They are instead “inspired” by Khayyam’s quatrain. He has composed most of songs in his own Sicilian dialect and had others translated into the Persian language. Fortunately the liner notes offer the poems in both the original written language and translated into English.
The liner-note photographs taken by Bob Salmieri are also worthy of note. He has traveled often in the Middle East and has the artist’s eye needed to capture the inherent beauty of the people and places he has seen. Last year, I chose Rubáiyyát of Omar Khayyam, then still a self-produced demo, as one of my 10 favorite recordings for 2003, and noted that the cover design had to be my favorite for the year. That holds true for this year as well, as World Class/Hearts of Space has kept the original design.
Now that Milagro Acustico has two recordings released on major labels, I hope their work will not fall into obscurity. It is exciting to know that they are hard at work on their next project, and I, for one, am looking forward to its completion. I highly recommend their releases, and recommend keeping a steady eye (and ear) out for future ones.