TRACK: Azmari – ‘Azalaï’: aboard the Brussels Afro/Persian jazz sextet’s caravan

Azmari, photographed by Arthur Ancion

AZMARI is a sextet formed in Brussels in 2015 with a deep take on the North African groove. The name? Well, an azmari is literally “one who praises” in Amharic; an Ethiopian singer-musician, comparable to the European bard.

Reportedly inspired by such leading lights as Mulatu Astatke, Cymande, Fela Kuti and The Heliocentrics, the band performed at a series of shows across Europe and thus developed and progressed in the public eye; a debut six-track EP followed last year for Sdban Ultra, containing complex and flavoursome Afrojazz gems such as “Kaïsita”.

The band also spent ten days performing in Istanbul, which opened their ears to to Turkish sounds from the 1960s, which they were more than keen to bring back to the studio, running in tandem with a deep application to Turkish and Ethiopian scales and learning new instruments along the way including the berimbau, the ney and the bağlama.

That first album proper is now ready and will be out on Sdban Ultra on January 22nd, in advance notice of which today they’ve dropped a single: the brooding, atmospheric Azalaï’,

The title of the song refers to the Tuareg trade caravan which crossed the Sahara to transport salt between Taoudenni and Timbuktu twice a year; a journey of nearly 1,000 kilometres.

The song is built from the perfumes of two intertwining instruments: In this epic journey, the band introduces the saz Bağlama, a long-necked Persian lute; and the kaval, an end-blown flute, two instruments the band brought back from Istanbul and into their world; a seductive and rhythmic world they wish to guide you into.

Follow Azmari on Facebook and Instagram.

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