Nawal Aman

Nawal Aman

Throughout the world, the music of tiny islands has always been relentlessly fusion-oriented, dependent on the more powerful cultures in the area. Nevertheless, it is the odd and unique local aspects that bring everything into focus. Such is the case with the heady blend of acoustic fusion cooked up in the Comoros Islands by Nawal. The Comoros are an archipelago between Madagascar and Mozambique that have absorbed Islamic (particularly Iranian), Indian, Malagasy, French and East African influences over the centuries, all of which come out in Nawal’s acoustic fusion. She sings with great majesty, with a Joan Baez-like countenance over the sound. Instrumentally, the songs feature heavy, lurching rhythms — perhaps betraying her early exposure to prog rock. Nawal plays the gambusi, which is a cross between an oud and a banjo, as well as the Iranian daf frame drum, which underpins her compositions with cyclical riffs that increase in intensity as the songs progress. Lyrically, social justice is a primary theme, carried off by similarly intense, repetitive phrases and Sufi chants. The overall effect is powerful 80 percent of the time and a few minutes too long elsewhere, but Aman is well worth hearing. (Independent)