Rough-hewn and exhilarating, EL Khat’s second album “Albat Alawi Op.99” is a deep dive into leader Eyal el Wahab’s Yemenite roots and their inspired re-imaginings. A careening orchestra of percussion, horns, strings, electricity and el Wahab’s own DIY instruments. Mesmerizing retro-futurist sounds.
El Khat. Named for the drug used so widely chewed across the Middle East, the band’s music is certainly addictive, more so with each outing. Their second album, Albat Alawi Op.99, is a disc full of joys, where the melodies unfold one after the other, involving and catchy.
“I tried to be simple in the structure,” explains Eyal el Wahab, the group’s leader and heart, who composed and arranged almost everything on the album. Albat Alawi Op.99 is very much his vision. “It’s a bit like pop music, where the soul is four chords and a melody. The difference is in the expression.”
That sense of expression and meaning flows through the first single, “Djaja,” where he sings “From Yemen and beyond America/ We are all together and I am alone.” This is music that both looks over the shoulder to his family’s past and forward to the world that lies outside.
El Wahab plays many of the instruments on the album, things like the dli and the kearat that he constructed himself. A skilled carpenter, it’s something he started doing several years ago, using his skills to make music from the items people discard. A child of the Yemeni diaspora who’s grown up in Tel Aviv Jaffa, Israel, it’s a practice that harks back to the family homeland, where even rubbish can become an instrument.
“People simply play on a tin can there,” he says. “Here, people thrown things out, treasure or junk, and I transform it.”
But el Wahab has always been a man of invention. He talked his wa....... more