Anouar Brahem is the oud’s conjuror, an authentic master at bringing out the acoustic magic which this age-old traditional Oriental lute carries inside its calabash: the musical heritage of the Arab and Islamic worlds. Brahem is a phenomenon, a concentrated mix of prolific paradoxes: he is a supremely subversive classicist; a solitary soloist, resolutely open to the world; and a "culture smuggler", a man ever inclined to venture beyond his own limits and push back musical frontiers… without yielding an inch to aesthetic standards forged across time and tempered with deep respect for tradition.
Because he has always recognized this fundamental complexity, it has become his strength. And because he’s sought to weave this abundance of influences and disparate passions inside the very material of his work and compositions for nearly forty years, Anouar Brahem now creates music free of any named traditional influences but rather in his own image, with the bewitching poetic colours of the oud to enrich a host of diverse musical canvases.
From the rich repertoire of Jazz – John Surman, Dave Holland, Jan Garbarek and Jack DeJohnette are just some of the leading players to succumb to Brahem's melodic spells – to the multiple and diverse traditions of Mediterranean and Oriental influence, (from his native Tunisia to the confines of India and Iran), his sensitive yet rigorous music constantly redefines a cleverly composite universe of poetry and culture, ever balancing between discretion and sensuality, nostalgia and contemplation.
Born in 1957 in Halfaouine, in the heart of the Medina in Tunis, Anouar Brahem was ten when he began studying the oud at the National Conservatory in Tunis, and later pursued his apprenticeship with the great master Ali Sriti; it was an entry deep into the art of the maqamat, highly complex, ancestral and modal, in the Arab tradition of classical music.
In an Arab musical environment where popular songs and crowded orchestras dominated – the oud was reserved for accompaniment – Brahem revealed his complex and multi-faceted personality by spontaneously undertaking a personal mission to restore the oud to the status of an emblematic solo instrument in Arab music, whilst at the same time breaking with tradition in his work as a composer by integrating elements of jazz and other musical traditions from the Orient and the Mediterranean into his new works.
In 1981, motivated by the desire to team up with other musicians from a variety of different aesthetic backgrounds, he moved to Paris for four years. It was to be a decisive period for him: he collaborated with Maurice Béjart and above all, composed numerous original works, notably for the Tunisian cinema and theatre. This was fertile ground for his orchestral experiments, because he introduced new ways of playing and even hitherto unknown instruments into the fundamental Arab tradition.Read more
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