North African musicians are proving to be amongst world music's most exciting pioneers: Khaled's pop-rai synthesis has made the Algerian Elvis a superstar while London-based Moroccans, MoMo, blend gnawa music with storming dance beats. DuOud are the latest North African sensation to prove that tradition and technology can mix and match to create a sound full of possibilities.
DuOud consist of two oud-playing Parisians who combine their North African heritage with the latest in Western technology. Jean-Pierre Smadja - already noted for the two albums he issued as Smadj on MELT 2000 - is Tunisian by birth and trained as a jazz musician and sound engineer. Mehdi Haddab was born in Algiers. He spent time in Burundi, Central Africa, before settling in Paris. He was a third of the Parisian based trio Ekova, who specialised in the sort of global-meets- electronic-fusion that thrives in Paris.
'I'd been playing oud for a long time and had started to experiment with electronics,' says Mehdi. Smadj was creating electronic music for many years but he only recently started playing the oud. Once we sat down to make music together it turned out we complimented each other.'
'We began to compose our own material,' adds Smadj, 'so we needed rhythms to support our improvisations - that's when we decided to put electronic beats behind our rehearsals. With time we just got involved in compositions with electronics.'
The oud is one of the most beautiful instruments in the world, lending itself to Turkish, North African and Middle Eastern interpretation. Yet DuOud's debut album, Wild Serenade (Label Bleu) takes the oud into a different context. With the electronic programming expertise of Smadj and the virtuoso performances of Mehdi Haddab, the oud is immediately brought into the 21st Century. While DuOud are not the first musicians to mix the North African lute with electronic technology, they do it with an imaginative freedom that sets them apart from their contemporaries. DuOud never engage in the world fusion cliché of playing over a thudding house beat. Instead, they build a musical cycle that looks both to African roots while absorbing elements of contemporary French music - break beats, jazz grooves and metal guitar are all invited to join the party. Wild Serenade is an album of dialogues between two men and two cultures.
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