Maryam Saleh, Maurice Louca and Tamer Abu Ghazaleh team up for the risky and adventurous Lekhfa
Album review: Arab indie music heroes release an album reveling in its contrasts
Maryam Saleh, Maurice Louca and Tamer Abu Ghazaleh
Lekhfa is a super-group project in anything but name.
The album is a result of a collaboration between three giants of the regional music scene; the Egyptian singer-songwriters Maryam Saleh and Maurice Louca with Palestinian multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Tamer Abu Ghazaleh.
With each renowned for their own idiosyncratic work, one feared their disparate styles wouldn’t gel as part of a unified project.
The fact that it doesn’t is what makes Lekhfa such a bewitching listen.
That’s if you are prepared to give it time. The album is challenging; the socially conscious lyrics are married with hooks that are left of centre and wilfully obtuse instrumentation. At times, it sounds like you are listening to a radio whose dial is stuck between stations. But once that passes, you appreciate the contrasts and the fact the trio have a more expansive look when it comes to their work.
Kont Rayeh is a fine example of the group’s twin vocal attack: over languid percussion, Saleh’s fragile voice floats like apparitions before Abu Ghazaleh’s brings us down to earth in the second half with his smooth buttery vocals.
A raucous yet brittle groove snakes through Nefsi F Akli with Saleh’s vocals sounding like its emanating from a distant cave.
The album picks up some steam, although on the trio’s terms, in the second half. The choice of Eka Maksour as the lead single is apt; it finds the group’s reigning in their wandering impulse for a more streamline rock approach. Once again, Saleh’s and Abu Ghazaleh’s vocals are on their own trips with former’s notes ascending and the latter maintaining a steady register.
The trio truly go off the deep end with Mazzikaw Khof. It would have been a chirpy affair, with its flamboyant synths and rhythmic percussions, if it wasn’t for Saleh’s vocal take akin to someone giving you a long and unsettling stare.
Risky and spirited, Lekhfa demands your attention.