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MAURICE LOUCA

«Saet El-Hazz (The Luck Hour)»
SUB ROSA / NORTHERN SPY, NS134

«Saet El-Hazz» (The Luck Hour in Arabic) is a coded saying in Egypt, referring to a good time and usually implies a great deal of debauchery. Egyptian underground guitarist Maurice Louca, known from the Karkhana and The Dwarfs of East Agouza, must have had his own «Saet El-Hazz» when he composed and recorded the music to this album and weaved beautifully seductive Arabic music and psychedelic folk with uncompromising free-improv and feral grooves.

The initial spark for «Saet El-Hazz» was Louca’s desire to collaborate with «A» Trio – the Lebanese experimental, free-improv trio featuring Mazen Kerbaj on prepared trumpet, Sharif Sehnaoui on prepared guitar (both collaborate with Locuca in Karkhana), and Raed Yassin on prepared double bass. Louca wanted to incorporate «A» Trio’s bold sonic vision in his own songs. Louca invited long-time collaborator, percussionist Khaled Yassine and harpist Christine Kazaryan (both play in Yassin’s Praed Orchestra!) and the Australian, Berlin-based cellist Anthea Caddy.

Another incentive to create «Saet El-Hazz» was a commission by the Mophradat Art Organization to compose and perform new pieces of music using instruments modified to play microtonality in the Arabic maqam modes. He found in Istanbul a luthier that devised a custom-made guitar with quarter-tones that allowed him to play maqams, and even ended up in Indonesia with a Gamelan instrument maker, who re-tuned for him a local xylophone, serang, so he could tune it o a full chromatic scale plus certain quarter tones.

«Saet El-Hazz» is a six movements composition, recorded in August 2019 at A/B studios in Brussels. It resonates with the conflicting feelings of luck and decadence Louca experienced during the recording sessions. It swings back and forth between segments that draw inspiration from the radical, sound-oriented vision of the «A» Trio, relying on bold extended techniques and urgent sonic experiments like «Yara’ (Fire Flies)» and a more psychedelic interpretation  of Arabic music, that are more related to Karkhana’s aesthetics, often in the same piece, as on the opening «El-Fazza’ah (The Slip and Slide)», the title piece and «El-Gullashah (Foul Tongue)». These layered pieces correspond with emotional pieces like «Bidayat (Holocene)» and «Higamah (Hirudinea)» that highlight Louca’s imaginative proficiency in his custom-made new instruments and offer liberal, sensual and groove-based adaptations of Arabic music. These six pieces sketch Louca’s arresting, restless and provocative sonic vision of the great Arabic music.

Eyal Hareuveni 

Mazen Kerbaj (tp, elec), Sharif Sehnaoui (g), Raed Yassin (b), Anthea Caddy (c), Christine Kazaryan (harp), Maurice Louca (g), Ayman Asfour (vio), Devin Brahja (as)

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