The Magic Carpet: Songs and Stories from
Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt
Way back at the NSN conference in Phoenix, I got a copy of Judith Heineman's latest CD, "The Magic Carpet." Judith and her musical partner did such a great job with their Grimm CD that I was excited to hear this one. Here's my review:
"The Magic Carpet: Songs and Stories from Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt" is as genuine as it gets. And that's saying a lot, because have you ever noticed that many so-called "Egyptian" stories are just modern-sounding tales with a thin veneer of ancient "atmosphere?" That's not the case here. Storyteller Judith Heineman and her musical partner Daniel Marcotte determined to do all the research needed to make sure that this CD would be as authentic as possible --- the stories, the tunes, the instruments, the art. They did the work. Listeners are the beneficiaries.
Judith and Dan are meticulous in their approach, and it shows. The musical instruments are named The sources are listed. Even the borders of the artwork are Egyptian hieroglyphics on one side and Mesopotamian cuneiform on the other. The sounds, the ornamentation, the images? It's all historically correct. The CD was even funded in part by a City of Chicago Cultural Arts Assistance Grant and with the guidance and support of the head of education of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
But this is no dry treatise. It is lively and entertaining and will be enjoyed by general audiences and older kids as well as scholars. Kicking off the CD, "The Mesopotamian Timeline Song" puts several thousand years of history to a snappy, smile-along tune. Now that listeners have absorbed some basic framework. Judith takes over with some stories. "The Wise King of Uruk and the Foolish King of Aratta" is an ancient riff on the "Can you top this?" battle between two wizards. Then there's the story of a bloodthirsty goddess "Sekhmet" that will satisfy any action-seeking listeners. We've all heard of grave-robbing among the pyramids, and Judith fleshes the idea out with a tale of a treasure-stealing trickster. The final tale is of Rhodopis, an old, old story that has a familiar Cinderella ring to it. Add to the mix "A Mummy Song" --- Daniel's musical recipe for making a mummy. And everything is infused with music authentic to the time and place: Egyptian oud, ocarina, doumbek drum, Turkish laouta, gittern, ten-string kinnor harp -- even the Nile River Royal Orchestra. Helpful liner notes document the instrumentation, written sources and information on other works and programs by Daniel Marcotte and Judith Heineman (for listeners who will invariably want to hear more from this dynamic duo).
If your travel, teaching or interests take you to these ancient lands -- or if you wish they would--- this is the CD for you.
President, Storytellers of San Diego, www.storytellersofsandiego.org
California Liaison, National Storytelling Network, www.storynet.org