El Khat at the Raccoon Motel -- November 7.

Tuesday, November 7, 7 p.m.

Raccoon Motel, 315 East Second Street, Davenport IA

Lauded by PopMatters as "a project of equal parts technical skill and intangible humanity," the multi-cultural multi-instrumentalists of El Khat headline a November 7 concert event at Davenport's Raccoon Motel, the four-piece from Israel's Tel Aviv boasting talents from different geographic backgrounds: Iraq, Poland, Morocco, and Yemen.

A homemade "junkyard" band led by multi-instrumentalist Eyal El Wahab, El Khat was named for the leaves so widely chewed across the Arab Peninsula like tobacco, and the band delivers original compositions inspired by the music of the golden age in Aden, Yemen. El Wahab plays many instruments, among them the dli and the Kearat, that he constructed himself, employing his skills to make music from the items people discard. With Eyal El Wahab a child of the Yemeni diaspora who grew up in Tel Aviv Jaffa. it’s a practice that harks back to the family homeland, where even rubbish can have become an instrument.

As El Wahab has stated, he talked his way into the Jerusalem Andalusian Orchestra as a cellist, self-taught from busking and unable to read music, learning the repertoire by ear as he went along, and picking up music theory. It gave him a strong musical foundation, but his world changed when he was given Qat, Coffee & Qambus: Raw 45s from Yemen, an LP of Yemeni traditional music from the 1960s. It came as an epiphany. He quit the orchestra, began building instruments, and put together El Khat Albat Alawi Op.99, an album released in March of 2022 via Glitterbeat Records. The work celebrates an homage to Faisal Alawi, a popular Yemeni singer who died in 2010, along with an alba, a small tin box that can contain many treasures, while the Op.99 is intended to give the compositions "the same respect as Western classical music.”

Saadia Jefferson, El Khat’s debut album released on Batov Records, brings a funky, psychedelic reimagination to the traditional Yemeni songs that electrified the band leader when he first heard them. As an album almost entirely filled with his own compositions, the artist sees it as something close and personal that constantly looks back to his family’s homeland in Yemen. In 2022, El Wahab, along with the Association For Society and Culture – Yemenite Tradition, established an orchestra focusing on the old sound from the '60-'70s in South Yemen and preserving its traditions. Those new arrangements for the Classical Yemeni repertoire are performed and sung by the entire members of the orchestra and with guests such as Riff Cohen, Zion Golan and others.

El Khat performs their Davenport engagement on November 7, admission to the 7 p.m. concert event is $12, and tickets are available by visiting TheRaccoonMotel.com.

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