Music beyond genre is an ideal trumpeted by many but few bring it to fruition as convincingly, and as creatively, as Darwish. His superb debut Reclamation is defined by the kind of craftsmanship, attention to detail and narrative richness that bespeaks a thorough engagement with anything from jazz and soul to electronica, pop and rock. Yet crucially Darwish’s strength of character shines through on enviably mature songs that broach universal, timeless themes of love, longing, loss, alienation, self-doubt and self-affirmation without succumbing to any of the clichés that attend them. When Darwish sings that anxiety is ‘just a vessel made of flesh and bone’ on All In My Head he reveals the lyrical depth and measured tone of an individual with something worthwhile to say about the challenging nature of modern life, where paranoia can stalk any individual with a degree of sensitivity.
Although he confidently sings lead and backing vocal, Darwish is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist who holds his own on piano, keyboards, drums and guitar. It is actually on double bass and bass guitar that he has reached a sufficiently high standard to land gigs with artists who stand at the cutting edge of contemporary British jazz, such as Moses Boyd, as well as those who have nothing less than legend status in the world of popular music, namely Sting with whom Darwish has performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Other singers who have called on his services include Imelda May, Anderson Paak and Zara McFarlane.
Darwish’s own personal journey through music has involved enormous determination and drive, as he had to overcome a childhood of considerable economic disadvantage. Raised in Hackney, east London in the ‘80s and ‘90s by a single mother, he positively relished the opportunities given to him that were denied his forebears.
“When someone came around the classes at Primary school asking who wanted to learn violin my hand shot up…I just thought ‘I’ve got an opportunity to play the violin, so I will’. I used to get up and practice every morning before school. Hackney was incredibly rough, it was also absolutely magical, there was an energy and vibe like nowhere else, a sense of real community. I started playing thanks to Hackney music services and spent every spare moment with an instrument in my hands.”
That dedication was matched by an immersion in the music of singers, songwriters and virtuoso artists who also managed to transcend categories. In addition to his development as an improviser Darwish embraced the work of Peter Gabriel, Jeff Buckley, and Prince, and set about fine-tuning his own storytelling through the art of song. Reclamation is very much the culmination of the long years that Darwish has spent honing his craft, as songs with the creative and emotional depth of The Antidote, Over Now and Nothing Matters duly attest. The sound world he has created for his lyrics has uncommon harmonic progressions, interludes and improvisations that catch the ear as much as the subtle shades of Darwish’s voice. Although the album is set to pull him out from the shadows of session work and launch him as an artist in his own right, Darwish is already looking ahead to the next stage of his growth. “I will look to release another EP of the newer sound I’m working on. I have started to work with many more different sounds and approaches.”
released February 23, 2018
ALL SONGS & LYRICS JIHAD DARWISH
SAXOPHONE ARRANGEMENTS BEN SOMERS
MIX ENGINEER DAVE MOORE
MASTERED BY TIM DEBNEY AT FLUID MASTERING
ARTWORK AND DESIGN KELLY WARMAN
DESIGN LAYOUT BY THE CREATIVE BALANCE
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER ALYA AL-SULTANI
JIHAD DARWISH • VOCALS, GUITAR, ELECTRIC
& DOUBLE BASS, PIANO, RHODES, SYNTHS, PERCUSSION HAMISH BALFOUR • PIANO, RHODES
BEN SOMERS • SAXOPHONE
ROB UPDEGRAFF • GUITAR
YAZZ AHMED • FLUGEL HORN
WES GIBBENS • DRUMS, PERCUSSION