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Abaji

Origine Orients

(Absilone; US: 10 Nov 2009; UK: 9 Nov 2009)

On one level, it’s difficult not to see this release by Lebanese multi-instrumentalist Abaji as anything more than a monumental self-indulgence. Abaji sings and plays all the instruments, one-man-band-style, without any re-recording or overdubs. He represents his ideas of “global blues” and “trans-Mediterranean music” by singing in five languages (French, Armenian, Turkish, Greek, and Arabic) over an array of bouzouki, flute, percussion, harmonica, saz, and his own invention, the “oud-guitar”. His singing is often painful rather than transcendent, and while one doesn’t doubt the passion with which he has approached his project, a more disciplined editorial voice might have reduced the sense we are being asked to witness someone playing with themselves (“selves” being the operative word—Abaji’s constant refrain is the multiplicity of identity).


That said, there is an admirable DIY ethic at work here, and those seeking relatively unmediated world music showcasing multi-instrumental ability and direct, clearly heartfelt emotion, may be willing to overlook the more solipsistic elements. Such listeners are directed towards “Menz Baba”, “Râyehh”, and “Black Sea Blues”. The first two are songs (one Armenian, one French/Arabic), and the third is a solo bouzouki piece; among them, they give a fairly decent sample of Abaji’s multiple musical personalities.

Rating:

Richard Elliott is a writer, university teacher, and journal editor based in Newcastle upon Tyne. He is the author of the book Fado and the Place of Longing: Loss, Memory and the City (2010), as well as articles and reviews covering a wide variety of popular music genres. Richard is currently working on a co-authored book on ritual, remembrance, and recorded sound.


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