Experimental Lebanese guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui visits Chicago for the first time in a decade | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Experimental Lebanese guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui visits Chicago for the first time in a decade 

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click to enlarge Sharif Sehnaoui

Sharif Sehnaoui

Susanna Bolle

Lebanese guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui is a soft-spoken man who’s spent most of his adult life making fiercely experimental music under difficult conditions. He emerged as part of the group of Beirut improvisers who since 2000 have organized the annual Irtijal Festival, and he’s a cofounder of Al Maslakh, a Lebanese label that functions as a kind of analogue to the festival. Sehnaoui’s own music is as quiet as his demeanor, but it’s plenty adventurous. He frequently uses the guitar as an abstract sound generator, rubbing, scraping, and beating its strings with bows, wooden dowels, or other objects. Meet the Dragon (Uznam), a recent duo album with Polish percussionist Adam Golebiewski, is a veritable feast of friction, comprising a single 46-minute piece digging deep into strident, microscopic resonance. On Seif & Sound (Cassette Bleues), made to accompany a dance performance, Sehnaoui treats his guitar like a drum, creating a shifting array of rapid-fire patterns. In recent years, he’s explored a different side of his playing in powerful art-rock band Karkhana, which now includes Chicago’s Michael Zerang on drums. The group’s seething new album, For Seun Matta (Holidays), gallops across pan-Arabic and Turkish melodies with wonderfully unkempt guitar and wild overblown horns. For the second concert of his first visit to Chicago in a decade, Sehnaoui will play acoustic guitar solo as part of ESS’s Option series.   v


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