For his latest album Rabih Abou-Khalil fulfilled a wish he had for a long time. He gathered around him musicians who, after decades of intense cooperation, were not just long standing companions, but had also become close friends. The recording took place for the first time in his house and his own studio in the South of France. The result is probably his most intimate work to date.
With the musicians of this project gathered in small groups consisting mainly of trios, Rabih Abou-Khalil introduced for the first time the bass oud, specially built for him by German luthier Robert Eibl. It is an enormously large instrument tuned one octave lower than the regular oud and has a very distinctive warm and powerful sound.
At the center of the rhythm section is American drummer and percussionist Jarrod Cagwin who, after having worked closely with Rabih Abou-Khalil for over 20 years, has mastered his complex rhythms like no one else. A master of Arab, Turkish, African and Indian drum schools his intimate understanding of all these traditions flows into the music and gives it its very unique swing and drive.
Accordionist Luciano Biondini, a permanent member of Abou-Khalil’s working group and arguably one of the greatest virtuosos on his instrument, has been playing with him for over fifteen years . Biondini Italian flair for melody and expression is evident throughout.
Another longtime companion is Gavino Murgia from Sardinia. Deeply rooted in the centuries old guttural vocal tradition of the “tenores”, he adapts his art to Abou-Khalil’s music in the most innovative form. At times sounding like an Australian “didgeridoo”, at others like a scat singer he enthralls with the use of his voice as a swinging bass instrument.
Abou-Khalil has already written over fifty songs for Portuguese vocalist Ricardo Ribeiro from Lisbon, a star of the traditional fado music. Sometimes powerfully rocking, at others tender and touching, he effortlessly sings Abou-Khalil’s compositions, mastering every melodic and rhythmic nuance, no matter how challenging they might be.
Guesting in the ensemble is the Turkish grandmaster of the iconic bamboo flute, the ney, Kudsi Ergüner is deeply rooted in Turkish classical music. With the utmost of ease he finds his place in Abou-Khalil’s group and establishes a musical rapport and understanding with his fellow musicians
The Japanese violinist Eri Takeya joined the group to deliver her powerful tone and distinguished accents on two compositions for which Abou-Khalil has written a special part for the violin