Briana Di Mara is a composer and violinist whose remarkably impressive debut album entitled Haven draws from Celtic, Balkan, Turkish and Arabic musical traditions for a striking amalgamation of classical world fusion.
Comprised of nine compositions, Haven enlists the talents of several guest musicians from the around the world, including Tobias Robertson, Sean Tergis, Kalliope Landgraf, Gari Hegedus, Aharon Wheels Bolsta, Surya Prakasha, Dan Cantrell, Diana Strong, Gabriel Navia, Schuyler Karr, Miles Jay and Evan Fraser.
This amazing team assists Di Mara in impeccably manifesting her captivating compositional arrangements, as listeners are treated to a plethora of both exotic and familiar instruments such as the darbuka, kalimba, frame drum, tabla, handpan, accordion, bass, guitar and more. Aside from being a master violinist, Di Mara also plays the santur and lends a touch of her vocals.
The album opens with "Home", a beautiful piece which is noted for its distinctive Celtic lilt, as a galloping violin melody is guided along by texturized tonal percussion. Weaving Balkan and Turkish elements, "Storyteller" conveys a sense of walking through old village streets. The mysterious "Seyyah" is one of my favorites with its nocturnal Arabian soundscape and Middle-Eastern percussion, making this piece aptly-fitting for a bellydance routine. Possessing a Celtic flair, "Grace" is a notably calmer piece solely comprised of strings. Expressively dynamic and sultry, "La Partida Tango" showcases a vibrant pairing of Spanish guitar and violin amid a complementary array of instruments. Another one of my favorites is "Reverie", a comparatively solemner though nonetheless intensive number, which reverberates multi-tonal percussion along an evolving pace throughout. Equally captivating is the seemingly ritualistic "Muse" with its distinctly Middle-Eastern and Old World feel. Regaining the pace once more is the soulfully rhythmic and gypsy-like "Moonrise"; until finally concluding with "Kalliope's Lullaby", which features a gentle ensemble of violin, accompanying strings and subtle vocal intonations.
Seemingly relaying ancient folk tales via her enthralling musical arrangements, Briana Di Mara simply stuns with Haven. At times I'm reminded of the neoclassical-world music of Angel of Venice, as well as Loreena McKennitt's pioneering fusion of Celtic and Middle-Eastern soundscapes. One of the genre's top debut albums to emerge in recent years, Haven is an enthusiastically recommended debut that potentially signals a new rising star to keep an eye on! ~Candice Michelle