Beyond Alif

September 8, 2015
Alif. Photo by Tony Elieh.
Alif. Photo by Tony Elieh.

To celebrate the release of Alif’s Aynama-Rtama (reviewed in WLT’s inaugural World Music column here), we’ve put together a short but substantive playlist of material by individual members of the supergroup as well as two tracks from the album itself for your listening enjoyment. 

The list features two songs by Palestinian singer Tamer Abu Ghazaleh’s debut album, Mir’ah (2008). Abu Ghazaleh demonstrates his many talents as a singer, composer, and instrumentalist on the first track, “Dawameh” (Vortex) while the second, “Takhabot” (Clamor), shows off a theatrical side to his frenetic mad genius.

Oud player Khyam Allami is the Apollo to Abu Ghazaleh’s Dionysus, as represented on our playlist by two tracks from his cerebral debut album, 2011’s Resonance/Dissonance, “An Alif” and “Individuation.” Allami’s pieces bridge Arab and European notions of composition while never veering far from the traditions associated with the ancient instrument. 

Keyboardist and composer Maurice Louca draws upon influences ranging from Egyptian folk music, electronic dance music, and even sacred music for his sonic canvases from 2014’s Benhayyi al-Baghbaghan (We salute the parrot). In addition to the hypnotic title track, we’ve included “Sharraq Rah Tegharrab” (It will set) to show off Louca’s impressive range as instrumentalist and composer.

Finally, we’ve chosen a track from Melayeen, featuring Alif’s percussionist Khaled Yassine, from the 2013 album of the same name. The mash-up of traditional sounds with what can only be described as surf-rock guitar is a playful tribute to Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid, a pioneer in cross-cultural experimentation in Arab music.

And because we know that not everyone in the world uses Spotify, we’ve also included this live clip of Alif performing  “Al-Juththa” (The corpse) in London earlier this year.

Rob Vollmar is World Literature Today’s book review editor and writes a column on global music for each issue entitled “Global Frequency.” He owns an oud but can’t play it very well.

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