Alsarah / Débruit

Aljawal

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AllMusic Review by

Aljawal means "traveler," and it couldn't be a more fitting title for this collaboration between two musical nomads. French producer Débruit's forward-thinking blend of hip-hop, dance, and global sounds has earned acclaim for how it enhances the uniqueness of these styles instead of diluting it. Meanwhile, Alsarah is a Sudanese singer who was born in Khartoum and spent time in Yemen before eventually settling in Brooklyn. Together, they bring out the best in each other on these songs, which range from the traditional simplicity of "Loulia" to elaborate, futuristic-sounding concoctions like "Alkoan Baladi," where synths and beats wobble and shimmer. Sudanese music, which shares aspects of Middle Eastern and other kinds of African music, is ripe for Débruit's exploration, considering that his Sis Surpriz EP paid tribute to Turkish music and his lauded 2012 album From the Horizon used traditional and contemporary West African styles. While that album and much of his other work uses samples and field recordings as its foundation, he's also proven himself as a sympathetic and creative producer when working with vocalists, most notably on his funky 2009 hit "I'm Goin' Wit You," which featured Jamie Woon and Sa-Ra's Om'Mas Keith. Aside from "Khartoum"'s lively collage, on most of Aljawal, he downplays the flashier touches of his earlier work to give Alsarah's singing plenty of room. Not surprisingly for someone as well-versed in Sudanese music as she is, her lilting, haunting vocals are a perfect fit for, and the focus of, these evocative songs. Débruit's intricate percussion and heavy synth basslines -- a hallmark of his work since the "I'm Goin' wit You" days -- provide outstanding support on highlights such as "Alrahal" and "Jibal Alnuba," adding just the right amount of modernity to the traditional instrumentation and Alsarah's soaring voice. Aljawal is a triumphant debut for Alsarah and another exciting addition to Débruit's body of work.

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