Layale Chaker and Sarafand: Inner Rhyme

Hrayr Attarian By

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Arabic poetry is the primary source of inspiration for Lebanese violinist and composer Layale Chaker's innovative and vibrant debut Inner Rhyme. Recorded in New York with her band Sarafand (named after a Palestinian village that was abandoned in 1948) this original music is full of subtle wit and sublime emotion.

In crafting this exquisite album, Chaker transposes traditional Arabic poetic meters to rhythmic ones. She also draws upon her western classical training as well as her Levantine heritage with its multi-ethnic songs, both secular and sacred.

For instance, the three movement "Mkhammas Suite" is based on a style of pentametric verse usually associated with Sufi mysticism. On the first part, "Hawwel ya Ghannam," Chaker's wistful violin meanders in (reed flute) ney-like serpentine lines. Percussionist Adam Maalouf's thunderous beats, cellist Jake Charkey, and bassist Nick Dunston's hypnotic pizzicato refrains contribute further dimensions to the expectant backdrop. Chaker makes her violin "dance" as the band concludes on a celebratory note.

The works of certain 20th century poets have also influenced Chaker. The opening track "Return to Jaykur" is based on Iraqi writer Badr Shakir al-Sayyab's similarly titled paean to his hometown. The nostalgic and lyrical piece showcases plenty of spontaneity as Chaker and pianist Phillip Golub exchange contemplative and angular phrases over their bandmates' rumbling rhythms. Chaker's clear and resonant tones contrast hauntingly with Charkey and Dunston's darkly reverberating strings.

Equally mesmerizing is "Alight Here" which allows for individual expressions as well as a dynamic and ethereal ensemble performance. Chaker's melancholic violin soars while Charkey plays a sinewy and lean melody that simmers with reserved fervor. Cascading keys, hinting at the sound of the qanun (middle eastern dulcimer), mark Golub's bittersweet solo. Dunston's thumping strings and Maalouf's percolating percussion form the vivid pulse at the core of the track.

With this impressive first release Chaker has not simply fused genres, she has transcended them. Her eloquent and poignant compositions are simultaneously earthy and spiritual, provocative and passionate. Inner Rhyme is a hell of a start to an artistic career.

Track Listing: Return To Jaykur; Ushaq; Relentless; Interlude-Half Light; Mkhammas suite 1- Hawwel Ya Ghannam; Mkhammas suite 2 -Frah Al Donniyeh; Mkhammas suite 3 – Ya Fajr; Alight Here; On The Trunk Of An Olive Tree; Postlude -Folded.

Personnel: Layale Chaker: violin; compositions; Jake Charkey: cello; Nick Dunston: bass; Phillip Golub: piano; Adam Maalouf: percussion.

Title: Inner Rhyme | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: In A Circle Records

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