Following their catalytic introducing slot at Africa Oyé recently, Anwar Ali and Dave Owen have released a debut EP dripping with melancholy and mystery. But it’s got something else, too. It’s prescient. Especially in the story of how they met and the music they make. By Alan O’Hare.

It’s magic when new music drops through your letterbox.

Streaming and downloading may well be the way we consume music now, but nothing beats holding an object, sniffing its sleeve and the anticipation that courses through your veins as you slip it on the player. It’s tangible, you see. It’s got wealth in itself and demands your attention. It needs opening, closing, holding, keeping and caring for. Often, just like the music (the important bit) itself.

Anwar Ali and Dave Owen, the duo who got together after a chance meeting in The Zanzibar Club, have made some new music that demands your attention and care. A unique blend of Swahili and East African musical heritage, underpinned by British folk sensibilities, ‘Mchanga Mweupe’ is a debut EP full of life.

It’s filled with the grace of Anwar’s oud, too. The moods and melodies the Bajuni Islander coaxes from his pear-shaped pride and joy are pure percolation. Intertwining as they do with Lancastrian Owen’s sublime shuffles, tunes like ‘Maliaka’, ‘Georgina’ and ‘Sikuhizi’ come and go with an easy-listening fervour, but with something big happening just under the surface. Sure, now and again, a crooked note or a left-turn of a chord will break the surface, but for the most part, this is music to watch the world go by with, with your earphones in. Which is funny, really, as the songs have plenty to say about the world going by as well.

Anwar moved to the UK as a refugee, swapping the coast of East Africa for Liverpool Bay, but he brought his home with him in the sounds and emotional geography of the oud and the haunting tunes that remain present and correct across the five track ‘Mchanga Mweupe’. “These are happy songs, sad songs and nice melodies from all over East Africa,” says Anwar. “I’d never played along with a guitar before playing in the UK, but Dave uses a different style and I liked it straight away.”

You can tell. Anwar Ali and Dave Owen have made a beautiful start to their recording life. Let it in to yours today.

‘Mchanga Mweupe’ is out now on Mellowtone Records

Anwar Ali & Dave Owen
Liverpool Arab Arts Festival
Saturday July 8th 2017
Tiber Square, Lodge Lane, Liverpool

Image courtesy One Fell Swoop