Ecoute

Ecoute: a sketch of slow and melodic Israeli jazz

ecoute

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What starts out as slow, Sketches Of Spain-like jazz turns into a twisting dance of Arabic melodies and grooves. That is the power of Ecoute‘s music, aided by a whole string and horn section and Inbal Jamshid’s beautifully sung poetry.

Ecoute: Facebook SoundCloud

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Tarek Yamani

Tarek Yamani: Jazz and Afro-Tarab Pianist from Beirut

Tarek Yamani

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My mind draws a blank when it thinks of jazz in the Middle East. There aren’t too many names that stand out to me doing notable things in the genre outside the United States, though this has more to do with my own ignorance and bad luck. Lebanese pianist Tarek Yamani has changed that. Yamani, who now splits his time between New York and Dubai, uses jazz to, in his own words, explore the relationship between African-American jazz and Arabic rhythms and maqams.

Check out this great video via Your Middle East on how Yamani approaches jazz and songwriting.

From Facebook:

“Born and raised in Beirut, Tarek is an American-Lebanese award winning composer and a self-taught jazz pianist who got exposed to jazz around the age of 19. Since the release of his debut “Ashur” in 2012, Tarek has been dedicated to exploring relationships between African-American Jazz and Arabic rhythms/maqams which is most evident in his second album ‘Lisan Al Tarab: Jazz Conceptions in Classical Arabic'”

Tarek Yamani: Website Facebook Twitter

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El 3ou

El 3ou: traditional Algerian music with hints of trip-hop, jazz, and reggae

El 3ou

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Omar Siakhene, aka El 3ou, puts a new electro-pop remix spin on classic Algerian music. The touches of trip-hop, jazz, and reggae work to wonderful effect on these songs via this Boumerdes artist that you should know about.

El 3ou: Facebook SoundCloud

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Abdou El Omari & Naima Samih

Abdou El Omari & Naima Samih: Omari’s psychedelic organ plays with Arabic strings and rhythms to excellent results

Abdou El Omari & Naima Samih

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Another winner from Berlin’s Habibi Funk label is its Abdou El Omari & Naima Samih release from February. Omari’s psychedelic organ plays with Arabic strings and rhythms to excellent results, made better by Samih’s beautiful vocals.

From YouTube:

“First issue (LP+DL) of this previously unreleased Oriental psych monster from the organ king of Casablanca, combining traditional rhythms with spaced out modern sounds. Second part of Abdou El Omari’s Nuits-trilogy. This album contains heavenly compositions for the Moroccan diva Naima Samih and some moody instrumentals in a similar vein to the first album.”

Abdou El Omari & Naima Samih/ Habibi Funk: Facebook Twitter

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Avital Raz

Avital Raz: “Making people uncomfortable since 1996…”

Avital Raz

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When I listen to Avital Raz, I hear the traditional folk storytelling of artists like Bob Dylan with a modern twist and some dark humor. The Israeli singer-songwriter, now based in Sheffield, tells poignant stories with simple acoustic playing and some nice orchestral touches. Read up on her fascinating career so far here.

From Bandcamp:

“a vocal artist who travels across many genres. Her songs may resemble old English lute songs, Indian Classical Ragas, Cabaret, Blues or Eastern-European Jewish melodies. A multi-cultured get-together of many strange characters, all rolled up into one quirky singer-songwriter.”

Avital Raz: Website SoundCloud Facebook Twitter

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Luna Abu Nassar

Luna Abu Nassar: Dawame sounds like a dream both calming and sinister

Luna Abu Nassar

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Dawame, Luna Abu Nassar’s second album, sounds like a dream on the banks of a Tel Aviv river, with echoes of different voices and instruments coming in and out as sounds of nature set a calming scene. Her extra touches add a somewhat sinister, deep blue feel that’s very compelling. She could easily be one of the musical artists at the end of the new Twin Peaks episodes.

Luna Abu Nassar: Facebook YouTube

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Trenga Records

Trenga Records: New noise from Morocco

Trenga Records

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I couldn’t find much information on the mysterious Casablanca-based independent label Trenga Records, but everything I’ve heard has been fantastic. I’m especially drawn to The Afro Ninja, which reminds me at times of DJ Shadow. It’s just one of the many sounds of this eclectic label that you should be following.

Trenga Records: SoundCloud

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Kabreet

Kabreet: hard rock riffs meet Arabic scales and rhythms.

kabreet

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Kabreet is a Damascus-based indie band that combines hard rock riffs and Arabic scales and rhythms. You can hear a love for classic Western rock (think Rush, Guns & Roses, Led Zeppelin, etc) that’s blended with the traditional sound of its land and telling the stories of its own home.

From Bandcamp:

“[This is] an indie rock band from Syria, based in Damascus – capital of Syria. [they play] mainly alternative and indie rock sung in arabic lyrics. [The band] concentrates mainly on the daily life of the Syrian youth, while the music is a mixture of alternative / indie rock and middle eastern musical elements, scales and rhythms.”

Kabreet: Facebook Bandcamp

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Afous D’Afous

Afous D’Afous: Because there’s more to Tuareg rock than Tinariwen

Afous D'Afous

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The latest Sahelsounds release is a collection of songs by Tuareg rock band Afous D’Afous, one of the Sahara’s best guitar bands and a leading group of what we know as “desert blues” in the West. Based in Tamanrasset in southern Algeria, Afous D’Afous’ music is more upbeat and pop-sounding compared to the serious and heady grooves of Tinariwen, who are probably the most famous Tuareg rock group outside Africa.

From Bandcamp:

“In the past decade, there has been an explosion of ethnically Tuareg rock bands on the world music stage. Built around the electric guitar, the genre ranges from stripped down minimalist nostalgia filled ballads to distortion heavy tracks for dancing. Known collectively in the West as “desert blues” for its pentatonic scales and finger styles that recall Americana, in the Sahara it’s simply known as “guitar.” The style has emerged as contemporary pop music back home and today there are hundreds of bands, playing locally in weddings and public celebrations. The effect of the world music industry is not lost on the Sahara however, and the Western music market still maintains dominance over the Tuareg guitar scene. For the majority of Tuareg “guitar” bands, success still comes via the West. Artists travel abroad to record albums, and there are no shortage of indie-rock heavyweights anxious to jump into the role of producer.

An exception to the rule is Kader Tarhanine’s group “Afous D’Afous.” This six person rock outfit from Tamanrasset in southern Algeria is by all accounts unknown in world music circles. However, at home in the Tuareg community, they are without a doubt the most celebrated, famous, and in demand group, second only to Tinariwen. Kader Tarhanine rose to popularity in 2010, with his recording of a song “Tarhanine Tegla” (My Love is Gone). The track, a low-fi love ballad, recorded with a crunchy electric guitar over a pacing drum machine, went on to become an anthem throughout the diaspora (earning Kader the nickname “Kader Tarhanine”). In 2015, Kader formed his group “Afous D’Afous” and traveled to Algiers to record the full length debut “Tenere.” The 9 track album was released on CD in a limited run in-country, accompanied by a huge press rollout. The band appeared on Algerian national television, quickly becoming a country favorite and representative of the Tuareg ethnic minority. The album quickly disseminated throughout the diaspora, traded on cellphones in the conflicted Azawad, beamed through private WhatsApp pirate networks, and soundtracking smuggler’s routes, blasting from Land Cruisers at high speeds through the border zones of the open desert.

“Tenere” is a departure from the rest of the contemporary Tuareg rock albums. Of the myriad of Tuareg releases that have caught the ear of the West, only a tiny few are produced at home, sans Western producers. “Tenere” offers some of the most complex compositions in the genre to date, tightly arranged and polished. There is something sonically throwback, though Afous D’Afous crawled out of 70s rock studio album. It is long cited that Tuareg rock styles are largely inspired from heavyweights Dire Straits. This may be the most true to form rock album to date, and there is certainly a few riffs that recall Mark Knopfler. The electric guitar, front and center, drives the tracks with uptempo rhythms, all led by the soulful voice of Kader, measured and balanced with the chorus call and response. In addition to this classic rock aesthetic, the production adds some unlikely elements, reflective of contemporary globalism – layering pitch bending North African synthesizer, reverb saturated dub, and even Indian tabla and sitar!

While Tuareg guitar has become a commodity in the world music industry, Afous D’Afous has continued to in relative obscurity, all while remaining one of the most popular guitar outfits amongst Tuareg fans. They tour constantly throughout the Sahara to sold out crowds in Bamako, Niamey, and Agadez. They have yet to tour abroad. The irony is not lost on the band, and we’re excited for the opportunity to partner with them to correct this glaring oversight.

The remastered Sahel Sounds release of “Tenere” pulls together the complete recordings from their debut album, available for the first time outside of the diaspora. The vinyl edition of 1000 features old school 3-color offset printed jackets.”

Afous D’Afous: Website Facebook Twitter

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Soraya Ksontini

Soraya Ksontini: Tunisian-born, Swiss-based songwriter crafts catchy Arabic-Frenchy pop

Soraya Ksontini

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Want to make your coffeehouse playlist more interesting? Throw in some Soraya Ksontini, who at times sounds like a more interesting Norah Jones with her European pop taking inspiration from Arabic rhythms.

Soraya Ksontini: Bandcamp Facebook Twitter

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