Karima Nayt ‘Quoi d’autre?’ (Ajabu) 4/5

karima-naytIf the folk sounds of Souad Massi whetted the appetite for acoustic music from Algeria, then this relatively new singer with a more elastic voice range is likely to be of interest. In fact the album was released in 2012 and won the best world roots album at the Swedish folk music awards in 2013 where it was produced and there is a folk input from Swedish musician Mikael Augustsson and another key figure is co-composer of several songs, Frederick Gulli. Singer-actress Karima Nyat has an interesting CV in that in 1988 she moved to Cairo where she became a modern dancer with the Cairo Opera Company. However, this led on to her singing with folk groups there and after almost a decade in Egypt, Nyat moved to Sweden. Her music tells of the strife caused by civil war in her native Algeria, but also of the Arab Spring as witnessed first-hand from residence in Egypt, and thankfully the lyrics to the songs are translated into both English and French for a wider audience to understand and appreciate.
Egyptian and Turkish string accompaniment feature along with the use of the bandoneon, normally associated with tango, yet here it merely adds to the roots feel. What impresses here is that the disparate elements weave together seamlessly, with the Swedish influence making eminent sense, and that the instrumentation is allowed space to breathe; consequently there is no need to add modern beats. This is illustrated on the atmospheric ‘Dadou’ with dramatic use of strings while the pared down, intimate feel to ‘Méli’ has something of a tango theme and is especially melodic. The mournful instrumentation on ‘Keyf’ stretches Nayt’s voice to the limit with violin incorporated. A repetitive chorus makes for a catchy number on ‘Laissez-les say’. This sleeper of an album deserves wider exposure.

Tim Stenhouse