Dancing to the rhythm of Vanessa Mae

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VANESSA Mae has done for this generation what the likes of Niccolo Paganini, the first international violin superstar, whose birthday she incidentally shares, has done for his. At the age of 15, she has made heads turn with her dazzlingly inventive new sound: elegant classical violin fused with eclectic modern stylings, which made her debut album The Violin Player a worldwide smash.

Now, 11 years later, Vanessa Mae is back with her 10th international studio album, Choreography, a collection of masterfully crafted melodies inspired by dance rhythms from all over the world. Having been known to reinvent herself and her music, Vanessa Mae has not failed her crowd with the new album. The pulsating, energetic violin harmonies are still there, but now, wickedly delicious new (or, old but virtually unknown) melodies marry these harmonies to give birth to a compelling study of diversity and mood. Working with world music biggies such as Academy-award winning electronica master Vangelis, Bollywood theme producers A.R. Rahman and Tolga Kashif, and hit Celtic musical Riverdance composer Bill Whelan, she has achieved a barrage of hypnotic, energy-charged tracks, her blueprint of what classical music should evolve into.

The CD starts with the provocative fight anthem Sabre Dance. Here the artist pulls off a tune which seems straight out of an epic war film soundtrack. The rise and fall of the music—the high contrasts of fast and slow, rich and sparse—more than makes this song exhilarating.

Vangelis guests in Roxane’s Veil, a very melodic and subdued song destined to be a chill-out classic. Bolero for Violin and Orchestra is classical rendered fresh with a rhythm base courtesy of a Darbuka, a north African percussion instrument. Her take on Handel’s Minuet is a soothing piece which reminds one of dainty Parisienne court debutantes.

Although mesmerizing in all 10 tracks, Vanessa Mae shines like no other in Tango de los Exilados, The Havana Slide, Emerald Tiger, and Raga’s Dance.

The first two are Latin-laced ditties which, if music is an aphrodisiac, could definitely draw carnal ardor. Tango is a slow, haunting piece that resonates of the old world romance of Argentinian tango dance clubs. The Havana Slide, on the other hand, is an infectiously catchy salsa beat guaranteed to get you off your seat and dance, or at least make your feet tap to its rhythm.

Emerald Tiger, the collaboration with Whelan, is a Celtic-Asian fusion which showcases Vanessa Mae’s tremendous energy battling it out against lingering Celt-inspired percussions.

The Bombay tribute Raga’s Dance, produced by Rahman, is an exuberant and stirring piece mixing Indian instruments and vocals to a large symphonic orchestration. The violin player, however, still stands out in this track—every other sound seems tributary of her presence.

With orchestrations provided by the world renowned Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, there is no empty melody in this CD. A barrage of rich purple sounds greets the eardrums in every track. Each track should very well be orchestra concert staples in the future, if only for the sheer originality they have.

Choreography reminds everyone of why Vanessa Mae is on top—not only is she strikingly beautiful, but she delivers. Landing in People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” and FHM’s “100 Sexiest Women” lists over the years, she has proven that she is way more than just a foxy babe with a violin. Ryan R. Reyes

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