A few years ago I came across the beautifully atmospheric album Astrakan Cafe by Tunisian oud player and composer Anouar Brahem. I was delighted then to start the new year by getting my hands upon The Astounding Eyes of Rita, Brahem’s brilliant new album made with ECM label founder and producer Manfred Eicher and featuring Anouar Brahem (oud), Klaus Gesing (bass clarinet), Björn Meyer (bass), Khaled Yassine (darbouka, bendir).
This is moody, rich, exotic and tempting stuff, all about atmosphere and rythme, with lovely, simple melodies scattered throughout.
According the album’s website it’s – “A dance of dark, warm sounds, combining bass clarinet and oud urged onward by the darbouka and frame drum of Lebanese percussionist Khaled Yassine. Klaus Gesing and Björn Meyer are both players with an affinity for musical sources beyond jazz, and they interact persuasively inside Brahem’s music.”
Labels like world music and jazz can often put people off, but don’t be discouraged, give this wonderful music a little of your time, you won’t regret it.
For those interested in influences and cultural connections, the album is dedicated to the memory of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and its title was inspired by one of his works.
Rita and the Rifle
Between Rita and my eyes
There is a rifle
And whoever knows Rita
kneels and prays
to the divinity in those honey-colored eyes.
And I kissed Rita
When she was young
And I remember how she approached
And how my arm covered the loveliest of braids
And I remember Rita
The way a sparrow remembers its stream
Between us there are a million sparrows and images
And many a rendezvous
Fired at by a rifle.
Rita’s name was a feast in my mouth
Rita’s body was a wedding in my blood
And I was lost in Rita for two years
And for two years she slept on my arm
And we made promises
Over the most beautiful of cups
And we burned in the wine of our lips
And we were born again.
What before this rifle could have turned my eyes from yours
Except a nap or two or honey-colored clouds?
Once upon a time
Oh, the silence of dusk
In the morning my moon migrated to a far place
Towards those honey-colored eyes
And the city swept away all the singers
Between Rita and my eyes–
– Mahmoud Darwish