Driss El Maloumi’s previous solo album L’Ame Dansée showed him to be one of the most promising oud (lute) players of his generation; Makan establishes him as one of the instrument’s finest performers. Right from the opening bars it is clear that you are listening to a real master, someone who combines a staggeringly secure technique with playful inventiveness. Although the compositions range widely in style and mood – from the traditional Maghrebi-influenced song ‘Ayour’ to the wild improvisations of ‘Safar’ – there is a twinkle-eyed joviality that colours everything.
The spotlight is undoubtedly on El Maloumi throughout, but it is the inspired percussion playing of his brother Said and Lahoucine Baquir that provides the solid foundation for the oud’s flights of virtuosity. Oud players are wary of new-fangled devices like multi-tracking, preferring the live essence of a single take. El Maloumi uses these effects judiciously, most notably on the tribute to his wife and daughter ‘Douceur Pour 2 ‘R’’. Since the death of Munir Bashir, the post of world’s greatest oud player has been sitting vacant: could Driss El Maloumi be on the list of contenders?