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Alif is the collective sound of five musicians at the forefront of independent music in the Arab world.
Conceived in 2012 and taking its name from the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, Alif features Khyam Allami (Oud), Tamer Abu Ghazaleh (Vocals/Buzuq), Bashar Farran (Bass), Maurice Louca (Keys/Electronics) and Khaled Yassine (Drums/Percussion).
Their self-produced debut, Aynama-Rtama (Arabic - translated as Wherever It Falls) is a reflection of its time and environment. Recorded between Beirut in Cairo in 2014, it is a shape-shifting album that twists and turns when you least expect it. Innovative instrumentation, poignant words from avant-garde poets such as Sargon Boulos and Mahmoud Darwish, and the abstract worlds penned by the band’s vocalist Tamer Abu Ghazaleh coalesce to create an intense labyrinth of sounds and emotions.
The startling synergy combined with the band’s wide ranging influences, giving birth to a soundscape that is at once familiar and unknown. Mixed by Ali Chant of Toy Box Studios, Bristol, UK (P.J. Harvey, Rokia Traore, Yann Tiersen, Gruff Rhys, John Parish) and mastered by John Dent of Loud Mastering, UK (Bob Marley, Nick Drake, Yann Tiersen, Massive Attack, Nick Cave), Aynama-Rtama traces a complex labyrinth of genres, sounds and emotions, rendered as a unique postcard of the tumultuous rollercoaster-ride of its time.
The album is adorned in artwork featuring a painting by Syrian-Lebanese visual artist Semaan Khawam. His colourful and surreal paintings combined with original typography by Egyptian designer Salma Shamel perfectly compliment the complexities latent in Alif’s music and lyrics.
All editions will also feature new English translations of the poems and lyrics by Nariman Youssef.
1. Holako (Hulagu)
2. Dars Min Kama Sutra (A Lesson from Kama Sutra)
3. Al-Juththa (The Corpse)
4. I’tiraf (Confession)
5. Al-Khutba Al-Akhira (The Last Declamation)
6. Yalla Tnam (Lullaby)
7. Watti Es-Sawt (Keep It Down)
8. Eish Jabkum Hon? (What Brings You Here?)
£11.99Nawa Recordings is proud to announce the worldwide release of the original soundtrack to Leyla Bouzid ’s award winning debut feature-length film As I Open My Eyes / A peine j’ouvre les yeux composed by Khyam Allami. As I Open My Eyes / A peine j’ouvre les yeux by Leyla Bouzid (a winner of 16 international film awards so far), tells the story of 18-year-old Farah (played by Baya Medhaffar) who sings in an alternative-rock band called Joujma, and her coming of age in pre-revolutionary Tunisia against the will of her mother Hayet (played by Tunisian songstress Ghalia Benali).Visit product page →
The 14-track soundtrack of the film features original music composed, arranged and produced by Khyam Allami for the fictional band created for the film, Joujma, alongside Oud-based incidental music and Maurice Louca’s Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot), the title track from his latest album (also released on Nawa Recordings in 2015). Working closely from the early stages of casting and pre-production through to the final sound mixing of the film, Allami and Leyla Bouzid aimed to develop a new and youthful sound for the band, informed by Tunisian folk music such as the vocal driven songs from the city of El Kef, and inspired by artists such as Patti Smith, PJ Harvey and the female leads in alternative rock bands such as Sonic Youth and Stereolab.
The five-piece band of non-professional actors-musicians features Baya Medhaffar as Farah (vocals), Montasser Ayari as Borhene (oud), Deena Abdelwahed as Ines (keys & electronics), and the brothers Marwen Soltana as Sami (bass) and Youssef Soltana as Ska (drums). During pre-production Allami spent much time with Medhaffar, who makes her acting and singing debut, to help her find her voice, all the while seeking inspiration to compose the songs based on her abilities and the nuances of her adolescent character. Teaching the band the songs by rote, Allami tried to keep a balance between their musicality and a natural yet amateur edge to their performance. The lyrics for the band’s songs were written by Tunisian writer Ghassan Amami in colloquial Tunisian Arabic, based on the film’s narrative and dramatic context.
Allami used the lyrics as a catalyst for his composition, to heighten their latent symbolism alongside their social, cultural and political referencing, whilst serving the dynamic trajectory of the film’s plot.The songs in the film are performed live by the band, all of whom make their acting debuts. They were then recorded in a music studio in Tunisia to form the first part of this soundtrack album.
Features artwork by Lebanese designer Jana Traboulsi and tri-lingual booklets with lyrics in Arabic, English and French.
1. Mel Fadda (From Boredom/De l’ennui) - Studio Version
2. Bladi (My Country/Mon pays) - Studio Version
3. ‘Ala Hallet ‘Aini (As I Open My Eyes/A peine j’ouvre les yeux) - Studio Version
4. Touir Ellil (Bird Of The Night/Oiseau de nuit) - Studio Version
5. Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute The Parrot)
6. ‘Ala Hallet ‘Aini (As I Open My Eyes/A peine j’ouvre les yeux) – Bar Scene
7. After The Accident/Après l’accident
8. Mel Fadda (From Boredom/De l’ennui) – Live Version
9. Bladi (My Country/Mon pays) – Live Version
10. Touir Ellil (Bird Of The Night/Oiseau de nuit) – Rehearsal Version
12. ‘Ala Hallet ‘Aini (As I Open My Eyes/A peine j’ouvre les yeux) – Live Version
13. Asléma Ya Hméma (The Swallow/L’hirondelle) – Beach Club Scene
14. Tawazon Ii: or Lack of
£13.99It’s not often that you stumble on a musician at the start of his career who’s biography is as intriguing as Khyam Allami’s. Since taking up the ‘ūd (or Oud, Middle Eastern Lute) in 2004, he has already generated a “palpable buzz” about him and “left a trail of unforgettable live performances in his wake” according to the UK’s fRoots Magazine who recently put him on their cover. Whether at small independent venues, Birmingham’s alternative/experimental Supersonic festival, WOMAD or the BBC Proms in London’s Royal Albert Hall, Khyam is yet to falter in making his audience revel in the lucid beauty of his music.Visit product page →
Born to Iraqi parents in Damascus, Syria and raised in London from the age of 9, Khyam could easily be seen as a musical schizophrenic. His passion for music has lead him on a journey from child violinist in Damascus via rock drummer in London to two Music degrees from the School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) and on to become a world class Oud player, composer and highly sensitive musician. In 2010 Khyam was the first recipient of the BBC Radio3 World Routes Academy mentorship programme which saw him perform at WOMAD and the BBC Proms.
After much press attention, high profile concerts and various live and recorded collaborations with artists varying from Seattle WA based Master Musicians of Bukkake to Iraqi pop singer Ilham al-Madfa'i, Khyam turned his attention to his own vision. His debut solo ‘ūd album, Resonance/Dissonance (released on his own label Nawa Recordings), is a rare and ambitious effort. It is a double-disc featuring a solo studio recording on the CD and a live performance of the entire album (accompanied by percussionist Vasilis Sarikis) on the DVD.
Resonance/Dissonance is a complete work, a whole. Musically, it is based on the concept of Maqam (the modal system of Middle Eastern music), seemingly stark and simple yet overtly complex. Unusual approaches to the Maqams combine with original, highly structured and detailed “composed-improvisations”. Recurring themes and melodic shapes render a cohesive narrative, accented by a sensitive dynamic and rhythmic outbursts using unusual rhythmic cycles.
All of which intertwine around complete compositions and a dark rendition of the traditional Iraqi Maqam Nawa. Conceptually, it is filtered through a life in London influenced by myriad figures; the work of C.G. Jung, the mysticism of Jorge Luis Borges, the independence and forward thinking of Frank Zappa, and Secret Chiefs 3, the ingenuity of various masters of Middle Eastern music such as Hossein Ali Zadeh, Naseer Shamma and Riyadh alSunbati. Mystical in its lucidity and abstract in its poetry, Resonance/Dissonance is unique, soulful, beautiful, dark, heavy and hopeful all at once.
A truly boundary crossing musical work for fans of Middle Eastern, Classical, Progressive, Jazz, Improvised, World and Avant-garde.
2. Naghmat Tahrir
3. Tawazon I: Balance
4. An Alif/An Apex
5. Tawazon II: or Lack of
6. The Descent (Maqam Nawa)
£11.99Salute the Parrot signals a departure for Louca from his first solo album Garraya – in which he composed electronic music unaccompanied - into the realms of acoustic orchestrations, both composed and improvised.Visit product page →
"Featuring guest performances by Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls, Alvarius B.), Sam Chalabi (Land of Kush, Shalabi Effect), Tamer Abu Ghazaleh (Solo Artist/Alif), Khaled Yassine (Anouar Brahem/Alif) and vocals by Egyptian Mahraganat MCs Amr 7a7a and Alaa 50, to name a few. Those who may have heard live iterations of Salute the Parrot at Louca’s jaw dropping shows across the Arab world and Europe over the last couple of years, will encounter a much more complex and hard hitting work of many influences. From psychedelic to Egyptian Shaabi, Louca shatters the confines of musical and cultural labelling with a work that is truly unique.
The album’s new live and acoustic elements, coupled with limited pre-recorded material, present ample space for improvisation and fluidity within its composition. Its eight tracks offering a unique record of this new vision, and preparing the ground for future live performances of Salute the Parrot which will never sound totally the same. For the design of the album artwork, Louca collaborated with Egyptian visual artist Maha Maamoun, who’s videos and photographs address the form and function of images that are found in mainstream culture, to act as a lens through which familiar images are seen in novel and insightful ways.
Salute the Parrot’s artwork aptly conveys the abstract and microcosmic character of Louca’s sound in three subtle variations, one for each of the album’s formats.
1. Al- 'Asr Adh-Dhahabi (The Golden Age)
2. Al-Mashoub (Idiot)
3. Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot)
4. Tasaddu' (Rupture)
5. Maksim (Maxim)
6. Al-Mallahat (Salt Pans)
7. Sharraq Rah Tegharrab (It Will Set)
8. Malnash Diyah (Spineless)
£24.49Now available on ultra limited Tape format.Visit product page →
Nawa Recordings are thrilled to announce the release of Ahwar, the debut album by Nadah El Shazly, worldwide on 10 Nov 2017. Starting out singing Misfits covers in a local punk band, then moving on to producing her own electronic tracks and making a name for herself in Cairo’s underground scene, Nadah El Shazly’s backstory is not that unusual.
Her debut album on the other hand, is an entirely unexpected story.Two years in the making, Ahwar (Arabic for marshlands) is an otherworldly record, not unlike an abstract mythological story-tale. Opening with the mangled and filtered vocals of the album’s lead track Afqid Adh-Dhakira (I Lose Memory) like an alien dream, the drones of a bowed double bass lead us into a drum groove that lays the groundwork for El Shazly’s sultry and captivating presence, singing: "(I am) coming, from a time far away. Going, escaping. Alone in the wilderness".
The Arabic prose lingers over interjections of slap-back delayed guitar twangs and an avant-garde arrangement of dissonant winds, horns and seemingly random drum fills, ending with an eerie soundscape that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Giallo classic. A daring and potent statement that sets the foundations over which the rest of the album can unravel.
Composed, written and produced by El Shazly herself in collaboration with The Dwarfs of East Agouza’s Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi on co-composition and arrangement duties, the album was crafted across two continents, between Canada and Egypt, and features the crème of Montreal’s contemporary-classical and improvised music scene, most of whom a members of Shalabi’s own Land of Kush ensemble.
In between El Shazly’s five original tracks, we are treated to an abstract coverversion of Sayyid Darwish’s classic Ana 'Ishiqt (I Once Loved). El Shazly’s haunting vocal floats over broken Kalimba and Harp arpeggios which slowly intertwine with a free, bowed double bass improv to nestle within the breaks between Younes Al-Qadhi’s early 20th century verses of love and betrayal. More than that, it is difficult to really describe, but imagine the worlds of Nico, Björk and Annette Peacock with the Arabic language as their mother tongue, re-approached through acoustic avant-jazz harmony and re-constructed with a dash of Kamilya Jubran’s modern styling of Arabic maqam and you may be somewhere close.
Recorded and delicately mixed through miles of analogue cabling by Thierry Amar at Hotel2Tango and mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering in Montreal, the album is adorned with the surrealist artwork of Egyptian artist Marwan El-Gamal and designed with custom typography by Egyptian designer Valerie Arif.
All editions come with dual-language booklets featuring the lyrics in Arabic with English translation by Nariman Youssef .
1. Afqid Adh-Dhakira (I Lose Memory)
2. Barzakh (Limen)
4. Ana 'Ishiqt (I Once Loved)
6. Mahmiya (Protectorate)
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Nawa Recordings are proud to announce the release of Bes , the debut album by The Dwarfs of East Agouza .
The Dwarfs of East Agouza is a trio from Cairo, Egypt, featuring Maurice Louca (Alif, Bikya), Sam Shalabi (Land of Kush, Shalabi Effect) and Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls, The Invisible Hands, Alvarius B.).
Born during 2012 when the three were living in the same apartment building in Cairo’s Agouza district, the trio’s instrumental improvisation-based explorations are propelled by Louca’s North African percussion loops and shimmering keys, Shalabi’s West African tinged free jazz guitar and grounded by Bishop’s driving Krautrock-style acoustic bass. Following many a late night jam session, the band recorded hours of material during a three-day studio run in April 2014.
After compiling and mixing the album in Montreal’s Break Glass studio in July 2015, the refined result will be released as a double-album titled Bes via Nawa Recordings (NAWA005) on 2xLP, 2xCD and DL on 29 April 2016.
Named after the Ancient Egyptian dwarf deity who was worshipped as the defender of all things good and enemy of all that is bad, Bes captures the trio on a hypnotic yet unpredictable journey. From the the lilt of four-minute Ethiopian tinged resonance to the 30-minute free-form epic Museum of Stranglers, the album skirts the outer limits of a psychedelic soundtrack to a North African road trip.
The album artwork features a reproduction of an ancient Egyptian carving of the dwarf god Bes, painted by Egyptian artist Raafat Al-Kordy, designed by Iraqi-Palestinian graphic designer and illustrator Sara Sukhun.
1. Baka of the Future
2. Clean Shahin
3. Where’s Turbo?
4. Hungry Bears Don’t Dance
6. Museum of Stranglers