MUZZIKA! June 2008
Nadia Khouri-Dagher - 13/06/2008
This month’s highlight is Buika, the flamenco revelation of these last years, the little African girl who grew up among the gipsies of Palma de Majorca and today relays the immemorial Spanish music with all her soul. Another find this month is jazz piano player Elie Maalouf, who has just published his first album filled with a daydreaming and sweet atmosphere that reveals a vast musical culture. Natacha Atlas has published her last album. We like this artist very much, as she perpetuates the musical fusion between East and West of past artists, spanning from the Rahbani Brothers to Egyptian musical comedies. “Genes and Jeans”, tradition and modernism, is the ambition animating Noa. This Yemenite-Israeli-US artist, makes a come back by revisiting the Yemenite songs of her childhood. And finally, a “Best of” by brothers Daoud and Saleh Al-Kuwaity, the famous Iraqi artists, stars of Baghdad between the 30’s and 50’s who, like thousands of other Jewish Arabs, emigrated to Israel shortly after its creation…
BABELMED’S HIGHLIGHT OF THE MONTH
BUIKA, Niña del Fuego, Casa limon/WEA
The Spanish revelation of these last years is… a black voice! Buika, born in Palma de Majorca - her parents were from Equatorial Guinea - has snatched the language and music of the country in which she grew up, and offers songs full of pain in flamenco and copla style, often filled with the emotions and feelings of a woman whose life hasn’t always been a bed of roses. She grew up in a family with an absent father and where young African immigrants had to suffer the racism of their schoolmates, in the poor districts of Palma where the gipsies live, and learned to sing their music … ”I’m Spanish, so I sing flamenco” she answered bluntly when we met her in Paris, a short time ago. She told us that many people – Spanish and others – where surprised to see a black woman singing Spain’s most typical music. Buika sings in Spanish with a voice filled with emotion, though not only flamenco; in this third album she even offers some rancheras, popular Mexican songs made famous by Costarican star Chavela Vargas, which Buika admires very much … Listening to Buika at the New Morning in Paris some months ago was a mind boggling experience. This artist seems to give out all her soul when she sings and her voice knows how to cry with pain, like few other artists did, like Maria Callas, Billie Holiday or Jessie Norman. Buika’s last album was a complete success and won two prizes in the equivalent of the MTV awards in Spain. Today she offers her best album, a treasure, her deepest one, with bare emotions, just like her bare back on the CD cover…Archeologists say that the first man on earth appered in the African continent– it was a woman, Lucy…
www.buika.net - www.warnermusic.es
ELIE MAALOUF, Through life, distr.Mosaic Music
Internet is a wonderful instrument. I discovered jazz piano player Elie Maalouf and his recently published first album by pure chance, while surfing on Myspace. Elie was born in 1972 in Lebanon and started studying music at the Institute of Music and Technical Arts in Beirut. He then completed his studies in France, where he lives since 1989, in the conservatories of Toulouse and Etampes, in a jazz school, but mostly in the many master classes run by the most famous jazz piano players like Michel Petrucciani or Mark Levine, or vibraphonist Gary Burton. On his Myspace site, he lists the music he likes: jazz of course, classical and baroque music, Brazilian music, the bandoneon, the viola de gamba and the theorbo, Renaissance instruments, the Beduin’s bouzouq, etc. Elie Maalouf has already played in several countries like Italy, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, the US, Morocco and Brazil but still isn’t too renowned in France. But on his site, the comments of the public that assisted to his concerts are all enthusiastic! “Thanks. Your music is a real treat!” “Bravo for yesterday’s concert”; “Dear Elie, thank you so much!”… Together with Joshua Levitt on the sax, ney and flute; Hubert Dupont on double-bass; Elie Duris on drums and Youssef Hbeisch on percussions, he offers us a first album which already masters music completely. A tender atmosphere for the musical ballad “Through life”, where the piano travels free, to the sound of wind, in soft atmospheres, modulated by the sound of the flute or a rustle of rhythms with Arab melodies surfacing here and there. This generally soft atmosphere, made of daydreaming sounds, recalls that of great Anouar Brahem, the Tunisian artist who uses the ‘oud in jazz without ever making “oriental jazz”, but draws from the Mediterranean sensibility, always open to all influences and ready to assimilate them. Elie Maalouf is not a Lebanese jazz player, he’s just a jazz player that deserves to be discovered as soon as possible!
Natacha Atlas & the Mazeeka Ensemble, Ana Hina, World Village/Harmonia Mundi
Everyone remembers the superb version of “Mon amie la rose”, the hit of Françoise Hardy in the 60’s, that Natacha Atlas re-proposed in 1999: in this Oriental version, she gave this song new life, whose homage to a flower celebrated both in the East and the West, could have easily come also from the Levant…This little jewel made Natacha, who “aims at drawing East and West nearer on a musical level” , win a Victoire music prize. Here’s our half-oriental half-European artist (born from an Egyptian father and an English mother, she grew up in Brussels in the Moroccan district…) at her 8th album. She revisits some classics of westernised Arab music who where famous well before today’s “fusion” music trends, and she also offers us some pieces of her own. She is particularly fond of the Egyptian Abdel Halim Hafez – to whom she dedicated an entire album – as well as Lebanese singer Fayrouz, whose songs were composed by the Rahbani Brothers. About the latter Natacha says: “I like them because it’s a fusion of styles. They studied Arab and Western music and mixed the styles before I was born.” Natacha also offers us her own version of the immemorial song “Lamma bada” whose origins date back to centuries and today is still sung from Morocco to Yemen… On the whole the album is a success and includes a gem which in the Middle East will probably become a hit: her version of the famous song "Ya Laure Hobouki" by Fayrouz ("O Laure, my love for you”), in which Natacha and her crystal clear though deep voice, takes over from the great Lebanese artist. Two female artists who wanted, each in their own time, to combine Western and Oriental music: such a natural match and relationship…
NOA, Genes & Jeans, Universal Music
Noa is one of the most famous Israeli artists on the international scene. Born in Israel from a Yemenite family, Noa – whose real name is Achinoam Nini –grew up in New York, before she chose to go back and live in Israel. For the last 15 years she has sung her multiple origins – Yemenite, Israeli and Anglo-Saxon - with composer and guitarist Gil Dor. Her last album celebrates the mix of “genes” she has in her (her family heritage) and “jeans” – the dressing symbol of the modern world. Though the album starts with a folk ballad in pure anglo-saxon style, Noa dedicates this work to her late grandfather, Israel Nini, a great traveller to which she gives homage in “Dreamer”; and one of the traditional Yemenite songs is sung … by her grandmother, Rachel, aged 85. It’s starting from the re-discovery of these Yemenite tunes, that her grandmother used to sing to her, that Noa has created this album, together with her own compositions, and here she offers an interpretation of Yemen’s Jewish popular heritage like in “Dala Dala”, who speaks of a lover who will go to jail if he goes near his beloved, and of his beloved who will have her throat cut… In “Ani Tzameh”, Noa replays the traditional Jewish song (“I'm thirsty for your water, Jerusalem”). But most of the titles are compositions by Noa and Gil,sung in English, and who speak of a woman who decided to live “with open wings” like her grandfather taught her and to thus embrace, musically, the whole world...
DAOUD & SALEH AL-KUWAITY, Masters of Iraqi music, Arc Music
Brothers Daoud (1908-1986) and Saleh (1910-1976) Al Kuwaity were amongst the greatest musical stars between the 30’s and 50’s in Iraq. Born in Kuwait (which explains their family name) from an Iraqi family of Jewish origins, they started, aged barely ten, to play – Daoud the ‘oud and Saleh the violin – and, as young child prodigies, were brought at the presence of the notable Kuwatis. Following to their success, the family decided to move to Bagdad, who was then, together with Cairo the other musical capital of the Arab world. As for North Africa, in Iraq most of the musicians were Jewish back then. The two brothers became regulars of the royal palace between the 30’s and 40’s and King Faysal used to often invite them to play for him and his guests. In 1936, he asked them to participate to the creation of the first Iraqi radio, where the two brothers played a series of live concerts who were to be followed by millions of listeners. The creation of Israel in 1948 lead to a massive emigration of Arab Jews, from Morocco to Yemen, and the Al-Kuwaity brothers, also decided to emigrate to the Jewish State during the 50’s. Back then Arab culture was marginalised in Israel, but the two old super stars kept their contacts with the Arab audience thanks to a live weekly concert held on the arab channel of Israeli radio: despite the political opposition between Israel and the rest of the Arab world, borders could not stop the radio waves… Following to the quest of Arab Israelis for their origins, in the last years, the two brothers were rehabilitated in Israel. Now that young artists are looking back into their roots, the release of their “Best of” with a British label, gives evidence of a renewed infatuation for these musicians.