Imed Alibi ‘Safar’ (Wayward) 3/5

Imed-AlibiHere is an interesting and relatively new trend within world roots. Twenty-first century Arabic music with multiple cultural influences from around the globe that range from Arabic classical to rock and dance beats. Percussionist Imed Alibi has surrounded himself with a truly eclectic line up of musicians that includes a Tunisian violinist, Zied Zouari, French bassist, Pascal Teillet, and Brazilian percussionist Zé Luis Nascimento with the album being produced by Justin Adams. Additional Middle Eastern instrumentation comes in the form of the qanun (a type of zither), ney as well as the accordion. Berber and Sufi rhythms interweave with elements of rock and electronica. If at times the rock and heavy beats component are just a tad too heavy for this writer’s taste, then that should not detract from the ambitious aims of allying such disparate genres into one cohesive whole. The mix works best on the starkly haunting piece ‘Nafass’ with the delicious sound of the qanun to the fore and more of this pared down sound would serve the band well on subsequent projects. There is a dramatic use of Arabic classical strings plus darbouka and violin on ‘Fanfare d’Alexandrie’ and a shift in tempo part way through with some 1970s style Miles trumpet blown by Michel Marre. Another successful fusion comes across on ‘M.H.D.’ with wordless vocals Indian style and relentless percussion, but crucially minus the guitars that elsewhere have a tendency to get in the way of appreciating the multi-layered sound. In part this album has the ambience of a film soundtrack and if only the rockier side can be toned down, this band has a serious future ahead of them. Tim Stenhouse