Record of the day: Anouar Brahem Trio, "Astrakan Cafè"

Record of the day: Anouar Brahem Trio, “Astrakan Cafè”

Anouar Brahem Trio
Astrakan Cafè (Cd ECM 159494-2)

Very ancient (it seems that a version of it had been widespread since Sumerian times) and perfect, the oud has not undergone major changes over the centuries and to this day remains one of the most fascinating musical instruments ever built; Compared to its Western brother, the lute, it has an even more velvety and enveloping sound, with infinite dynamic and expressive nuances, which requires performers of great sensitivity as well as proven technical ability. Very widespread throughout the East, just like the piano in our area, it has 11 strings which take on different tunings depending on the different regions in which it is widespread.

Over the centuries the oud has demonstrated a great ability to integrate its beautiful voice with the most diverse musical languages, sacred and profane, and in the twentieth century it also met with the world of jazz, pop and world music thanks to the work of musicians such as Hamza El Din, Munir Bashir, Rabih Abou-Khalil and Nassir Shamma. Among the best-known exponents of this instrument is the Tunisian Anouar Brahem, who, through his recordings for the ECM label and collaborations with musicians such as Dave Holland, Richard Galliano and John Surman, has managed to conquer a vast transversal audience of enthusiasts who they crowd his concerts and make every record release a success.

Works like “Thimar” and “Barzakh” show us a musician already perfectly master of his own language, in which the great popular tradition is intertwined with completely personal ideas, freed from the past and better able to absorb multiple stylistic influences, dialoguing with worlds apparently distant sounds.
The lightness of the textures favored by Brahem makes the chamber dimension of the trio the ideal one to fully enjoy every facet of his style.

Together with Barbaros Erköse's clarinet, capable of modulating subtle variations in intonation with mastery to suddenly open up to phrases of wide melodic range, and supported by the light percussive carpets of Lassad Hosni's darbouka, Brahem's oud dispenses pieces of notable beauty such as ” Ashkabad”, “Aube rouge à Grozny”, “Khotan” and
“Parfum de gitane”, full of fascinating narrative suggestions capable of suggesting the mysterious atmospheres of Paul Bowles' novels.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.