Beautiful mixture of sounds and rhythms

Issue 

New Moon
By Abderrahmane Abdelli
Real World Records
Reviewed by Jenny Long
This album from Abdelli is an enjoyable introduction to the musical culture of the Berbers of the Kabyl mountains east of Algiers. The struggle to preserve Berber culture is an important part of the Kabyl's campaign to resist the dominance of Arab Algeria, including the war which has, since 1992, been tearing Algerian society apart. Earlier generations of Berber (the original inhabitants of the Maghreb) musicians encouraged the emerging chebs and chabas (which literally means young, but also conveys the image of rebels against social and sexual conservatism) to raise political subjects in their popular Algerian rai music. As the famous rai musician Cheb Khaled said: "The Kabylians showed us the way. In 1986 I realised that singers like Ait Menguellet ... risked going to jail. I thought they showed real guts." While the Algerian military government has, over the last few years, attempted to tie the cultural movement into its war with Islamic fundamentalists (including allowing a Berber candidate from the secularist Rassemblemont Culturelle Democratique to stand in the recent presidential elections), the establishment's attempt to appropriate their culture has rankled many Berbers. This is despite the fact that armed Islamic opposition groups have targeted artists, writers and musicians. The government hasn't accepted the Kabylian's attempts to assert their culture and language against the dominant Arabic (and French) language, and has tried to suppress the Kabyl-based Berber Cultural Movement's campaign to have the Berber language taught at school. Abdelli's music, which is improvised, expresses traditional Barber values — tolerance, a reliance on cultural roots, and the refuge from invasion the Kabyl mountains have allowed the Berbers. His songs were recorded first, and the instrumentation added later. Thierry Van Roy, who researched the roots of Berber music, drew together South American and Ukrainian musical traditions to produce the album. As a result, the instruments used include the Magrebian darbukka, bendir and mandola (played by Abdelli); the South American cajon, tormento, charango, quena and cuadro; and the Ukrainian bandoura. The resulting mixture of Abdelli's beautiful voice and the sounds of South American and Kabylian rhythms is wonderful. New Moon grows on you each time you hear it.

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