New Moon

Abdelli

Released 26 June 1995

  1. Adarghal Introduction
  2. Adarghal (The Blind In Spirit)
  3. Achaah (Resentment)
  4. Lawan (Time)
  5. Walagh (I Observe)
  6. Ayafrouk (The Pigeon)
  7. Imanza (Ancestors)
  8. JSK (The Sporting Youth Of Kabyl)
  9. Igganniw (There Are No More Stars In My Sky)
  10. Amegh Asinigh (Bad News)

Liner notes

Abdelli…! Abdelli…! Stop that racket! Your music will never go any further than the village…

Abdelli is seven years old. As he watches over the sheep on the far side of the river, his singing carries, quite innocently, to the ears of the people in his village.

If this was a typical fairy tale, one would say, “ …and all the villagers, seated on their doorsteps, stopped what they were doing to listen to this child, blessed by God.” Abdelli’s songs fell on deaf ears. In spite of his efforts to sing and make up songs, people didn’t understand; they were impatient with him.

“Abdelli! You couldn’t have made up this song. You’re lying… it couldn’t be you…! You’re too young.”

The young boy, who would amuse himself by making home-made instruments with the line of a “sbib” (fishing rod) and old oil cans, is carried along by the dream which he had when he was twelve and which is still with him today. Iger Bouchem (a renowned Kabyl musician at the beginning of this century) offers Abdelli his mandola as a gift and tells him to carry on the Kabyl culture.

The child dreams and sings at the same time… his mother doesn’t want to wake him before the song is finished.

Photo credit: Eric Cherpion.

Abdelli, born in Behalil, Algeria, is Kabyl. The Kabyls, like the Chleuhs, the Mzabits and Tuaregs, are part of the Berber tribe, the original inhabitants of North Africa (7000BC). Today they can be found from the Canary Islands to Egypt, from the Mediterranean to Nigeria.

The Berbers are united by a common language and alphabet (tifinagh), by their art and a system of common thought which for centuries has resisted all outside change. Seeking refuge in the mountains to escape invaders, the Kabyls have managed to preserve their culture until the present day. With such strong roots, Kabyl music —its themes and instruments— remains totally different from other Arabic music.

At the age of seventeen, the young man decides to go to Algiers and buy his first mandola. Before even having learnt how to pluck the strings, melodies and words flow as if of their own accord.

Photo credit: Eric Cherpion.

From 1984 onwards, the singer receives invitations to perform in France, Germany and Denmark. He knows that travel enriches the mind and his songs, whose words are full of poetry , express ancient images of Berber culture in universal values, show tolerance and an open mind.

In 1987, without a real home-base, Abdelli is arrested on entering Denmark where he’d expected to stay for a few months playing concerts. After a night in prison, the authorities put him on the first available flight: destination Brussels.

Faithful to the musical tradition of his people, Abdelli improvises words and melodies according to the inspiration of the moment (something which doesn’t make life easy for his musicians or producer).

Arriving in the Belgian capital, he has twenty-four hours until the next flight for Algiers. What can he do to kill time?

He can always “do Brussels”, and take back an image of his short visit to Europe! Seeing a fellow musician playing with his guitar case open on the ground, Abdelli puts down his mandola case in a station corridor and starts singing.

Abdelli's name in Tifinagh writing by Perlette Adler.

The coins soon start to roll in…

On that first day (which should have been his last) a high-ranking official passes by. He stops, listens intently and falls so much under the spell of the music that he offers to put Abdelli up and help him.

Abdelli’s voice possesses an hypnotic strength which has opened doors for him more than once during his career. The mountain, Abdelli would say, only seems high to the person standing at its base.

Among the “good guys” Abdelli has met on his travels is Thierry Van Roy, a producer whose sensitive ears allow him to discover his talents. Captivated by the beauty of the Kabyl singer’s voice, Thierry Van Roy searched for two years for the roots of this nomadic singer.

According to a study at the University of Algiers, the Berbers could have landed on the American continent long before Christopher Colombus (names of towns with Berber roots are evidence of this). The result of his musical research is an unusual collaboration between Berber, South American and Ukrainian cultures. On this album, ancient rhythms reflect the birth of a new family.

Chilean music is influenced by the music of the aboriginal Indians, the rhythms of the black slaves brought back by the conquistadores from Africa and the music imported by the Spanish. The bandoura, on the other hand, reflects the unique sound of the Ukraine.

Kabyl and South American percussion have created new and colourful rhythms. The Kabyl goubahi and berpuali have been mixed with the Uruguayan candombé, the Venezuelan joropo, the Afro-Peruvian lando (traditional rhythm of the black slaves of Peru), the cueca (traditional Chilean dance), the Chilean rin and the Cuban rumba.

The Kabyl quarter tone has combined with the equally tempered Western scale imported by the Spanish to South America. If one thinks of the Andalusian influences brought back by the Arabian conquests, it makes sense that Kabyl melodies are very close to European harmonies and that they combine so well with the Chilean sensibility.

Kabyl music uses a medium range with hardly any low or high tones. South American music extends the range: for instance, the Argentinian bombo has deep tones while the maracas and tambourines supply the missing high tones.

Differing from normal studio productions, Abdelli’s voice was recorded first so as to allow complete freedom for the rest of the arrangements.

Christine Van-Acker

Listen

Credits

All tracks written by Abderrahmane Abdelli (SABAM) arranged by Thierry Van Roy

The musicians:
 Abderrahmane Abdelli lead voice, mandola
Ariane de Bièvre transverse flutes, nay, quena, recorders Claudio Toro cajón, tormento, bombo, maracas, tambourine, cow bell, guiro, guitar
 David Soto additional guitar (“JSK”) 
Juan Antonio Caffiero charango, cuadro, guitar Manolo Acuna charango, soprano sax
 Mdgidou violin 
Nicolas Vandooren soprano sax (“Achaah”)
 Saïdi Abdelnour darbukka, bendir
 Thierry Hercod bandoura 
Thierry Van Roy keyboards, programming

Recorded by Thierry Van Roy at Kitsch Studios, Brussels, Belgium 
Produced by Thierry Van Roy
 Mixed by David Bottrill at Real World Studios, Box, England except “Adarghal” and “Imanza” mixed by Thierry Van Roy at Kitsch Studios Assistant engineers Fabien Musty at Kitsch and Meabh Flynn at Real World

Edited by David Bottrill A Real World Design

Photography Peter Menzel/Impact (front cover) Yann Arthus-Bertrand/Impact (back cover)
 Eric Cherpion (interior portrait) 
Tifinagh writing Perlette Adler

Sleeve notes Christine Van-Acker

All tracks published by Womad Music Ltd / EMI Virgin Music Ltd.

Special thanks to: Yehudi Menuhin, Henri Bernard, Golda Szarvas, Bernard Goffin, Dominique Thommen,
Annick Gosuin, Ahmed Bouda, the Association of the Quartier Leopold (Brussels), all the musicians on this album for their personal involvement, and everybody at Real World.

Further Listening

  • Among Brothers

    Abdelli

    Released 05 May 2003

    Abdelli journeyed for three years over four continents to create this album: Cape Verde to Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso and Belgium. Abdelli’s beautiful, heart-rending Berber songs come together with the extraordinary musicians they encountered on their route.
  • Real Sugar

    Paban Das Baul & Sam Mills

    Released 24 March 1997

    Gorgeous melodies, the coolest contemporary arrangements - from sensual Bengali ballads to London drum and bass. Real Sugar is the result of a collaboration which began in 1988 on the veranda of Paban’s house in Calcutta. Londoner Sam Mills applied modern pop sensibilities to the rich music of the Bauls of Bengal.

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