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Photo credit: Kate Griffin

Tamsin Elliott & Tarek Elazhary, So Far We Have Come – a review

So Far We Have Come is a truly life-affirming and beguiling collaboration, fusing Arabic and English folk traditions.

Release Date
21 September 2023
Tamsin Elliot & Tarek Elazhary, So Far We Have Come
"So Far We Have Come" is an enchanting debut album by Tamsin Elliot and Tarek Elazhary, artfully merging English and Arabic musical traditions. The opening track, 'In the Grey Of The Morning,' captivates with gentle birdsong, Elliott's harp, and Elazhary's oud, creating a stunning soundscape. The title track, 'So Far We Have Come,' evokes hope with a reflective accordion. The album's dynamic versatility shines in tunes like 'The Returning Light / Late Frost,' blending English dance with Elazhary's oud. This mesmerizing fusion of Arabic and English folk traditions showcases their shared roots and ideals, making it a truly life-affirming and beguiling collaboration.

Marking the debut duo album of Bristol-based Tamsin Elliott and Cairo-based Tarek Elazhary, So Far We Have Come is an album about the commonality between two musicians, between two musical traditions in fact: one English and one Arabic. The album’s beauty weaves and dances through Arabic classical and folk traditions and English dance tunes proving an enchanting listen.

Opener, ‘In the Grey Of The Morning’, soothes the listener with some gentle birdsong accompanied by Elliott’s harp and Elazhary’s oud. It’s a strikingly effective introduction to a rather gorgeous soundscape.

Title track, ‘So Far We Have Come’, is a more reflective accordion-led track. It is an almost brooding tune, but one which at its core has a message of hope. ‘The Returning Light / Late Frost’, which follows, is an authentically composed English dance set, and features Sam Sweeney on fiddle and Archie Churchill-Moss on guitar. With Elazhary’s oud added in for good measure, it works incredibly well – a sparkling, fizzing tune and a sublime example of how tradition is flexible.

‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’ delivers a heartfelt melody, whilst ‘Barn Elms / Halsway Hornpipe’ starts gently but soon turns into a vigorous and dynamic dance. The single ‘El Hara’, also inspires, with viola and accordion dancing alongside Elazhary’s oud melody. It’s an invigorating, thoroughly thrilling tune inspired by a Cairo alleyway.

The closing track, ‘Improvisation: Landscapes of El Darb El Ahmar’, adds in the clarinet of Daniel Gouly alongside some field recording of a radio heard through a Cairo open window. It’s an evocative finale to a beautifully atmospheric album.

Tamsin Elliott and Tarek Elazhary with musician, Rowan Elliott. Photo credit: Kate Griffin

Both Elliott and Elazhary are conscious of the shared tradition of tune and music-making too, as Elliott notes: “We were talking about how in Arabic music, you often run down the maqam to close a piece, like a tag on the end. It reminded me of the little turnarounds at the end of phrases in folk tunes. I played an example of a classic English tune-ending to Tarek and, amazingly, he knew an Egyptian folk song with that exact phrase in it”. This is evident in ‘Telaet Ya Mahla Norha’ a tune from the Egyptian composer Sayed Darwish, which segues into ‘Mundesse’, from the Playford Manuscripts. It works incredibly well, providing a fine connection and palpable evidence of a linked tradition.

There are songs here too, with Elazhary providing vocals on the Muwashah love song, and Leila Sami’s moody voice on ‘Amy Abu El Fanous (The Lantern Bearer)’.

Funded by an EDFSS Alan James Creative Bursary and developed through a residency at London’s Cecil Sharp House, So Far We Have Come perfectly encapsulates the shared roots of folk traditions and ideals. The blend of lever harp, accordion, flute and the Arabic oud has rarely sounded so enticing, whilst the mixing of Arabic and English folk traditions proves entirely mesmeric. Life-affirming, and delightfully warm So Far We Have Come proves a beguiling collaboration. 

To order So Far We Have Come by Tamsin Elliott and Tarek Elazhary, out on September 21st, head to their Bandcamp page.