Resistance: Soul Food
The themes tackled in Sami Moukaddem’s latest album are as diverse as the musical styles on offer. They range from civil war and American occupation to questions of national identity to the divinity inherent in the humble washing machine. However, Moukaddem’s penchant for the juxtaposition of themes of a serious and humorous nature is also paralleled in his compositions and such contrasts seems to be the pervading element of this album.
Born in Lebanon to a native father and Brazilian mother, Moukaddem spent time in both countries as a child before migrating to Ireland in 1985. His music certainly reflects his roots, combining Arabic as well as a host of international flavours. The opening track ‘Resistance: Gentle Persistence’ begins with a plaintive guitar motif which provides the foundation for the tracks evolution. Although it is further emphasised and developed by clarinet and percussion the original pattern never strays far from its origins. ‘I Didn’t Notice You Weren’t Irish’ injects a comical quantity with its Arabic-infused melody over an Irish jig rhythm. Think Arabic Sliabh Luachra and you are halfway there. When the subsequent track, ‘Chicken Breakout Theme’ is described as a ‘national anthem for a human-free chicken state’ one wonders if Moukaddem has issues with everything. With its pounding rhythms and frenetic guitar accompaniment it seems more at home in a Quentin Tarentino movie than a chicken coup.
The manic nature of ‘Chicken Breakout’ is followed by the melodic but fragile ‘I Thank You’ featuring Róisín Elsafty on vocals. Once again short melodic fragments are to the forefront of this piece and the sparse nature of its arrangement only serves to add to its delicateness. Of particular interest is the delightful ‘Resistance: Joy’ with its clapping rhythm serving as the highlight as well as the intertwining melody shared between Moukaddem’s guitar and Brendan Doyle’s saxophone. The remainder of the album follows a similar pattern of frenetic compositions contrasted with the more serene and this is further reflected in Moukaddem’s sound which ranges from a funk/rock-infused distorted guitar to his more latin-styled acoustic playing.
This album makes for absorbing listening and while some may feel it may not be jazz in its strictest sense, a closer examination reveals the jazz idiom is still to the fore particularly in the manner of the instrumentation and improvisation employed. In fact the recurrence of the word ‘resistance’ throughout the album may be Moukaddem’s defiance at being pigeon-holed into any particular musical sphere. From a large and diverse number of musical influences Moukaddem has still managed to carve out a distinctive voice for himself and this is surely the chief goal of any musician.
Published on 1 March 2007