Anouar Brahem (b. 1957, Tunisia) is a virtuoso player of the oud (or ud, depending on you and/or where one asks), a North African/Middle Eastern stringed instrument of the lute/guitar family with a deep, amber sound. While well-versed in Arabic music, Brahem was and is decidedly influenced by jazz and improvised music, and he’s become a truly "internationalist" composer and improviser - fellow travelers Jan Garberek, John Surman, Richard Galliano and Dave Holland have recorded with him on his fine albums for the ECM label. Further, he remains one of the few performers to be signed to the label via an unsolicited demo.
Mr. Brahem and his trio Barbaros Erkose, clarinet and Lassad Hosni, percussion have embarked on a tour of our lately beleaguered land, and, going by his last two albums, it’d be a darn shame to miss him. This trio is the same that recorded 2000’s Astrakan Café (ECM), a heady, entrancing sonic stew that illuminates the common ground shared by North African/Arabic folk and classical forms, Balkan folk, Central European klezmer and Indian ragas. But what makes this set really special is the unassuming, non-pedantic and uncompromising manner in which they pull it off. The music is somber and enigmatic though not oppressively or self-indulgently so; there are no facile "World Beat" rave-ups or showy, smug displays of technique; the music displays no hints of being pop-ified or jazzed-up for Western audiences, yet it’s also bereft of any notion of ethnocentric "purity." The music is deeply sonorous, spacious, rhythmic, dignified and spirited. His latest, Le Pas du Chat Noir (ECM), is a different pot of vichyssoise altogether. It’s a collection of miniature sound paintings shaded by oud, piano and accordion: spacious and minimalist (in the senses of Ralph Towner, Erik Satie and Thelonious Monk, as opposed to Phillip Glass and Terry Riley), with only a barest trace of traditional North African sounds. The music of Anouar Brahem has few parallels, even among the current batch of cross-cultural gate-crashers it sounds timely yet ageless, mystical yet elementary. To partake, see below. Monday September 16 Berkeley, CA Freight & Salvage Wednesday September 18 Seattle, WA Town Hall Saturday September 21 Detroit, MI Anderson Theater at the Henry Ford Museum Sunday September 22 Ann Arbor, MI University of Ann Arbor Tuesday September 24 Minneapolis, MN Cedar Cultural Center Thursday September 26 Chicago, IL World Music Festival Friday September 27 Chicago, IL World Music Festival Sunday September 29 Flint, MI Flint Institute of Arts Tuesday October 1 New York, NY Joe’s Pub Friday October 4 Washington, DC Smithsonian Freer & Sackler Gallery Saturday October 5 Montreal, Canada Place Des Arts