Primary Instrument: Oud
Born: October 20, 1957
In the course of nine innovative, timeless albums spread over twenty years, Anouar Brahem has established himself as one of the most original and talented musicians yet to record on the prestigious ECM label.
Brahem is the oud’s conjuror, a master at bringing out the acoustic magic which this age-old traditional Oriental lute carries inside its calabash: the musical heritage of the Arab and Islamic worlds.Brahem is a phenomenon, a concentrated mix of prolific paradoxes: he is a supremely subversive classicist; a solitary soloist, resolutely open to the world; and a culture smuggler, a man ever inclined to venture beyond his own limits and push back musical frontiers… without yielding an inch to aesthetic standards forged across time and tempered with deep respect for tradition.
Because he has always recognised this fundamental complexity, it has become his strength. And because he’s always sought to weave this abundance of influences and disparate passions inside the very material of his work and compositions, Anouar Brahem is today recognised as one of the rare composers and improvisers capable of inventing a form of music which is totally rooted in an ancestral culture: it is highly sophisticated, yet eminently contemporary, and its ambitions are global.Brahem brings the bewitching poetic colours of the oud to a host of diverse musical canvases.
From the rich repertoire of Jazz – John Surman, Dave Holland and Jan Garbarek are just some of the leading players to succumb to Brahem's melodic spells to the multiple and diverse traditions of Mediterranean and Oriental influence, from his native Tunisia to the confines of India and Iran, his sensitive yet rigorous music ceaselessly redefines a cleverly composite universe of poetry and culture, ever balancing between discretion and sensuality, nostalgia and contemplation.
Born in 1957 in Halfaouine, in the heart of the Medina in Tunis, Anouar Brahem was ten when he began studying the oud at the National Conservatory in Tunis, and later pursued his apprenticeship with the great master Ali Sriti.In an Arab musical environment where popular songs and crowded orchestras dominated – the oud was reserved for accompaniment – Brahem revealed his many facets in undertaking a mission to restore the oud to the status of an emblematic solo instrument in Arab music, and at the same time breaking with tradition in his work as a composer by integrating elements of jazz and other musical traditions from the Orient and the Mediterranean.In 1981 he moved to Paris for four years, where he collaborated with Maurice Béjart and composed numerous original works, notably in Tunisian films and theatre. On his return to Tunisia in 1985, he spent the next five years composing and giving concerts which established his reputation.In 1989 he met producer Manfred Eicher, who gave Brahem the opportunity to record his first album for the highly prestigious ECM label. Barzakh marked the beginning of a particularly fruitful association which, in the space of twenty years, has seen Anouar Brahem in the company of some of the world's most talented musicians, whatever the genre or tradition : Barbarose Erköse, Jan Garbarek, Dave Holland, John Surman and Richard Galliano to name only a few.
In 2014, after six years of silence on record, Anouar Brahem has published Souvenance (ECM), an ambitious double-album whose sound is at once a sumptuous aesthetic synthesis of 15 years of experiment in his quest for an authentic “common understanding” between Orient and Occident, and an offbeat, personal and reflective response to the events in Tunisia early in 2011.
To date, Brahem has recorded no fewer than eight other albums, all of which have received similar public and critical acclaim : Conte de L'Incroyable Amour (1991), Madar (1994), Khomsa (1995), Thimar (1998), Astrakan Café (2000), Le Pas Du Chat Noir (2001), Le Voyage De Sahar (2006), The Astounding Eyes Of Rita (2009). In 2006 his love for films became tangible when he directed and coproduced his first documentary film Mots d'après la Guerre, made in the Lebanon following the war between Israel and the Hezbollah.
The film was selected for the Locarno Film Festival. In 2010 Anouar Brahem was appointed to the Jury for the official feature-film selection shown at the Carthage Festival in Tunis. Considered in his country to be the most innovative composer and instrumentalist of recent years, Anouar Brahem enjoys considerable esteem among young Tunisian composers and oud-players; and today he has become, more than ever, one of the most influential figures in contemporary music, both in the Arab world and beyond. In 2012, shortly after the revolution in Tunisia, he was named a Life-Member of the Tunisian Academy for Science, the Arts and Literature.
In the course of his career Anouar Brahem has obtained many awards and decorations : the Prix National de la Musique (Tunisia, 1985); an Edison Award for his album Le Voyage de Sahar (Netherlands, 2006), and an Echo Jazz Award as Best International Musician of the Year for his album The Astounding Eyes of Rita (Germany, 2010). In 2009 he was decorated Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French State.
Today he appears regularly on the most prestigious stages of the world.
Source: Anne-Marie Driss