The Bridge Project

Andy Busuttil

Camelot Lounge, March 24

 The very absence of one of the Bridge Project’s members just further emphasised the need for such a venture. Umit Ceyhan is a Turkish refugee resident in France with his wife and daughter. It appears he was denied an Australian visa for fear he would become an “economic refugee”.

Such crude, lamentable type-casting is exactly the Bridge Project’s enemy. In its conception the band combined a Turkish Muslim (Ceyhan), an Israeli Jew (Ittai Shaked) and an Australian Christian (Andy Busuttil), using music to find commonalities in faiths extremists seek to blast asunder.

As events transpired Shaked was also absent for this concert, but Busuttil added the violinist Nawres Al-Freh (an Iraqi refugee now resident in Queensland) and the Turkish singer Bilge Ozgun to his line-up of locals, making for a septet.

The compositions often intertwined Turkish and Jewish traditions, with Shaked’s Agladikca having alternating verses in Hebrew and Turkish. Busuttil’s potent voice shared this with Ozgun’s supple, voluptuous and moody singing. Another Shaked piece had violin and cello (John Napier) adding luxuriance to a melody established by John Robinson’s oud.

Nawres Al-Freh playing the tarhu.

For Bridge Of Lives Al-Freh swapped to tarhu, a vertical fiddle which, as the constabulary like to say, is of middle-eastern appearance, but was actually made in Australia. His crying solo was a prelude to a haunting Busuttil clarinet feature and a ravishing foray from Napier over the slow, sparse groove supplied by Bertie McMahon (bass) and Peter Kennard (percussion).

If Busuttil’s alto saxophone on Our End had a braying quality it was nothing compared to the window-rattling blare of his double-reed zurna, which erupted across Athens To Valletta, contrasting dramatically with the more demure oud solo.

This wonderful project deserved to be heard at full strength. Sometimes the rhythm section could have added more vitality, but there was little scope to add more heart.