A modern roots and jazz approach to traditional music produces a captivating début album.
Arabanda — that’s as in Arab-Andalusian music — deliver a set of traditional songs arranged and performed by an ensemble formed in Brussels by accordionist Piet Maris of Jaune Toujours and Laïla Amezian, a female singer of Moroccan descent who has already featured with Maris’ ‘new folk’ band.
This is an album that unfolds gradually, sometimes with rather harshly-produced songs based around percussion, saxophone and trumpet, which weave in and out and of Maris’ meaty blasts of accordion and Amezian’s sturdy but unfussy vocals. The latter’s voice is infused with a North European folk tone, the lack of range normally found in the ululations of North African singers made up for by the confident manner in which she attacks the songs. Part of her background has been in jazz, which stands her in good stead for these sparse arrangements, with their improvisational feel and inventive approach to rhythm.
That jazz feel and use of rhythm is evident on songs such as Boushra Lana, with its evocative trumpet opening (played by Piet’s brother Bart), subtle upright bass-playing and driving rhythm; the slow, bluesy Al Laylou Aktama where the musicians seem to be feeling each other out to see who can best match Amezian’s sultry vocal (the raunchy soprano sax just edges it); and the off-kilter arrangement and improvisation of Ya Man Malakni. There’s a lighter, more immediate touch on tunes such as the opener Ya’adili Billah, although this is one of a handful of tracks almost spoilt by slightly clunky drums.
In fact, there’s a feeling of ‘radio session’ to the whole production. It’s not that the production should necessarily be smoother, but there’s too much of a feeling of detachment between component parts at times, particularly between Amezian’s vocals and the instrumentation. That aside though, this is a highly promising first release, with much to recommend it and the promise of a potentially intriguing act in concert.
This review was first published on Fly:-