El Khat’s DIY debut album ‘Saadia Jeffereson’ is out tomorrow on Batov Records – musicians from four countries fuse Yemeni tradition

El Khat are a four piece formed in Tel Aviv and hail from Iraq, Poland, Morocco and Yemen. Named after the leaf chewed throughout Yemen, the band produce a musical hybrid of Yemeni traditions and are led by inventor, carpenter, musician and composer Eyal El Wahab.

On debut album Saadia Jeffereson, El Khat delve into uncharted sonic territory using an orchestra of instruments old and new – many repurposed from junk objects and turned into versions of Arabic and North African lutes and percussion.

Instruments include the self-named ‘Kearat’, ‘Seer’ or ‘Tomato’ – percussion and stringed instruments have been made from petrol canisters, olive oil containers, tomato cans, steel bowls, bicycle wheels, a BBQ box and a foot pump. These instruments combine with guitars, trumpets, darbuckas, electronic sequencers and Eyal’s distinctive voice, alongside guest singer Julie Francis Fox. Key influences can be heard throughout, such as Omar Souleyman and dabkefolk, as well as Western pop greats.

Bandleader Eyal’s musicianship has enabled him to explore his identity, having been a lead cellist in The Jerusalem Andalusian Orchestra between 2012 and 2017 and learning ancient, classical music of North Africa and Europe. But while living in Israel he sought to explore his heritage more deeply, and in 2017 he also stopped playing with his flamenco inspired band, El Gran Mar. Around this time, the compilation Qat, Coffee & Qambus: Raw 45s from Yemen exposed him fully to Yemeni traditional music and he began learning Arabic. This album was crafted on his DIY instruments and this resultant debut album is about finding his own identity and crafting a new path.

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