Anouar Brahem: Barzakh (ECM 1432)

Anouar Brahem
Barzakh

Anouar Brahem oud
Béchir Selmi violin
Lassad Hosni percussion
Recorded September 1990 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

This album marks the beginning of an ongoing and fruitful relationship between Tunisian oud master/composer Anouar Brahem and the ECM label. From the exhilarating solo “Raf Raf,” we know we are in the presence of someone whose sense of touch, rhythm, melody, and atmosphere speaks straight to the heart from the mind of a visionary. This first track puts us into a time and place where only melody speaks, and the sands of time flow like blood in an infinitely chambered heart. The title track introduces the violin of Béchir Selmi, whose tender ribbons bind volumes. Brahem unfurls a ponderous firmament for which Selmi strings the clouds together in a necklace—a smile arcing across some divine collarbone. So begins a mournful, loving diatribe of sand and air. The synergy of this trio is honed to a golden edge in “Parfum De Gitane,” which exemplifies the album’s organic progression from soliloquy to chorus, and which is couched by two solo excursions from percussionist Lassad Hosni. These float us down the river of “Kerkenah,” which again spreads its warmth wide.

A tapestry of colors fills out the album, including the lullaby-like “Sadir” and “Hou,” as well as the fresh energies of “Ronda” and “Sarandib.” Brahem shines most, however, in the solo pieces, of which “La Nuit Des Yeux” is an incredibly programmatic example that works at the level of fantasy. And in “Le Belvédère Assiége” we find in the intimate confines of that hollow body a shelter for all of us, where the sustenance of “Qaf” is given on a sonic platter as ephemeral as the drink that nurtures us from its plane.

Barzakh balances itself on the fulcrum of tradition, in the process bidding us to follow the lessons of the every day.

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