Tag Archives: Anouar Brahem

Artist Profiles: Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem

Anouar Brahem was born in 1957 in Halfawine in the Medina of Tunis. Encouraged by his father, an engraver and printer, and music lover as well, Brahem began his studies of the ud (Arab lute), at the age of 10 at the Tunis National Conservatory of Music, where his principal teacher was the ud master Ali Sriti.

An exceptional student, by the age of 15 Brahem was playing regularly with local orchestras. At 18, he decided to devote himself entirely to music. From 1981 to 1985, Brahem lived and studied in Paris, seeking out points of congruence with other cultures. He was, nonetheless, first heard on disc with an all-Tunisian trio on Barzakh (ECM 1432) in 1991. This was followed by the collaboration with Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the late Pakistani tabla master Shaukat Hussain on Madar (ECM 1515) and by an album reworking, with an international cast, music Brahem had written for the Tunisian cinema.

In 1985, he returned to Tunis and an invitation to perform at the Carthage festival provided him with the opportunity of bringing together, for “Liqua 85”, outstanding figures of Tunisian and Turkish music and French jazz. These included Abdelwaheb Berbech, the Erköse [Barbaros Erkose] brothers, François Jeanneau, Jean-Paul Celea, François Couturier and others. The success of the project earned Brahem Tunisia’s Grand National Prize for Music.
In 1987, he became the director of the Musical Ensemble of the City of Tunis. Instead of keeping the large existing orchestra, he broke it up into variable size ensembles, giving it new orientations: one year in the direction of new creations and the next more towards traditional music.

On the recording of Khomsa, his partners were Tunisian violinist Bechir Selmi, Swedish bassist Palle Danielsson, Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, and three musicians from France – accordionist Richard Galliano, keyboardist Frangois Couturier, and saxophonist Jean Marc Larche. Although Dave Holland and John Surman both contributed compositional material to Thimar, Brahem’s following album,most of the writing stems from Brahem’s pen.

Two of the pieces were written originally for the Musical Ensemble of Tunis, two more for the Tunisian Theatre, and one originated as a sketch for the Khomsa ensemble. The majority of the music, however, was prepared specifically for the Thimar session. Dave Holland: “I hadn’t known what to expect. Anouar gave us a pile of music the day before the session. There were no bar lines – and of course there were no chords, because that’s not a reference point in this music. But there were these complex melodies, and one phrase might have seven beats in it, and another phrase nine. And when John and I started to play this, at first we were stumbling all over ourselves. But we persevered, put some pencil marks on the music, talked about how to approach the structures… At the session, things started to fall into place, as they so often do. The moment impresses itself upon you, and you rise to the occasion. Bringing these traditions together is by no means simple, and I think what we ended up with is music that has real value.”

As was the case with Kenny Wheeler’s Angel Song, the drummerless music of Thimar places special responsibilities on Dave Holland to shoulder most of the rhythm duties. The demands seem to bring forth some of his finest playing. “With John and Anouar, although my main function was to be accompanist and rhythm player, I felt I was getting support from both of them because of their ability to maintain a sense of rhythm independently…” Holland was invited into the session after producer Manfred Eicher played Brahem Angel Song. Brahem: “I listened to that album following the bass. It’s like the heartbeat of the music. And Dave’s sound is so beautiful. Powerful, but rounded, not at all aggressive or harsh.” The ud player first became aware of John Surman’s music with the release of the solo album Road To St. Ives in 1990. “This extraordinary sense of melody that John has. ..I liked that so much. It touched me very deeply. Since then, I’ve listened to everything he’s done.”

In 1994, Surman and Brahem toured Japan together but separately, playing opposite each other in concerts to mark ECM’s 25th anniversary. “We got to know each other and got along well and talked then about making a record one day. His playing on all his instruments is exceptional, but I especially like the blending of the bass clarinet and the ud. The wood in the sound makes it a very satisfying combination, I think. “I was really impressed with the engagement of both Dave and John in the making of this album. Collaborations of this kind can be quite…dangerous. Sometimes musicians of different cultures meet only superficially. But they were both concerned to get to the essence of the music.”

In 1995, Brahem released Khomsa, featuring Richard Galliano, Bechir Selmi and François Couturier. This was followed by 1998’s Thimar with John Surman and Dave Holland.

The Astrakan Café album came out in 2000 as Anouar Brahem Trio with Barbaros Erköse and Lassad Hosni.

In 2002, Brahem released Le Pas du Chat Noir, recorded with François Couturier and Jean-Louis Matinier, followed by
2006’s Le Voyage de Sahar withe the ame lineup.

In 2009, The Astounding Eyes of Rita came out. Lineup: Klaus Gesing, Björn Meyer and Khaled Yassine.

Souvenance was released in 2014, recorded with Francois Couturier, Klaus Gesing and Björn Meyer.

Anouar Brahem released Blue Maqamns in 2017 with Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland and Django Bates.

Discography:

Barzakh (ECM Records, 1991)
Conte De L’Incroyable Amour (ECM Records, 1992)
The Silences Of The Palace Caroline Records, 1994)
Madar (ECM Records, 1994)
Khomsa (ECM Records, 1995)
Thimar (ECM Records, 1998)
Charmediterranéen (ECM Records, 2002)
Le Pas Du Chat Noir (ECM Records, 2002)
Le Voyage De Sahar (ECM Records, 2006)
The Astounding Eyes of Rita (ECM Records, 2009)
Souvenance (ECM Records, 2014)
Blue Maqams (ECM Records, 2017)

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Anouar Brahem to Perform Blue Maqams in London

Anouar Brahem

Tunisian composer and oud maestro is set to perform on Friday, March 15, 2019 at Barbican Hall in London. The concert draws together Brahem’s profound insight into Arab music alongside his fascination with a broader canvas. Here he will present material from his latest recording Blue Maqams (ECM), alongside pianist Django Bates, drummer Nasheet Waits and virtuoso bassist Dave Holland.

Pianist Kit Downes will present the opening set with music from his upcoming ECM album, Obsidian, in duo with saxophonist Tom Challenger, linking into the 50th anniversary of ECM Records. Downes has developed a fascinating approach to music for solo pipe organ and solo piano. His current work includes collaborations with cellist Lucy Railton, composer Shiva Feshareki, the band ‘ENEMY’, and violinist Aidan O’Rourke.

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Extraordinarily Expressive Contemporary Maqams

Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams (ECM Records, 2017)

Blue Maqams brings together Anouar Brahem, one of the great masters of the oud, and three of the finest jazz musicians. The music on Blue Maqams is an exquisite mix of Arabic modal music known as maqam, and jazz, classical, flamenco and Brazilian influences. Although there is jazz improvisation, all the pieces, composed by Brahem, have a clearly defined structure.

Anouar Brahem’s oud delights with impeccable performances and interplay with the bass, drums and piano. Dave Holland is one of the most open minded jazz bassists, who has collaborated with flamenco, Latin American and American roots music artists.

The lineup includes Anouar Brahem on oud; Dave Holland on double bass; Jack DeJohnette on drums; and Django Bates on piano.

Blue Maqams is an exceptionally expressive album by oud maestro Anouar Brahem and three dazzling improvisers.

Buy Blue Maqams in Europe

Buy Blue Maqams in the rest of the world

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Anouar Brahem Releases The Astounding Eyes of Rita

Anouar Brahem - The Astounding Eyes of Rita
Anouar Brahem – The Astounding Eyes of Rita
The Astounding Eyes of Rita (ECM) is the title of the new album by Tunisian world jazz musician Anouar Brahem. The recording features Anouar Brahem on oud, Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet, Björn Meyer on bass, and Khaled Yassine on darbuka and bendir.
 
 There has long been a balance between Western and Eastern components in Anouar Brahem’s work. “I need both elements”, he says, but ratios change with each project. His early discs (such as Barzakh and Conte de l’Incroyable Amour ) carry a strong sense of traditions – including Brahem’s own – while his last two recordings, Le Voyage de Sahar (2005) and Le Pas Du Chat Noir (2001) found him at the center of a trio oriented more towards Eurocentric chamber music. With The Astounding Eyes of Rita there is a sense of coming full circle. Brahem introduces a new group in a sinuous dance of dark sounds (oud, bass clarinet, bass guitar and hand drums), strong melodies, and earthy textures.

Born in Halfawine (Halfaouine), Tunisia in 1957, Brahem is regarded as his country’s most innovative oud player. As a former pupil of oud master Ali Sriti, he is thoroughly steeped in the secrets and subtleties of Arab classical music. He has absorbed this information and, armed with it, gone out to meet the world, a contemporary musician of profound historical knowledge.

When I write music”, he explains, “my focus is simply on the melodic universe. Ideas for instrumentation come later.” Perhaps significantly, the music for Rita was composed on the oud, where the Pas de chat noir concept had been sketched and shaped from the piano. The new music modulates between the disciplines, as befits a line-up pooling payers from Tunisia, Germany, Sweden and Lebanon. “As the new work developed I thought about traditional players and perhaps using more middle-eastern instrumentation but there were also pieces of a different character emerging. I knew I needed darbuka [the goblet-drum of Arab tradition], for instance, and I thought about bass. It took quite a while to find the right combination of instruments and personalities. While I can easily find fantastic traditional players in my region, I often miss qualities specific to European jazz players, a certain open-mindedness in approaches to improvising, aspects to do with freedom”.

Producer Manfred Eicher helped bring Brahem together with German bass clarinetist Klaus Gesing and Swedish bassist Björn Meyer, players heard on ECM in, respectively, the groups of Norma Winstone and Nik Bärtsch. “Manfred knew, from our experiences with John Surman [see the Thimar album of 1997] that I liked very much the combination of bass clarinet with the oud: the instruments just seem to belong together. In Klaus’s playing on Norma’s album (Distances), I thought I could hear ways in which we might work together. Manfred helped to set up rehearsals, with just Klaus and myself, in Udine. The potential was there, I felt. But we really came together as a band during the record production – until that point, I’d played only separately with each of the musicians.”

Björn Meyer and Klaus Gesing share Brahem’s interest in a broad range of musical expression. The classically-trained Gesing has been extensively involved also with East European musics and with jazz, while Meyer grew up listening to Cuban music, and played flamenco before diving deep into Swedish folk. He also plays music influenced by Persian tradition in groups with harpist Asita Hamidi and his bass often serves as a lyrical lead voice in the throbbing cellular music of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin (ECM albums: Stoa and Holon).

The band’s fourth member, Lebanese percussionist Khaled Yassine, was brought to Brahem’s attention by his sister-in-law, choreographer Nawel Skandrani. Khaled’s experience of working with dancers helps to give this music its gently insinuating, swaying pulses. “Khaled’s a very interesting player. He is deeply grounded in the traditional music, but also very open-minded: he plays in a lot of different contexts, is very informed. There is a new generation of musicians emerging in countries like Lebanon.” Anouar suggests that these are players of broader vision.

After a highly-productive recording session in Udine’s Artesuono studio, Anouar Brahem brought the new band to Tunisia where they played to enthusiastic audiences in Carthage. The musicians are currently preparing for international performances. A first European tour is scheduled in October, November and December with concerts in Austria, Bosnia, Germany and France, climaxing at Paris’s Salle Pleyel.

The album’s unusual title references the poetry of Palestinian writer Mahmoud Darwish, 1941-2008, to whom the disc is dedicated. A hugely-influential figure in the Arabic world, Darwish wrote more than 20 volumes of poetry, and his readings frequently commanded audiences of thousands. When he died in 2008 he was honored with three days of national mourning and a state funeral in Palestine.

Buy Anouar Brahem’s recordings:

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Unhurried Rhythms and Images of the Peoples of the Desert

Various Artists – Spirit – Peoples of the Desert

Various Artists – Spirit – Peoples of the Desert (Palm World Voices PALMDV3133, 2006)

A soothing antidote to any lingering remains of the all pervasive festive season schmaltz and late winter blues, Spirit is the latest presentation in a series of lavishly decorative and weighty packages of CD and DVD from Chris Blackwell’s (he of Island Records and Palm Pictures) Palm World Voices.

It’s a thoughtful and cohesive compilation, culled largely from albums of the 1980s and 90s, including elegant tracks from Turkish guitarist Erkan Ogur, “Çavin Ote Yüzünde” and from ‘ud player,

Anouar Brahem, “Conte De L’Incroyable Amour.” The relaxing segue of the first two tracks, Bel Canto’s “Buthana” and Desert Equation from Sussan Deyhim and Richard Horowitz, takes you instantly into a better frame of mind. Following through with Spirit’s theme of ethereal ambience, reminiscent shades of early Mercan Dede can be heard in the unhurried rhythms and sounds of both

Jamshied Sharifi’s “Anahita Will Sustain You” and Omar Faruk Tekbilek’s “Long Wait” – there’s a wealth of equally cool mellowness from start to finish, very suitably rounded off by the mesmeric “Assoul” from Tinariwen.

On the DVD, the CD tracks accompany splendidly dissolving and overlaid images of desert life and landscape, which could be viewed as a bit romantic and arty, so what? It will certainly have you hungering for warmer climes.

The accompanying book, rather more of a booklet and generously illustrated with photographs, is authored by Robin Denselow, the respected British music journalist. There’s plenty of description and background to history, music, religion, legends etc. but other than minimal listing, if you want to know more about the individual musicians and bands you’ll have to go a-googling.

Buy Spirit – Peoples of the Desert

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