CD Review By Jack Nichols
"East is East and West is West," wrote Rudyard Kipling, "and never the twain shall meet." Mr. Kipling, a conservative from the last century, was wrong. As usual, music bridges the gaps, and today it is Yanni, who grew up in Kalamata, Greece, holding high the musical torch of World Unity.
Yanni explains he wrote his latest album, Tribute, to celebrate humanity's potential for greatness. And that greatness, he believes, has been reflected in two ancient architectural wonders: India's Taj Mahal and China's Forbidden City.
Tribute was conceived and recorded, according to the artist, during a "tumultuous and wonderful period" in his life. Yanni miraculously bent Fate, receiving permission to perform his music in the Forbidden City and at the Taj Mahal. Tribute—which Yanni entirely composed an arranged—was recorded live last year in both locations. Through Europe and North America—across the Near and Middle East to India, China, and beyond-- Yanni's passionate commitment to a kind of music that has no boundaries reverberates.
His own enthrallment has been clearly expressed: "That this came to be, that I had the privilege of performing my music in India and China in the midst of national treasures, is a tribute to so many who believed in a project that seemed always at the edge of reason."
But 'when you wish upon a star' as Yanni has done, dreams on the edge of reason take center stage, but only, as in his case, "if your heart is in your dream." Then, it appears, "no request is too extreme."
Nights spent in the shadows of the Taj Mahal and the Forbidden City provoked what can clearly be heard as Yanni's most inspired work. Music lovers hail him from every corner of the earth. And why? Perhaps because he creates anthems for all humanity. Let the old nationalistic anthems take heed.
There are mysterious, far-away, oriental themes on Yanni's album—Eastern and Western musical instruments instill in their listeners a kind of heady confidence needed if the pilgrimages of humankind are to proceed. Exotica abounds in Yanni's themes, inviting believers in a better future —as Jesse Jackson puts it— to "keep hope alive."
Is the world afire? Yanni replies to such a prospect in an unforgettable lyric: "I am breath against this fire."
My favorite cut is #9, Waltz In. I'd watched curiously during the Summer of '98 as a Danish youth played it again and again, day after day, finding in it the kind of dignity that matched his pride. The melody captured his commitment to a future with Europe's old world charm.
"Yanni is well-known in Europe," he assured me. " Is he as well-known in America?"
"By some, yes," I replied cautiously.
Niki Nana (We're One) is the album's last cut:
Dance and Chant
Let the Dance Enchant
Let's Dance and Chant
It's another reminder that "We Are Family," capturing the sheer spectacle of a mass celebration, one dedicated to our latent human desire for contact with the whole. In such a musical extravaganza the species comes together peacefully, a people swept to glory in their gladness for the beat…the heart's beat.
Information about Yanni:
Yanni International Newsletter
P.O. Box 46996
Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55344