The ancient world seems close when listening to James Asher’s new single Egyptian Halo. You decide what part of the empire’s 3 000-year long history to meditate on and Asher’s musical time portal will take you there in an instant. The single has it all; an emotionally rich melody, complex arrangements and the atmosphere of a well-guarded treasure chamber. The hammered dulcimer adds an extra level of mystery.
James Asher is a multi-instrumental composer and producer specialising in world beat and chillout music. Amongst his catalogue of over 30 successful albums his worldbeat album Feet in the Soil has sold over 250,000 copies, and interestingly but at the other end of the spectrum one of his early compositions has been sampled by Tyler the Creator, a high-profile American rapper, who for the second year running has won Grammy for best rap album 2022. Here is the Hip Hop song CORSO, where you can hear samples from Asher’s Oriental Workload. See Asher’s complete discography on Spotify.
The halo has its origins in very early art traditions. The Egyptian solar deity Ra often had a circular disc representing the sun over his head. It is one of the most famous and universally known illustrations from ancient Egypt. The sense of mystery and a god-like presence can also be felt on James Asher’s Egyptian Halo.
The single starts with synth pads and a light rhythm. Soon we are introduced to the hammered dulcimer and various other string instruments, including a harp somewhere in the background. The atmosphere is very interesting. It seems relaxed, yet right under the surface is something that is both exciting and ominous, which is spot on for anything dealing with ancient Egypt, especially grave chambers and curses. Suddenly we hear staccato male and female vocalization. It turns up the intensity, as if showing that we are very close to this voyage’s destination. It is impossible to turn around now.
It is this kind of music James Asher does so well. Each part of the soundscape is tuned to perfection; notice how the rhythm is the foundation for everything that happens, yet it fades into the background quicker than you can say the word halo. Also, notice the long-drawn, multi-instrument melody, and how effectively the narrative unfolds.
Egyptian Halo has much in common with classical works of art. No matter which angle you look at it, it will tell different versions of the same story. In ancient Egypt, that is a story of gods, sun worshipping and life and death on the Nile. In the words of ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten:
O mighty sun
In thou warmth
An infinite message
Love, vitality, regeneration
I awake with thee
Then sleep in thouest golden glow
(translation Ramon Ravenswood).
Egyptian Halo is a mesmerizing piece, perfect when you want to take a break from modern life and experience life in ancient times. Asher’s brilliance as an artist and composer has created the perfect stage for a grand adventure.
For more information and music samples, visit james-asher.co.uk.
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