517

Rabih Abou-Khalil: Em Portugues

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Musical alchemist, oud virtuoso and springer of surprises, Rabih Abou-Khalil has never been shy about immersing himself into challenging musical environments. So the suggestion by Ricardo Pais, director of the Teatro Nacional Sao Joao, Porto to have Abou-Khalil write music to the words of five Portuguese poets represented an irresistible challenge. The project sees Abou-Khalil utilizing a singer for the first time—the impressive fadoist Ricardo Ribeiro. Em Portugues however, is not fado, but a marriage between its poetic, blues spirit and the imagination of Abou-Khalil. The music lies firmly in the bed of the rhythmic complexities and melodies stemming from his Arabic roots and wider musical vision. The result is both challenging and powerful.

It may seem like an odd project, but the oud is not such a distant cousin of the Portuguese guitar and there is an obvious symmetry between the poetry of fado and Arabic song; odes to love, yearning, loss and unrequited love are central to the great body of songs of both cultures, and these poems of the heart and soul must have resonated with Beruit-born Abou-Khalil on a deep level. It wouldn't be impossible to imagine Egyptian legend Om Kolthoum or Lebanese diva Fairouz singing here.

Vocalist Ricardo Ribeiro's powerful baritone voice and rich timbre invest gravitas and beauty on these poems, turning them into songs of vitality and emotional depth. "Como un rio," where his voice is operatically powerful as he in- tones: 'If the night can shelter me ah this sun, this sun, ah this sun is nothing..." then tender in turn, brings all the elements of this experiment together—beautiful lyrics animated by Ribeiro, subtly shifting dynamics, and exhilarating oud playing from Abou-Khalil. There are fewer exhibitions of oud virtuosity here than on the haunting Songs for Sad Women (Enja, 2007) but as always Abou- Khalil is a team player, surrendering himself to the needs of the music. For the most part his oud rides on the wings of Ribeiro's wonderful voice.

Although Ribeiro is arguably the star, this is most definitely a Rabih Abou- Khalil record; the feeling of familiarity which permeates the music of such an original project is down to the chemistry provided by long-standing sidemen Michel Godard on bass, serpent and tuba, Jarrod Cagwin on frame drums, and the tasteful employment of accordion by Luciano Biondini, who has recorded with Abou-Khalil before, on Morton's Foot (Enja, 2007). Broadly speaking, unison lines follow the contours of the songs, although Godard shines on a solo on "Casa de Mariquinahs" accompanied by the wordless voicing of Ribeiro which recalls the great Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan for power and expression.

The sound translation into English of the intimate, brooding and joyous poetry contained in this beautifully packaged CD, bring these songs to life. The imagery is colorful, moving and unforgettable: "Lovely woman, intimate being, left like an unread book..." These songs are like strange but beautiful stones—hard to put a name on, but most definitely precious.


Track Listing: Como un rio; No mar das tuas pernas; A lua num quarto; Amarrado a suadade; Ja nao da como esta; Se o meu amor me perdisse; Quando te vejo sorrir; Casa da Mariquinhas; Biejos ateus; A gaviota qu tu es; Jugo da vida; Adolescencia perdida.

Personnel: Ricardo Ribeiro: vocals; Rabih Abou-Khalil: oud; Luciano Biondini: accordion; Michel Godard: bass, serpent, tuba; Jarrod Cagwin: drums, frame drums.

Title: Em Portugues | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Enja Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Another North CD/LP/Track Review Another North
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Gledalec CD/LP/Track Review Gledalec
by John Sharpe
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Flux Reflux CD/LP/Track Review Flux Reflux
by Glenn Astarita
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Christmas With Champian CD/LP/Track Review Christmas With Champian
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 19, 2017
Read Harmony of Difference CD/LP/Track Review Harmony of Difference
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 18, 2017
Read No Answer CD/LP/Track Review No Answer
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Ullr" CD/LP/Track Review Ullr
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "So Cute, So Bad" CD/LP/Track Review So Cute, So Bad
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 5, 2017
Read "DICE" CD/LP/Track Review DICE
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 11, 2017
Read "Lowdown Hoedown" CD/LP/Track Review Lowdown Hoedown
by Paul Rauch
Published: January 18, 2017
Read "Daylight Ghosts" CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Musical Journey Through Time" CD/LP/Track Review Musical Journey Through Time
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 29, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.