Sunday, April 17, 2016

The ArbaA Experimental Chaâbi Concert Review

The French Institute's Dar Batha venue in Fez was the place to be on Saturday night. An over-capacity crowd packed into the dar to enjoy the concert of "experimental chaâbi" music

The French members of ArbaA (yes, they do have a capital "A") had only been rehearsing with the Moroccan musicians for a week, but it didn't show. Right from the start they came in hard, fast and remarkably tight. Sound engineer Mathieu Ryo had the balance spot on and delivered great sound in what can often be a difficult venue.

Saxophonist Benoît Black and Mathieu Picard on bass

Taking their cues from saxophonist Benoît Black, the group went straight to work on the opening number, building from the quieter opening bars to a dizzy, repetitive, almost hypnotic beat, thanks to the laid back bass work by Mathieu Picard, superb drumming from Clément Black and Najat Aâtabou's percussionist, Saïd Idrissi, on darbuka. Idrissi's work was stunning in its speed and delicacy, delivered without theatrics, in a seemingly relaxed manner.

Saïd Idrissi, on darbuka

For the second offering the Moroccans made a temporary exit while the ArbaA Experimental Chaâbi Quartet remained on stage and showed us the jazz style they have become well known for.  Then it was back to the full crew for the remainder of the concert. The repetitive and polyrhythmic building blocks in place there were some virtuoso solo breaks from Léo Fabre-Cartier on oud, Mohammed Kadhri on violin and the every-present trippy saxophone from Benoît Black.

Léo Fabre-Cartier on oud

The final standing ovation was well deserved and was followed by an encore that ended the concert.

The audience had enjoyed themselves and discussions went on afterwards in the street about "fusion" and "chaâbi".  Fusion is a much overused term and in the end the labels didn't matter - we were left feeling uplifted by a night of exciting music.

Mohammed Kadhri 

Saïd Idrissi, Darbuka (Percussion)
Mohammed Kadhri, Violon
Benoît Black, Saxophones, compositions
Clément Black, Drums, compositions
François Rème, Fender Rhodes, MS 20
Mathieu Picard, Bass
Léo Fabre-Cartier, Oud
Mathieu Ryo, son
Production : Laure-Meriem Rouvier for King Tao productions

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