Part Celine Dion, part Jennifer Lopez, part… Tiffany, I guess, Canadian émigré Chantal Chamandy is a multicultural pop diva, all the way. She hit it big as part of a group as a teenager (she was Chantal Condor then, presumably soaring high) before disappearing for a while, spending some of her accrued loot on lamé dresses and high heels. Now 36, she’s on the comeback trail, bankrolled by the largess of her husband and his financial and industry muscle. So what’s bigger and better than merely a new CD and all-stops-pulled domestic tour? Well, how about a concert at the foot of the regal Spinx?
Yes, on the night of September 7, 2007, singer-songwriter Chamandy made history by becoming the first person ever to be granted permission to perform a taped concert at the base of the Great Pyramids on the Giza plateau in Egypt, a concert that can now be seen in its entirety on Chamandy’s new DVD release, Beladi: A Night at the Pyramids. The night was especially important for the Egyptian-born, Montreal-bred Chamandy, as she returned to her birthplace to deliver a positive portrayal of middle-eastern culture. Surrounded by a variety of dancers, from Tanoura and the Egyptian National Ballet Company, Chamandy’s performance in front of a mostly enthusiastic capacity crowd of 5,000 is abetted by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, and captured by acclaimed video and stage musical director Gérard Pullicino, choreographer Geneviève Dorion-Coupal (The Beatles’ “Love,” by Cirque du Soleil) and set designer Guy St-Amour (also from Cirque du Soleil).
The show opens with “Salma ya Salama,” “Peace” and “Sometimes,” and the rest of the track listing is comprised of a mix of mostly new material studded with a few older tunes, including “You Want Me,” “Feels Like Love,” “Zindegi,” “Nunca Sera Igual,” Helwa ya Baladi,” “Crazy,” “Let’s Talk About You,” “Truth or Dare,” “Dis-Moi,” “Take a Chance,” “Somewhere,” “Pray,” “Free,” “More” and “Music of the Moon.” The staging here is nicely done, and the direction allows for the widescreen capture of the impressive scope of the concert’s setting. It’s undeniable, too, that Chamandy’s success is a reminder that music has
the power to bridge differences and transcend national boundaries; the international inflections of her music — a blend of synth-pop, reprocessed Euro-dance and chart-baiting American balladry, with a hearty pinch of middle-eastern traditionalism — make for a convincing statement about the world as a melting pot. Yet it also true that Chamandy’s Beladi: A Night at the Pyramids at times comes off as a bit much — a lot of (prepaid) sound and fury, an exercise in stagecraft. So much effort is expended on the spectacle, and force of its sell, that the music itself can feel a bit overwhelmed. It seems the new “American way,” of overkill, has crossed borders north, and headed overseas as well.
Housed in a regular Amray snap-case with an extra tray for its second disc, the DVD is presented in 16×9 widescreen with a sterling Dolby digital 5.1 audio track, and includes an exhaustive feature-length documentary, The Journey, which offers up no shortage of rehearsal footage and other interview clips in its behind-the-scenes look at the making of this extraordinary event. (For what it’s worth, the concert performance is also available only on CD, simply titled Beladi.) For more information on Chamandy, meanwhile, click here. C+ (Concert) B+ (Disc)