Bab El West: Houdoud

June 30, 2020

Close Encounters

Listening Post 259. Pandemic isolation can evoke images of The Little Prince, alone on his asteroid, testing the limits of confinement as he imagines transcending space. Similar fabulous journeys are at the heart of Bab El West’s second album, inspired not by Saint-Exupéry but by surrealist poet Paul Éluard’s observation: “’Frontier’ is a one-eyed word but humankind sees the universe with two eyes.” Houdoud (Border) is a natural concept for the Paris-based band whose name means “Western Gate” and whose members—singer-songwriter Habib Farroukh, bassist Clément Vallin, drummer Marc Dupont, guitarist Hamza Bencherif and qanun virtuoso Nidhal Jaoua—have origins in North Africa and Brittany. While their music is decidedly sans frontières, a blues-rock cloth interlaced with Gnawa, chaâbi, Celtic, Afrobeat, soul and Latin strands, they well know that borders inhibit as well as invite crossing. The fables and frontiers in the album’s nine songs, sung in Arabic and Berber, embrace encounters, quests and obstacles in the natural and behavioral realms—like the tale of a woman who loved a falcon or the conversation between a deaf man and a snail. The emphasis is on organic bonds in Al Khil (The Horse), a prayer bearing the aphorism, “The outside of the horse heals the inside of the man” (video 1). The symbolism turns botanic in Nouara (Flower, video 2), a meditation on nurturing life; and solar in the joyous Adrar (Mountain, video 3). Though sonically rousing, Kelma (Speech) explores the limits of communication (video 4). Released just weeks before the expression “going viral” reclaimed its original meaning, Houdoud is a timely, lyrical reminder that as nations close borders humanity’s goal must be to rediscover the world where crossing lines poses less threat and more promise, where distinct cultures can find common space, where meeting a prince, friend or idea on the other side—or finding one within—is again possible. (Big Banana Music)

Houdoud / Border / حدود
Habib Farroukh: Vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion
Clément Vallin: Bass, double bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Marc Dupont: Drums, percussion
Hamza Bencherif: Electric guitar, backing vocals
Nidhal Jaoua: Qanun

Guest artists 
Tracy Shiels: Vocals, bodhrán
Ruby Shiels: Mandolin, vocals, piano
Ewan Shiels: Mandolin, vocals
Yannick “Jeanno” Jory: Saxophone, xaphoon, flutes
Jean-Luc Thomas: Wooden concert flute
Yves Marie Berthou: Darbuka

Related post. Bab El West: Douar, Listening Post 140, March 5, 2018

Bab El West: Douar


Al Khil / The Horse / أل خيل
Lyrics: Habib Farroukh/Music: Bab El West

(from the Arabic lyrics)
Come with incense, sing your praises
Saint Mimoun is waiting for us
Don’t judge without having seen
Saint Mimoun holds the key to our Salvation

Oh, mighty almighty, cure us of the pain
The outside of the horse heals the inside of the man
Oh, mighty almighty, cure us of the pain
The outside of the horse heals the inside of the man
It’s obvious!


Nouara / Flower / ﺍﻟﻨﻮﺍﺭ
Lyrics: Habib Farroukh/Music: Bab El West

(from the Arabic lyrics)
Even if they say that watering sand is exhausting
The water must reach the root
For the head to work right, the body must irrigate it

Nouara, Nouara
Flower that survives heat, cold
Nouara, Nouara
She proved it, she is still there


Adrar (Welcome of the Sun)/ Mountain
Lyrics: Habib Farroukh/Music: Bab El West

(from the Berber and English lyrics)
The look of a child of nature
Welcome of the sun
Will always be mint green
Welcome of the sun

Dry wood burns, watered by the sky
Welcome of the sun
Green wood in the mountain of my dreams also burns
Welcome of the sun


Kelma / Speech / كلمة
Lyrics: Habib Farroukh/Music: Bab El West

(from the Arabic lyrics)
Is it my fault I’m so naive?
All these disappointments weigh heavily on the note
Is it my fault our paths have crossed?
Everyone feeds on their own roots

Gather your promises, dreams do not need them
We shared the same table, maybe you were just hungry
Gather your promises, wisdom does not need them
True love is a tamed word



Leave a Reply

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.