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

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.   

Watch: Ramos laughs as Mo Salah leaves pitch in pain

Updated 2 min 15 sec ago

Watch: Ramos laughs as Mo Salah leaves pitch in pain

  • Video footage captures Ramos apparently laughing and smiling as a distressed Salah is walked off the pitch
  • There's doubt over whether Salah will now be able to play in the World Cup

DUBAI: Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos is definitely not the darling of the Arab world after bringing down Mo Salah in the Champions League final on Saturday, and dislocating the Egyptian’s shoulder in the process.

But a short segment of video has sparked even more outrage, dashing any hopes he might have had of being forgiven by Salah fans around the world.

The footage captures the moment a tearful Mo Salah is walked off the pitch, clearly in pain – the camera then quickly pans round to Ramos who is watching, smiling and laughing.

It was always going to be a fiercely fought match, Real Madrid the defending champions, Liverpool eager to claim back the trophy it last held in 2005.

Egyptian footballing superstar Salah was running towards Real Madrid’s goal in the 26th minute, the ball about to land in front of him when Ramos came in for the challenge and the two fell to the ground – Salah’s arm apparently pulled by the Spaniard.

Many outraged Arab football fans have taken to social media expressing their view that the move by Ramos was intentional, that he purposefully targeted Salah, while others say it was a fair challenge

The Liverpool striker played on for another four minutes before falling to the ground, before leaving the pitch, while being consoled by Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Now – as Egyptians everywhere worry that Salah’s injury, so close to the World Cup tournament, will prevent him from playing at all – the images of a smiling Ramos will leave a bitter taste.