Oum: Zarabi

oum2Magic Carpet

Listening Post 73. Weaving is an apt metaphor for the disparate strands of Oum’s music—North African Gnawa, Hassani, Sufi, jazz, gospel, Afro-beat, R&B, bossa nova and Cuban trova—which converge like winds in a magical desert. The Moroccan singer-songwriter (full name, Oum El Ghait Benessahraoui) grew up in Marrakech but also feels at home in the oasis town of M’hamid el Ghizlane, known for it annual arts festival and the local women who weave carpets from old clothes. She recorded Zarabi (“Carpets” in Maghrebi Arabic), her fourth album, in the town’s open air, which explains the occasional ambient sounds of wind, water and birds. In a resonant frame of oud, bass, trumpet and percussion, her bracing and soulful voice tells of love and family, dreams and memory, spirits and fate, accented with fragrances, colors and sensations. In Nia (Intention) she sings of keeping love refreshed: “For my Beloved, with my clay I’d build a palace/And share my passion with him on glowing embers” (video 1). There’s an ardent, soaring tone to N’Nay (The Ney Flute): “Cut from its reed, it cries out the pain of lovers/It calls to hearts that desire tears apart/Those who burn and melt in passion’s fire” (video 2). A melancholy trumpet heralds the suspension of rational thought in Hna (Here): “In the alley of lovers/The orange tree bestows its essence,” she observes, “The night crystalizes/The pulse hastens/Reason loses its way, regresses to infancy” (video 3). Across the soundscape, notes and themes swirl, from the nocturnal fog of Jini (Spirit) to the plucked and tapped wisdom of Wali (Ancestors) and the optimism of the trova-inspired Veinte Años (Twenty Years). No dry panorama, Oum’s desert is a wondrous place of connections. (LOF Music/MDC)


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