The world of Tunisian producer Deena Abdelwahed ranks exactly halfway between rousing, groovy club music and brilliant electronic experimentalism with evident influences from the Arab tradition. Sometimes one of these aspects prevails, sometimes another, other times they mix together creating a unique hybrid (as in Khonnar, her 2018 debut LP). But in Dhakar, her latest EP, there’s no doubt that the club aspect takes over everything else.
Released by the French label InFiné, Abdelwahed’s ultimate release still retains the most characteristic features of her music. You can notice that not only in the musical references to her Tunisian roots but also in the content, starting from the title, Dhakar, an Arabic word for “male”. And in fact, the EP is sprinkled with male voices, whether they are sung, processed or even spoken samples that emerge in the background. As the four tracks follow each other, everything refers to a world other than the western one.
The opener “Lila Fi Tounes” recalls the popular jazz standard “A Night in Tunisia”, with a heavily processed crooner voice, by then moving towards more typical singsong melodies and obsessive rhythms in the end. “Ah’na Hakkeka” instead is a trace with cosmic atmospheres, where confused choruses appear and disappear leaving you disoriented.
Traditional rhythms merge with more industrial sounds in “Insaniyti”, a track whose listening brings you almost into a trance while In “Zardet Sidi Bagra” the syncopated percussions take complete control by wrapping around the listener.
In the 20 minutes of Dhakar you never get bored – and you certainly dance a lot. Deena Abdelwahed once again shows us that it’s possible to make fun, dance-oriented music without sacrificing experimentation and research.