Fragments by Yoni Avi Battat

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In his first album, vocalist and talented multi-instrumentalist Yoni Avi Battat, returns to his cultural roots with a beautiful, carefully created album of pieces that immediately transport to the world of Arabic music with a Jewish influence. 

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Not an ordinary debut album, Fragments features lyrics in Arabic, Hebrew, English, and Yiddish, which carries on a long legacy of Iraq-Jewish musicians who populated the city that once was Bagdad and can still be found and enjoyed there, spite the beleaguered modern history of the region.

But as an American Jew how do you go about putting together the pieces of a music history which has in many ways, been handed down through history and family. Battat wanted to be able to trace these musical traditions and found himself on the most unexpected journey, one that has created Fragments; small segments of sound and poetry that captured the many aspects of daily life in the middle eastern regions.

It became important to find the beauty amongst the tragic fragments of time. To do this he began with Arabic poetry, family history, and much more before he began to put the pieces together, to not only tell the story of his ancestors but also to see his story was one that entwined with every fragment he discovered.

The music reflects this in the quirky piece What would you say? As Battat tries to follow his grandmother’s recipe, eventually being told to ‘Take it slow. Take it. Trust your hands’. Sage advice indeed.

Erica Elkselassy leads in the beautiful Will Her Love Remember before being joined by the deep vocals of Battat to make this a stand-out track. The music, which is wrapped around a traditional Hebrew poem from the 10th century, is thought to have been written by a woman. It is considered one of the few remaining pieces of poetry from this time in Hebrew history in history. Wistful and emotive the woman is sharing her deepest emotions through the simple lines of poetry as she grieves for her husband who has had to flee to Spain. Will she remember him?

El Eliyahu once again sees family contributing to the lyrics as Razi Battat, Yonis’s Great Uncle and last of the family to have been born in Iraq, joins with great gusto adding a deep resonance and vibrancy to the music.

The delicate From the Fragments commences in English and draws the album to a close with a beautiful reflection on life. A gentle, almost prayer-like poetry style tells about Battat studying hard to discover who he is, where he is going and his learning to accept the many colours and hues of his world.

The work is contemporary, reaching out to cross boundaries, to bring the amazing sections of a multicultural world into one beautiful picture built from Fragments of a time and a place that is in so many ways never to be seen again.

Website                       https://yoniavibattat.bandcamp.com/album/fragments
Distributor                   yoniavibattat.bandcamp.com
Released                      September 2022
Artists                           Yoni Avi Battat

Review By Janet Mawdesley October 13, 2022, 1:52 pm


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