Words by Bill Badley
For once, East really does meet West – magnificently
This is a groundbreaking recording. We’re well used to hearing fusions of Arab and Western popular music as pretty one-sided affairs, with European musicians using Oriental sounds as sonic flavouring. Alif come from the other direction: five Middle Eastern performers of the highest calibre, well versed in their own traditional music, the esoteric edges of the Arab avant-garde and sundry rock genres.
The result is an edgy mix of musical juxtapositions and one of the most ear-arresting debuts to have come out of the region. Central to Alif’s sound is the rich power of Tamer Abu Ghazaleh’s voice and Khyam Allami’s endlessly inventive oud (Arab lute) playing. Combined with bass guitar, drums and electronic processing, Aynama-Rtama (Wherever it Falls) could be described as Oriental alternative electro; however, what makes it so fresh and potent is that familiar rock clichés are completely turned on their head when they’re ripped out of predictable 4/4 rhythms and their riffs are thrashed on an oud. This is a rare thing – music that will win over Arab and Western audiences entirely on its own terms, without concessions.