By Chris Dennison
What have Ruzafa (or if you prefer it Russafa), El Grau de Gandia and France got in common? The answer, my friends, is NES.
On Thursday 15th December 2016 I was lucky enough to see the Russafa-based group NES perform in Veles y Vents in the Marina Real and all I can say is that the concert was literally mind-blowing. And the strange thing is that none of the songs that night was in Spanish.
Still none the wiser? OK, so NES is made up of:
Nesrine Belmokh, voice and cello, Matthieu Saglio, cello and voice and David Gadea, percussion. All three of them are virtuoso performers but when they work together, they seem to bring out the absolute best in each other. And this transmits directly to the audience who sit enthralled at the sheer quality, precision and emotion which surrounds them as NES do their stuff.
And what stuff they do! Songs in Arabic, French and English, although Nesrine says she sometimes sings in Spanish too. Blessed are the polyglots but if, like me, you can only manage English, Spanish and a bit of long-forgotten schoolboy French, it really doesn’t matter. The sound itself is bewitching in its intensity and passion, even if you can’t catch the lyrics. It’s sheer pleasure to just sit back and let it wash over and round you as Nesrine sings, Matthieu accompanies and David works his magic on the percussion. Most of the songs are original and I remember an earlier concert during which Nesrine mentioned that the words to some of her Arabic songs were provided by her poet mother.
It is not easy to put a label on NES’s music. It is a pot-pourri of traditional Arab rhythms, blues, rock, chanson française and even funk at times, all performed with exquisite precision and feeling by true professionals who seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves as they work. Not for nothing were they awarded a prize for the best live performance of the season in the Sala Russafa.
So, who are these three immensely talented musicians?
Nesrine Belmokh was born in France of Algerian parents in 1982. She studied violoncello in the Marseilles Conservatory and won several prizes during her time there. Since 2008 she has been a member of the orchestra of the Palau de las Artes Reina Sofia in Valencia. She did a season in Madrid with the Cirque du Soleil as a singer and cellist. She has also toured with Daniel Barenboim’s West-Eastern Divan.
Matthieu Saglio was also born in France studied the violoncello at the Rennes Conservatory where he won a gold medal in 1995. He arrived in Valencia in 2002 to study Agronomy but decided to become a professional musician in 2003. He has worked with a whole host of collaborators and branched out into solo work and soundtrack composition and performance. In 2012 he was named Ambassador artist for the Yehudi Menuhin International Foundation.
David Gadea Al-Saforaui is from the Grau de Gandia. He studied at the Grao de Gandia district Conservatory and then moved to Valencia in 2006 to study Latin percussion under the prestigious professor Yoel Páez. David has worked far and wide and is much in demand. He is an exciting and inventive virtuoso performer and is well known and loved all over the Valencian Community.
Thursday’s concert was a memorable occasion. Perhaps the most moving song for me was “Elle” where the passion of Nerine’s singing, together with both cellos playing in unison, literally made the hairs on my arms stand on end and brought tears to my eyes. Such is the force of NES. and I, for one, can’t wait for their next concert.
These three, young people could easily and deservedly, fill much bigger and better venues. So, if you are a music promoter, get to work on it before someone else does. You certainly won’t regret it.