Florence Jones http://www.shoalhavenfm.org.au
MAKTOUB cd review by Florence Jones, Shoal Bay, Australia
Atlas Soul, at whose heart is its sax player, Jacques Pardo, who also writes and arranges the music, has, as its ethos, World Music for World Peace. What can this mean? It can mean intention. If there is no hope or conviction that something is possible, then no steps can be taken along that path. It can mean the joy that comes from encouraging us towards hope and conviction. It can mean turning away from death towards life. You will sense all of this in the vibrancy, joy and passion of Atlas Soul’s 2008 CD release, Maktoub. And our capacity to sense all of this,
is a recognition based on our connectedness, as well as an actual or intuitive knowing of the music itself.
We have a history of reaching out to each other through our music. Think of that great traderoute, the Silk Road – what a conduit for the music of different cultures. Think of invasion and migration and the coming together, willingly or no, of different cultures and their music.
Think of the slaves brought from Africa to America – would our Western culture ever have had its blues, its jazz and, in due course, its swing, as early as it did?
All this is at the heart of Atlas Soul. The musicians come from or have lived in Morocco, France, Israel and have eventually joined their home-grown American counterparts. The lyrics are in English, North African Arabic (Maghrebi) and French.
Track 1: AnaWeyak: “Me and You”. What better title to begin this CD. The opening bars are a sax solo from Jacques and my jazz-trained ears thought that I was in for some great jazz. Wrong. I was in for some great Middle Eastern music, indeed, so attuned to that genre that I was immediately reminded of the singing of Hakim, ‘The Lion of Egypt’ as I listened to the vocal skills of Atlas Soul’s Anwar Souini who, when performing, is Anwar Maghreb.
Track 2: l’Amour en banlieue "love in the suburb": “this is such an old story … the yearning for love” The music is, once more, derived from the Maghreb – but just get Jacques’ hip-hop alternating with Nadwa Al Rifai’s Arabic. Here, too, Walid Zairi’s oud is clearly heard. Connections? You bet! There is no paradox in the lyrics being about the yearning for love, the lack of connection. We can all connect with that.
Track 3: Home, a song about homesickness and the sense of isolation that comes from being in a strange place. This time, a Raï & Jazz background to Anwar’s vocals. How about that for conections. We are also treated with a emotionally charged yiolin solo played by a French/American guest musician named Lucas Lejeune.
Track 4: Mahmouma: This time, Anwar Maghreb's vocals (“the world is a sad place, but let us get up and enjoy our time together") and are backed by a Reggae beat. One unexpectedly delightful moment after the other.
Track 5: Kouyoumanass. “Let’s get up!” Think Jamaica, New Orleans, North Africa, mainstream jazz. Take a large spoon. Stir. Add powerful 6/8 shaabi rhythm. See if you can resist getting up and dancing with whomever is nearby.
Track 6: Maktoub the title track, literally, “It is written”, destiny. Funky music from the group. Anwar’s vocals. Then, just over a minute into the music, and a wistful, yearning trombone from Jon Simmons, then back to the driving rhythms and then back comes the trombone, picking up the pulse. It’s a coming together. Which is what the CD is all about