First metal review of the year and also one of the least expected. A couple of days ago, I discovered a metal band from Tunis (Tunisia) named “Nawather” on one of the metal discussion groups I follow on social media, as they were promoting their first album “Wasted Years”.
What stunned me from their promotional video was the delicious sound of the Kanun. For those who are not familiar, the Middle East (especially from the Levantine that can traced to Syria-Lebanon-Jordan-Palestine/Israel) music has some unique instruments that are stable of the Arabic musical landscape: the Oud (that is a variation of the mandolin guitar with a much bigger body that give a more grave sound than a regular acoustic guitar) and the Kanun that is a 26-string trapezoidal guitar that has a distinctive sound that you remember.
In the Middle East, the Kanun and the Oud are staple instruments of the “tarab” or the classical Arabic music. With the colonization of the region, these instruments got joined by more classical Western instruments such as the violin or the accordion that have been accompanying classical modern Arab singers such as Oum Kalthoum, Abdelhalim Hafiz or Fairuz. However, with the introduction of modern music, the Arab musical landscape quickly shifted to low-quality pop and easy listening singers. Following the introduction of the satellite in the mid-1990s and the entrance of MTV in the Arabic audiovisual landscape that was dominated by the state television (I still remember my summer time in Syria in which one single channel was available opened from 3PM until 12PM, mixing propaganda videos and bootlegged US censored movies), it brought a whole generation to the Western music scene, in particular it introduced a lot of people there to the metal scene with shows such as “Headbangers Balls”.
The metal scene in the Middle East is strong, underground for sure (it still suffers from the Satanic stigma), but alive and kicking. Yet a lot of these bands have done a lot to cut off their roots and sounds like Western metal. Because I like classical music, there was this album called “Mozart the Egyptian” that was nicely blending the classical Arabic music with the classics from Mozart.
Yet very few groups tried to blend this sounds into the metal, as far as I have heard. There are some bands that evoked the history and the situation in the region such as “Orphaned Land”, “Melechesh”; other even went more brutal and directly clashed with it such as “Al Namrood” but never had this feeling of hearing the metal mixed with classical Arabic instruments. Marc Jansen from Epica had some inspiration in his initial project named Sahara Sand and later had it more explored in the Epica album named “Requiem for the Indifferent” that has this serenade in which he nicely mixes the two musical style. The French-Algerian band Arkan also had it in their early albums before going more streamlined.
But nothing really like Nawather did with their album. Oh man, it was such a pleasure to hear the flaming sound of the Kanun hit with the bass and the growls. Overall the album is good and it is great that the band sings in both in Arabic (Tunisian dialect) and in English, it is a very refreshing sound.
For a first album, it is fairly good. Nothing that transanced me but it was a good one by escaping the metal tunes I have rotating on my iPhone. I have been listening to it for few days now and still no getting bored yet from it. The album in general is very homogenous, Ryma has a very nice voice that reminds me of the pre-war days in Syria before the apocalypse that came in and destroyed my childhood.
Give it a try and if you like it support them, their album is on iTunes.