Alejandro Franov







Khali is the debut album by Alejandro Franov, a folk musician from Argentina. I'm not even sure whether this ordinary terminus is justified in terms of Franov's music, for he branches out into musical terrain that is uncommon even by Folk, World or Country standards. Franov uses diverse instruments such as rainsticks, sitars, kalimbas and accordions, and builds a distinct Middle Eastern aura that is loosened with the help of much more common instruments, namely keyboards and guitars. 11 out of 13 tracks are written by Franov and are thus original pieces, whereas track 3, Shumba, and track 13, Karigamombe, are interpretations of traditional Zimbabwean folk pieces.


It is Khali's vast variety of different moods and instruments that makes me confident in my decision to present it here. It isn't a simple Folk or World record with a repetitive formula (like most Exotica album I've reviewed here!), but roams several styles and moods in a broad-minded fashion. Most instruments shine all the more when they are played isolatedly, either in entire solo pieces or short limelight sections. Franov's album transports a feeling of earnest modesty, there is no drama or effect fireworks to be found on there, and that's exactly what gives Khali its seal of authenticity, a seal amiss in most Exotica releases.


The first offering called Micerino Alap consists of nothing but a sitar played solo. Depending on the broadness and focus of one's collection as well as the listening habits, this is a very good, clear sounding theme that is readopted in the following companion piece, Micerino Tema, that adds fragile vocals by Lea Franov and other instruments such as a guitar and cautiously used keyboards, and thus opens a window to a moment of carefree ease. The aforementioned Zimbabwean folk piece Shumba consists solely of exotic strings played carefully on a folk harp, while Gandanga presents the beautifully liquid and bright sounds of a kalimba and humming chants by Alejandro Franov. The title-giving Khali is a similar kalimba piece which imitates a music box. Sumatra is an astonishing entity, again keen about using the kalimba, but with an added Indonesian flute that sounds beautiful in the given context. I'm no expert regarding Folk music, but this is simply a gorgeous six-and-a-half minute work of bliss.


Luxor features the folk harp first used in Shumba and adds a glockenspiel and barely audible synth strings in the background. This piece evokes a lazy summer afternoon and is otherwise a joyful piece of contentment, thematizing the shimmering heat of the Egyptian city. I am fond of this piece and listen to it quite often. It is also a piece that is easy on the ears and a great introduction to Franov's world. Isis brings back the sitar to the forefront and is yet another beautiful piece. Especially noteworthy are the slight marimba droplets as a backing noise, so that the sitar isn't as isolated as it is in Micerino Alap.


The 8-minute centerpiece is Sudan, which takes the listener once more to a burning hot location with the help of an accordion, a flute and the sitar. Even though this is the longest piece, it is also the most dynamic one with clear but gentle percussion and a definite arc of developing suspense. This is my favorite piece of the album, as it also inherits traditional song structures, whereas most other songs seem to be a bit heavy on arbitrariness or free improvisation. The final piece Karigamombe is another Zimbabwean folk piece and ends the album on a less mysterious, but an embracing attitude with a melodious and jovial interplay between kalimba, harp and glockenspiel.


Alejandro Franov's Khali is a beautiful album that is indeed rightly categorized in the respective Folk or World sections and which is only added in the Exotica section on this website because of its non-clichéd, powerful portrayals of Middle Eastern or African locales and traditional music. This is not an exciting or energy-driven album. Its beauty is constituted by the true-to-form, laidback approach and its meandering pieces without a definite end. Another attractive attribute lies in the serious approach of an almost entirely original treasury of songs. This is one of the rare cases of real music that omits the inclusion of anything fake or overly pathetic. If you aren't sure what to make of Khali's ambiance, pre-listen to Luxor and Sudan and base your decision on these two songs. The album is for fans of unadorned sitars and kalimbas with free-flowing improvisations and beautiful instrumentations.


Exotica Review 019: Alejandro Franov – Khali (2007). Originally published on Dec. 31, 2011 at