fri 16/04/2021

CD: TootArd - Laisser Passer | reviews, news & interviews

CD: TootArd - Laisser Passer

CD: TootArd - Laisser Passer

Golan Heights blues-funkers bring a hefty Arabic-flavoured jam

Triangulating on loss

It’s impossible to discuss TootArd without digging into the history of their region. They’re a funky desert blues outfit but they don’t derive from Saharan Africa; they were born and raised in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights. This is the region Israel grabbed off Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967, then fully annexed in 1981, claiming it as Israeli territory. However, Arabic Syrians who remained were rendered stateless, given “Laisser-Passer” travel papers by the Israeli government rather than the passports of a full citizen. Hence the album’s title.

The band, currently consisting of Nakhleh brothers Hasan and Rami (vocals/guitar/bass/percussion) and saxophonist Amr Mdah, are now based in Europe. They originally came together as a reggae covers outfit and there’s certainly a rolling dub feel to some of their music, but their first album to receive international release has more in common with the likes of Tinariwen and Tamikrest, as is made clear from the festival-rockin’ explosive opening title track, protesting their statelessness in song.

These musicians are also marinated in Arabic classical and western pop, which adds up to an approachable sound. They’re kind of a jam-band but with the discipline to keep things tight, percussion bubbling to the surface on cuts such as “Sahra” and the droning, propulsive “Bayati Blues”. Wind instrumentation swoops in and out, giving a rich sense of Middle Eastern jazziness. TootArd are equally capable of mellow numbers, stoned-out widescreen affairs that do, indeed, summon up the desert, as on the melancholic closing instrumental “Syrian Blues” or “A’sfur”, which bears a passing resemblance to Hans Zimmer’s iconic music for the film Thelma and Louise.

Because it’s not sung in English the politics of Laisser-Passer are implicit rather than battering at the average listener. However, TootArd’s way with a groove is compulsive and liable to drag listeners bobbing and dancing unforced into their musical world.

Overleaf: Listen to the title track of TootArd's "Laisser Passer"

It’s impossible to discuss TootArd without digging into the history of their region. They’re a funky desert blues outfit but they don’t derive from Saharan Africa; they were born and raised in the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights. This is the region Israel grabbed off Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967, then fully annexed in 1981, claiming it as Israeli territory. However, Arabic Syrians who remained were rendered stateless, given “Laisser-Passer” travel papers by the Israeli government rather than the passports of a full citizen. Hence the album’s title.

The band, currently consisting of Nakhleh brothers Hasan and Rami (vocals/guitar/bass/percussion) and saxophonist Amr Mdah, are now based in Europe. They originally came together as a reggae covers outfit and there’s certainly a rolling dub feel to some of their music, but their first album to receive international release has more in common with the likes of Tinariwen and Tamikrest, as is made clear from the festival-rockin’ explosive opening title track, protesting their statelessness in song.

These musicians are also marinated in Arabic classical and western pop, which adds up to an approachable sound. They’re kind of a jam-band but with the discipline to keep things tight, percussion bubbling to the surface on cuts such as “Sahra” and the droning, propulsive “Bayati Blues”. Wind instrumentation swoops in and out, giving a rich sense of Middle Eastern jazziness. TootArd are equally capable of mellow numbers, stoned-out widescreen affairs that do, indeed, summon up the desert, as on the melancholic closing instrumental “Syrian Blues” or “A’sfur”, which bears a passing resemblance to Hans Zimmer’s iconic music for the film Thelma and Louise.

Because it’s not sung in English the politics of Laisser-Passer are implicit rather than battering at the average listener. However, TootArd’s way with a groove is compulsive and liable to drag listeners bobbing and dancing unforced into their musical world.

Overleaf: Listen to the title track of TootArd's "Laisser Passer"

Because it’s not sung in English the politics are implicit rather than battering at the average listener

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters