Gaida's music is kaleidoscopic in nature. She can sing traditional popular Middle Eastern music, paying homage to her great predecessors, the vocalists Umm Kulthum and Fairuz, but she never directly imitates either of them. She can then switch to an enchanting bossa nova-style song, rendered in Arabic rather than Portuguese, combining guitar and trumpet with Middle Eastern hand percussion. She may follow this with an up-tempo jazz tune or a bluesy ballad. There is a danger in such eclecticism, which can result in an exploitative smorgasbord of unblended tastes, but Gaida offers a centered musical identity that allows her to bring together seemingly heterogeneous styles and traditions in an original and convincing manner. Her traditional vocal education serves her well, providing her with a strong technique, but this is just the foundation of her art, which encompasses a rich personal sound that somehow combines melancholia with exuberance, perhaps enriched, in its roots, by the "breezes of Damascus," as she herself puts it. Gaida will be doing two shows at the Kerrytown Concert House on August 14.
[Originally published in August, 2010.]