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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Album review: Arab indie music heroes release an album reveling in its contrasts

Maryam Saleh, Maurice Louca and Tamer Abu Ghazaleh team up for the risky and adventurous Lekhfa

L-R:  Maurice Loca,Tamer Abu Ghazaleh and Maryam Saleh and Maurice Louca. The trio are set to release the joint album Lekhfa
L-R: Maurice Loca,Tamer Abu Ghazaleh and Maryam Saleh and Maurice Louca. The trio are set to release the joint album Lekhfa

Lekhfa

Maryam Saleh, Maurice Louca and Tamer Abu Ghazaleh

(Mostakell)

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.

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Read more:

Egyptian indie singer and actor Maryam Saleh on her new super group and distinct vocal style

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