Album Review of

Written by Joe Ross
January 21, 2022 - 1:49am EST
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Hands in Motions are three Belgium-based percussionists who use a variety of Arab, African and Middle Eastern instruments to create organic soundscapes with captivating grooves, trancelike atmospherics and subtle textures.  

The first member of Hands in Motion is Célestin Massot who trained at Belgian conservatories in classical percussion, rhythm and jazz piano. With Massot’s synthesized keyboard and kalimba (thumb piano), “Masmoudi” conveys both rural and urban impressions. Both instruments could have been used even more throughout Dawn to provide a languorous low-end, and perhaps even berimbau could have embellished pieces like “Yedi” or “Haifa” with the Cape Verdean plucked bow that uses a separate calabash, or player’s mouth, as its soundbox. 

The song “Mirindi” has an apocalyptic sound that brings visions of busy factories, railyards and docks. “Echo” has been arranged and processed to create a contemporary sound with rhythms and structure more indicative of indigenous styles. Regardless of their sound universe, Hands in Motion provide a balanced acoustic sound, and I was happy to hear only minimal use of metallic bells, gongs and cymbals.

I particularly enjoyed Simon Leleux’s soloing and improvisations on darbuka, the cylindrical Turkish drum which has a single skin that often needs to be heated before a performance to provide the right tone. On his self-penned numbers like “Unison” and “Yedi,” I wasn’t able to tell if he plays one constructed of pottery, wood or metal. Leleux also plays the doholla (bass darbuka). He has trained with several master musicians, and since 2014 with ground-breaking doholla player Levent Yildirim who helped Simon further develop his solo and melodic approach to the instrument. 

The third member of Hands in Motion, Robbe Kieckens plays riq, the leading percussion instrument of Egypt that is smaller than a tambourine, made of wood with an animal skin and fewer cymbals. Kieckens often seems to take charge of the rhythm, especially on his three compositions. In Egypt, I’ve heard that the riq-player is often held in low social esteem because of its association with belly dancing. Kieckens also plays the slightly larger bendir that has two strings stretched under its skin. Kieckens has studied rhythms of Ottoman classical music (usul), as well as those in flamenco, Arabic, Persian and West African music.

“Sankalpa” is an eight-minute journey with nature that leaves a lasting impression, perhaps of ritualistic music in a wild jungle village. From various continents, and from the classical conservatory to nomadic peoples, Hands in Motion juggles tradition with innovative forms of interpretive expression. Together, their six hands are one, all part of the same whole. Massot, Leleux and Kieckens recognize and understand the duality of right and left, night and day, darkness and light. A unique album, Dawn provides for a harmonizing of mind and body within the entire sphere of their music. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)