German based group Masaa is set to release their fourth album titled “Beit” on April 28th on Traumton Records. For a number of years now the group has been compelling audiences in both the East (from Tunisia to Azerbaijan and Turkey) and the West (from Spain to Germany and Great Britain).
On there last album “Irade” that was awarded the 2021 German Jazz Prize in the category Vocal Album of the Year saw the group expand it’s line-up with the addition of their new member Reentko Dirks, whose guitar mastery added spectacular new facets to the group’s sound. On this new album, the band further expands it’s musical, their unique sonic language and the creative will of everyone involved.
Just the title track alone seems like a breathtaking roller coaster ride through emotions and subtle musical changes. Initially calm, almost contemplative, with delicate strings, sensitive vocals the song changes radically halfway through moving to an odd-meter groove. Rabih Lahoud raps cascades of syllables and words, sometimes in direct dialogue with Rust. Also in “Nabat” Lahoud reveals his chanting skills, alternating between accentuated spoken poetry and melodic passages. Songs with tempo and drive, including “Racines” and “Resistance” sung in French, as well as the sprightly optimistic “Flowers”, create contrasts to slower pieces like “Mantra” and “Sukuni”, whose intensity results from reduction. In between, there are pieces like “Return” with a strikingly dynamic development.
Rabih Lahoud’s captivating vocal range spanning over several octaves, consistently forms the quartet’s gravitational center. While Lahoud writes all the lyrics, the compositions are mainly by Rust and Dirks. “But they are more like sketches rather than full scores,” says Lahoud, explaining the collective working process, “everyone contributes ideas, and as a result the music never stays the way it was originally notated.” To develop the new repertoire together, the quartet retreated to an old house in the region Bergisches Land in May 2021. “It’s located far away from all urban distractions, so we couldn’t do anything else there but our music,” Rabih Lahoud laughs.
Many pieces are based on personal experiences. The togetherness and mutual understanding from which creativity emerges is a central idea of Beit (in English: house, home). “Home is not a particular place or space. It is something that arises primarily on an interpersonal level and is projected onto places and spaces. It fascinates me that through intensive dialogues we can build a kind of house, create a home,” says Lahoud, “we need a place for this, where people can be and communicate with each other as equals. And when the music sounds, the new unknown space turns into a familiar environment, a home is created, and through the familiarity and security that comes with it, the possibility to freely express the inner arises.”
This time Rabih Lahoud’s poetry is limited to Arabic, Lebanese, and French. His associative, metaphorical texts are intentionally ambiguous and always have deeper meaning. “When I say something very explicitly, it closes doors. So I always ask myself in what way I can push for change when I don’t like something.” That does not only apply on a verbal level, he says, but also on a larger scale, when an inner force is necessary for taking action. Lahoud is familiar with change; after all, he lived in Lebanon for about fifteen years before his family emigrated to Germany. The idea of a certain society still drives him today, Lahoud notes: “When I thought of ‘Zeryab’, I thought of medieval Andalusia and the way different cultures lived together at that time.”
In direct comparison with the previous album Irade, the playful interaction especially of Lahoud’s vocals and Dirks’ oud-like arabesques is now much stronger. “Reentko actually inspires my intonation,” Lahoud asserts contentedly. The special aesthetic of oriental music shines through again and again, although it is not ostentatiously put in the spotlight. Some pieces, such as “Zeryab” with the Nahawand mode woven in, are based on odd and complex meters, while “Abun Rahal” is based on a classical Maqam Saba that works with minimal intervals and conveys pain.
“Our third record was a call for change. Beit now arrives at a point where it’s better,” Rabih Lahoud summarizes. Indeed, the new songs do not only seem more philosophical and more profound, but also brighter. If you want, you can consider Masaa in the same league as crossover artists like Dhafer Youssef and Rabih Abou-Khalil. Beit’s music is more finely detailed than ever, the interaction even more nuanced. Like a close-up shot that makes many things clearer.
To support the release
3 June 23 – Jazzclub Tonne, Dresden
4 June 23 – Jazztage, Görlitz
20 June 23 – Musikfest, Stuttgart
22 June 23 – München, Unterfahrt
27 June 23 – ION / Kartäuserkirche, Nürnberg
28 June 23 – Bürgerhaus, Pullach
6 July 23 – Ulmer Zelt, Ulm
7 July 23 – Internationales Jazzfestival, Kraichtal
14 July 23 – Landesgartenschau, Bad Gandersheim
24 November 23 – ODEON im alten E-Werk, Göppingen
“Beit” will be release on Traumton Records on the 28th of April and will be available on CD and all streaming platforms.
Rabih Lahoud: vocals Marcus Rust: flugelhorn Reentko Dirks: doubleneck guitar Demian Kappenstein: drums, percussion
1. Nabad | 2. Beit | 3. Mantra | 4. Racines | 5. Zeryab | 6. Secret of the Wings | 7. Flowers | 8. Return | 9. Sukuni | 10. La Resistance | 11. Abun Rahal | 12. Lotus | 13. Tout ce qui nous reste | 14. Freedom Dance
Release Date: 28 April 2023
Format: CD | Streaming | Download
Lable: Traumton Records
Last modified: April 24, 2023