Among Brothers (Real World Records, 2003)
Algerian musician Abderrahmane Abdelli (known simply as Abdelli), presents songs of an artist in exile. Every note he sings quavers with longing for his homeland and those he left behind and the sound of Abdelli’s heart cracking can be heard in every beat. Do not be fooled by the poetic song titles, Amazine (Moonlight), Itij (The Sun) or Asiram (Hope) since moonlight often betrays, the sun often destroys and hope can disappear in the turn of a moment. And yet, it was the healing of Abdelli’s broken heart that gave birth to the magical CD, Among Brothers, in this case, the brothers refer to musicians Abdelli met on his travels and in turn created a musical passport to the world.
Among Brothers creates an out of the box mentality because it defies conventions. The album took three
years to record, most of the songs were recorded outdoors or in unusual settings and none of the musicians were aware of tracks that had been previously recorded. Abdelli and his producer Thierry Van Roy took many risks that would have driven most musicians insane and yet, the end result is miraculous. Abdelli and Belgian producer and companion Thierry traveled to Cape Verde where they befriended musicians who in turn recorded their tracks in caves on the island of Santiago. The tapes were put away and the entire recording process using just Abdelli’s recorded vocals and drum tracks began again in Baku, then Burkina Faso and at a castle in Belgium where Argentine guitarist Carlos Diaz, Chilean, Moroccan and Tunisian musicians contributed their musical talents. They also recorded in a forest in Canada and in a Baku desert. And when they couldn’t find a proper outdoor setting, they recorded in studios. The glue that held the songs together consisted of rhythm tracks, melodies and a tonal guide.
The songs are collages with a backdrop of exotic instruments including tar, bendir, mandola, cavaquino,
nagara, Iranian nay and other lesser known instruments from such diverse countries as Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Iran, Algeria, Morocco, Azerbaijan (Central Asia), Chile, Europe and Tunisia.
In some ways this is the quintessential world music CD since it includes flavors of various cultures and traditions. Coupled with Abdelli’s lyrics sung in the language of the Kabyl people of Algeria, Among Brothers encompasses a world without borders. For instance, Amazine sounds like it hails from Central Asia, Itij sounds Portuguese with the Portuguese guitar and cavaquino taking center stage and Tharguith (The Dream) could be mistaken for Israeli music.
Abdelli writes melodies that can be translated into any musical style or culture and his vocals sail through a tapestry of strings, wind and percussion instruments. And his emotions which betray his broken heart shatter any preexisting ideals of finding hope in exile. Abdelli sings on Ayema-yema (O My Mother), “My spirit has flown away from her. He is in her arms. He flies like a bird spellbound, naive and innocent.” And on The Sun, Adbelli laments, “Happy is my father who knew you by your art you have blessed him. When his heart was ill, your sweet voice healed him.”
Abdelli’s Among Brothers creates a beautiful landscape for the soul. It speaks of the Kabyl people who have suffered under a fundamental Islamic government that currently rules Algeria. Many Kabyl people, including Kabyl musicians living in Belgium, France and other countries. Kabyl musicians often sing about social injustice, sometimes landing in jail and similar to Rai musicians who sing of heady pleasures, these musical exiles populate the music of Morocco and Algeria. However, Among Brothers acts as a tribute to
musicianship and is best seen in that light. It’s a celebration of poetry, nature and music among friends.
Compliments of Cranky Crow World Music.