Albat Alawi Op.99

29/03/2022Yemenite-Israeli Artist Eyal El Wahab Unveils El Khat's Stimulating, Retro-Futuristic New DIY Album On Glitterbeat

One man's trash is another man's treasure. As cliché as that may sound, there's no denying that it's a pretty good fit for Tel Aviv-Yafo-based artist Eyal el Wahab's DIY approach to making music, as impressively brought to fruition on his recently released second album on Glitterbeat Records. El Khat is the name of his stimulating retro-futurist project, named after the plant-based drug commonly chewed in North East Africa and the Arabian Penisula.

After being late to the call for El Khat's equally extraordinary 2019-released debut full-length "Saadia Jefferson" on Batov Records, there was no way we were going to miss the follow-up. "Albat Alawi Op.99" sees the outfit take a "deep dive into leader Eyal el Wahab's Yemenite roots and their inspired re-imaginings" performed by "a careening orchestra of percussion, horns, strings, electricity and el Wahab's [self-made] instruments."

The prior release of frenetic lead single "Djaja" was accompanied by an insightful video on his instrument making, shining a light on the unique artistic mindset, able craftsmanship and self-taught multi-instrumental approach behind the project. "A skilled carpenter, it's something he started doing several years ago, using his skills to make music from the items people discard." This, too, alludes to his Yemenite heritage: "People simply play on a tin can there,” he explains. “Here, people thrown things out, treasure or junk, and I transform it.”

Though El Khat is no doubt el Wahab's brainchild, from composition to arrangements and playing almost all the instruments to be heard on the album himself, the end result was nonetheless a group effort. The recording process leading up to this release, however, was hampered by Israel's strict lockdown. "It was almost impossible to get together to rehearse or make the album. In the end we recorded separately, doing everything in layers. At one point, though, I did manage to have a choir of seven people in the living room, singing into two microphones,” el Wahab remembers.

"Albat Alawi Op.99" is very much an expression of working with what is given to create anew, not letting anything go to waste. It is quite mind-blowing how rich and voluminous El Khat's body of sound is, despite the sparsity of a majority of its pieces, making for an intriguing roughness and a certain tinny quality, taking listeners back to buskers entertaining audiences in the streets and giving this mesmerising 'spiel' a wonderfully spontaneous and wilful character.

As for the album's title, "it’s partly an homage to Faisal Alawi, a popular Yemeni singer who died in 2010, along with an alba, a small tin box that can contain many treasures, while the Op.99 is intended to give the compositions  'the same respect as Western classical music'."

We invite you to explore and be enraptured by the wondrous compositions of El Khat as they reveal their unorthodox, infinitely inventive splendor. You can stream the full release below and also watch part 2 of their visual trilogy.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom