#KoraliReview: Genbendhen by Affan
It’s a wet, biting day where I am, and boy am I desperate for some good tunes. Amid the lengthy scroll through Lavafoshi, a familiar face catches my eye. Neck abridged, half submerged, head full of dark and curly locks, the man in the image is floating, no, drowning – drowning in the salt of the crystalline sea. Surrounded by naught but pinks of coral and letters of thaana as delicate as he, the man seems to be at peace.
This is my first look at Genbendhen, a debut album by Affan, one that will eventually grow to be the warming soundtrack to my sun-less Sunday afternoon. Genbendhen, which translates to ‘Until I Drown’, was publicly unveiled by the artist only some months ago, even though the writing, arrangement, composition and recording that went into the album precedes its release by two or so years.
I start, as most people do, with the first track Hatharu An’golhi. A gentle cascade from jazzy sax into smooth velvet, Affan’s voice is unmistakable; along with the routine plucks of his acoustic guitar, he sets a clear tone for what’s in store. Towards the end of the track, he and the instruments meld together in erratic, free-flowing fashion, a style Affan is known (and very well praised) for.
Next on the list, Kamaku Dhaakah Nei, which has an interesting raivaru sort of intro, followed by a quick and intimate swerve towards bluesy, latin rock. A few verses and one guitar solo later, the song ends with a brief but lovely encounter with Jeymu Dhonkamana’s Dhin Mi Hithey. The rock undertones present in this song are very much reflected in tracks like Fahulava and Naseyhatheh, which appear later on in the album.
I’m a sucker for strings. There’s no denying this when I hear them come on halfway through the title track, Genbendhen. Bittersweet and slow-going, the faint background vocals give off the impression that one might indeed be underwater. The following track, Udhuhilaa is somewhat similar in mood and pace, except that it’s sliced and stuffed with a lively jazz number.
It takes me about half a second to figure out what the next song is. As overplayed as it is now, Chaka manages to retain the same charm and charisma it had when I first heard it years ago. Affan’s voice seems to bop and bounce about the instruments carelessly, swinging and swaying like a pendulum back and forth, jiggling, jiving to the rhythmic drum beats, slowing down, now speeding up, then hitting the breaks. It is infectious in its groove and I can’t help but sing along.
Post its trek through the jungle of reggae, the album concludes with a cheesy piano medley dubbed Huvafen.
All in all, Genbendhen is a very balanced and sturdy album. It is cross-woven from the fabric of all sorts of genres, its common thread very obviously being the mohair of jazz and blues. The effort put in by Affan and his affiliates is beyond question; Genbendhen will leave its mark, for it is as thoughtful as it is beautiful.
Photos taken from Affan Music.