Anouar Brahem: Innovative Weaver of Musical Heritages
AAJ: Did Manfred Eicher suggested the Thimar project, with [saxophonist/clarinetist] John Surman and [bassist] Dave Holland, or the Madar project with [saxophonist] Jan Garbarek?
AB: I knew Surman's music for some time, but I did not know Dave Holland very well. So when I began to prepare for my next project and listened to Dave Holland I knew that he would fit the project. Manfred made it possible. I met Dave Holland last year and I hope that we will find the right schedule for a second project. Jan Garbarek heard my first record, >Barzakh (ECM, 1991), and told Manfred that he would like to play with me, and Manfred, who knew that I love the music of Garbarek, arranged this project.
AAJ: Can you explain the renaissance of the oud in the European music with musicians like Dhafer Youssef and Rabih Abou-Khalil?
AB: I have noticed that. When I was a child I was seeing the oud on TV but could not hear it, among all the instruments. The oud player was accompanying the singer, never leading the music. And you know, 20 years ago a lot of people were saying that the era of the oud, as a leading instrument, was over, and now there is a new generation of oud players who write new compositions for the oud. When I went to Paris 20 years ago there were not any oud players there. I really don't know the reason. It's difficult to explain. Maybe it has to do with the medieval lute. These two instruments are very close.
AAJ: A few years ago you said that your music is much more popular in Europe than in the Arab world. Has the situation changed by now?
AB: You know, 20 years or 25 years ago, when I wanted to play my music and my compositions for the oud, it was considered very bizarre. But today there are more and more audiences for my music, most of them are in Europe, but also in Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. In Tunisia, where I have the biggest audience and I am much more known, there was an audience for my music from the very beginning. But it depends in other Arab countries because music there is very expensive, and the music festivals are organized by the governments, whose officials usually like pop music, and there are less regular cultural activitiesbut it is growing little by little.
AAJ: Can you say what your next project will be?
AB: Difficult question. I finished recording Voyage de Sahar more than a year ago, last February. I began to compose and I have lots of new material for more than one disc, but I still do not know what my next project will be or who will be the musicians. I have to find the right context or combination. I change my mind every day.
Anouar Brahem, Le Voyage de Sahar (ECM, 2006)
Anouar Brahem, Vague (ECM, 2003)
Anouar Brahem, Le Pas du Chat Noir (ECM, 2002)
Orchestre National de Jazz, Charmediterranéen (ECM, 2002)
Anouar Brahem Trio, Astrakan Café (ECM, 2000)
Anouar Brahem/John Surman/Dave Holland, Thimar (ECM, 1998)
Anouar Brahem, Khomsa (ECM ,1995)
Jan Garbarek, Madar (ECM, 1994)
Anouar Brahem, Conte de l'incroyable amour (ECM,1992)
Anouar Brahem, Barzakh (ECM, 1991)
Top and Bottom Photos: Moncef FEHRI
Center Photo: CF Wesenberg