Throwback Thursday: Anouar Brahem’s ‘Thimar’ sets memories reeling into motion

Brahem would record many equally atmospheric sessions for ECM. (Supplied)
Updated 17 May 2018
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Throwback Thursday: Anouar Brahem’s ‘Thimar’ sets memories reeling into motion

ROTTERDAM: I can distinctly remember the first time I heard Anouar Brahem’s playing because the circumstances were so cinematically odd. As a wanderlust-struck student sitting in a café in Tangier, Morocco – a day after finishing a three-week sponsored hitchhike from London – a sketchy-seeming local smoking butts struck up a rapport and insisted on taking me to a nearby pirate CD shop, where he demanded the owner put on his favorite album.

The sounds which spiraled from the speakers were magical — a spellbinding, spiritual swirl of oud, woodwind and percussion unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I bought the album on the spot, for less than 3 SAR (80 US cents). It was called “Madar” and was co-credited to Norwegian saxophone star Jan Garbarek, Pakistani tabla maestro Ustad Shaukat Hussain — and Tunisian oud virtuoso Anouar Brahem. That moment was to kickstart a lifelong love of the latter instrument — and the record label that facilitates and fuels such fascinating fusions, ECM — but Brahem will always be the one who stole my heart first.  

May (18th) marks the 20th birthday of “Thimar,” arguably the most enduring recording of Brahem’s glittering, three-decade international career. Brazenly paired alongside two distinguished English jazzmen — bassist Dave Holland and saxophonist/clarinetist John Surman — the “transcultural” conceit exemplifies Brahem’s restless mission to transplant Arabic classical music traditions into an international, improvisational context.  

It is intensely chilled. Brahem’s sparse, maqam themes offer a skeleton frame for collective sound-scaping of the most intuitive kind: Holland’s low growls and Surman’s plaintive cries a sympathetic sonic foil to the oud’s meditative meandering. Tellingly, Brahem’s is the last voice to be heard, the oud only appearing half-way through the eight-minute opener “Badhra.”

Brahem would record many equally atmospheric sessions for ECM, often shaded by the dense harmonies of a piano and/or accordion. But there’s something special about the sparseness of “Thimar,” democratically colored by three largely monophonic instruments, like three wise men in a conversation — or in the case of frenzied “Uns,” a heated debate. This is music to think to, not think about — sounds which fire up the synapses and set memories reeling into motion.   


Funeral held for Norwegian student slain in Morocco

Updated 6 min 45 sec ago
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Funeral held for Norwegian student slain in Morocco

  • Moroccan ambassador Lamia Radi joined the mourners for 28-year-old Maren Ueland
  • Moroccan authorities have said that Ueland was killed together with 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen of Denmark in a terrorist act

OSLO: The Moroccan ambassador attended the funeral Monday of the Norwegian woman hiker murdered last December in Morocco along with her Danish friend, reading messages of sympathy from her country’s citizens.
Ambassador Lamia Radi joined the mourners for 28-year-old Maren Ueland, including Norway’s health minister and several dozen students from the University of Southeastern Norway, where the two women studied.
The church service took place in the southeast town of Time.
During the service, Radi denounced the “barbary” and “ignominy” of the killings, and read aloud messages from Moroccan people expressing their sadness.
“Morocco wanted to be present today to express first its solidarity, to share the sorrow of the family,” she told Norway’s TV2 ahead of the ceremony.
“At the same time, (we want) to make it very clear that we strongly condemn the horrible murders of those innocent girls,” she said.
Moroccan authorities have said that Ueland was killed together with 24-year-old Louisa Vesterager Jespersen of Denmark in a “terrorist act.”
They were attacked as they camped overnight Dec 16-17 at an isolated hiking spot in the High Atlas mountains. Their bodies were found the following day, beheaded.
Moroccan authorities have arrested a total of 22 people in connection with the murders.
They include four main suspects and a Spanish-Swiss man who had links to some of the suspects and who subscribed to “extremist ideology,” Moroccan officials say.
The main suspects belonged to a cell inspired by Daesh group ideology, but none of the four had contact with Daesh members in Syria or Iraq, Morocco’s counter-terror chief Abdelhak Khiam told AFP.
Jespersen’s funeral was held on January 12 in Denmark.