Genre: Arabic, Psychedelic Folk, Electronic, Free Improvisation
RIYL: Sun City Girls, Tortoise, Nadah El Shazly, Amirtha Kidambi, Don Cherry, Jaubi, Pharoah Sanders, Sunil Ganguly
Maurice Louca shares “Higamah (Hirudinea),” the second single from his forthcoming full-length album, Saet El-Hazz (The Luck Hour), out September 24, 2021, via Sub Rosa and Northern Spy. At once cacophonous and cathartic, this psychedelic outro swirls across imaginary landscapes with a rich and melodic spirituality—it’s a good example of why Louca has been called the heart of Egypt’s thriving alternative music scene.
Saet el Hazz is a coded saying in Egypt to refer to a good time and usually implies a great deal of debauchery. “When you mention to someone that you’ve had a saet hazz, there are no questions asked. It is what it is.”
The initial spark for Saet El-Hazz was Louca’s desire to collaborate with “A” Trio, the Lebanese improvisational group featuring Mazen Kerbaj on prepared trumpet, Sharif Sehnaoui on prepared guitar, and Raed Yassin on prepared double bass. “When the three of them come together they create a sonic cosmos entirely their own. I started by composing music that I wanted to have existed within this sonic world—at times in harmony, or clashing with it, and all the emotional ranges in between.”
Just as “A” Trio served as the spark, a commission from Mophradat, an arts organization based out of Brussels, was the tinder. The commission was for a new composition to be performed using instruments that Louca would modify to play microtonally. This led him to Turkey and Indonesia. In Istanbul, he worked with a Lutheran to custom-make a guitar. In Surakarta, he ended up with an instrument maker tuning a Serang—referred to as the Indonesian xylophone, part of the family of Gamelan tuned percussion instruments.
While the intention had been to render these instruments to play in the Arabic tradition of maqam, what Louca found was that the modifications opened up the composition to new tonal possibilities that were not necessarily rooted in any specific cultural tradition. He then expanded his lineup to include Khaled Yassine, a longtime collaborator and versatile percussionist and drummer, Christine Kazaryan, a dynamic harpist whom he met via Praed Orchestra, and Anthea Caddy, a cellist who came highly recommended from the Berlin free improv scene.
“Maurice Louca is a composer and musician who goes beyond Arabic jazz to create his own singular cross-wiring of evocative experimental music.” –Bandcamp Daily
“There is something about linking luck to decadence that resonates with me, and even if I can’t fully articulate it in words, the drive behind the music of this album and how it came to be, and the energy between us at the studio rehearsing and recording it, was in a lot of ways for me a saet hazz.”
Saet El Hazz is a long-form composition of six movements, recorded over the course of a week in August 2019 at A/B studios in Brussels. Preorder for Saet El-Hazz (The Luck Hour) is now available here.
Composed, arranged, and produced by Maurice Louca
Mazen Kerbaj – Trumpet/Electronics
Sharif Sehnaoui – Guitar
Raed Yassin – Double Bass
Anthea Caddy – Cello
Christine Kazaryan – Harp
Maurice Louca – Guitar
Featuring guest appearances by
Ayman Asfour – Violin on “Bidayat (Holocene)”
Devin Brahja – Alto Sax on “El-Gullashah (Foul Tongue)”
Album art by Maha Maamoun and Mohamed Gaber
“a dazzling, trance-like triumph.” –MOJO Magazine
“remarkable Egyptian indie collaboration is a triumph” –The Guardian (Five Star Review)
Listen to the single “HIGAMAH (HIRUDINEA)” by Maurice Louca