Anouar Kaddour Cherif: Djawla review – a deft Arab-jazz blend

A few years ago, aged 24, Anouar Kaddour Cherif found himself in exile from his native Algeria and living in Switzerland, which he describes as “a refuge for my musical fingers to find expression”. His debut album is a deft blend of jazz and Arab-Andalucian tradition, led by his own mandole – a 10-stringed lute – alongside bass, drums and bass clarinet, the last an unusual instrument skilfully handled by one Clément Meunier.

The quartet conjure a variety of moods from that configuration. Opener Sans Pap (a pun on no paper/no pope) is exuberant, led by Cherif’s rippling runs, and there’s a similar joyousness to tracks such as Savage Butterfly and Virgule, with its Indian melody and driving drums. It’s a communal effort, with Meunier’s burbling woodwind (with none of the clarinet’s usual shrillness) offsetting the twang of the lute. The record’s more meditative pieces are just as engaging.

The first of two vocal outings, Call of the Night, conjures a humid North African evening, with glimpses of “staggering bodies in the shadows”. Better still is the waltz-time Amiret Erriyam, where Cherif slips between nostalgia, despair and the determination to start anew; like the rest of the album, a piece of musical autobiography.


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