Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

227

Marcel Khalife: Taqasim

Chris May By

Sign in to view read count
Before discussing the extraordinarily beautiful and uplifting music on Taqasim, a last minute, odds-on favourite for the best of 2006 lists, a little background on the oud, taqasim and oud player Marcel Khalife (you can hit fast forward if you know it).

Born in Lebanon in 1950 but now living in exile in Paris, Khalife's work is shaped by both classical Arab court music, of which he is a master, and today's Palestinian diaspora. In the 1970s, moved by the Palestinian refugee camps around Beirut, he became an eloquent supporter of the nationalist movement. Much of his work has since been inspired by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. Meanwhile, fundamentalist zealots have three times tried to have Khalife imprisoned on the charge of "degrading Islam" (for including a couplet from the Koran in one of his songs). There's much more to his brave and principled story. In 2005 he was named a UNESCO Artist For Peace, but it's no longer safe for him to live in his own country.

The oud, from which the European lute derives, is an eleven-stringed instrument with a Rubenesque, pear-shaped body. Crucially, the curves produce a richly resonant sound box. The oud's fretless neck allows the player to use the slides and microtones also found in Indian sitar music. At the top end, it is pretty and filigreed; in its sturdy middle and bass registers, the beating heart of the instrument, it can be intensely driving and mesmeric.

There are raga connections too in taqasim, a complex, precisely detailed framework for improvisation. In a taqasim, a musician plays a series of improvisations, separated by moments of silence, on different aspects of an opening modal theme, to which he periodically returns.

Which brings us to Taqasim. There are three taqasims on the album, each lasting about twenty minutes, and each offering a musical cosmos to get lost in. Moods and colours evolve, but the underlying effect of the first is beatific, the second darker, and the third urgent and visceral. In each, the oud's lyricism flows like a river. The improvisations are as architectural and expressive as those in elite Indian raga.

Whilst not ignoring the crystalline upper reaches of the oud, Khalife concentrates on the middle and bass registers, supported by Peter Herbert's sonorous bass, in a stream of gorgeously melodic, melismatic improvisations. Sometimes the music sounds characteristically Middle Eastern, at others unexpected cross-cultural influences take hold. The oud, by turns, takes on the guise of a sitar, a Spanish guitar, a lute, a bouzouki, even a drum.

Taqasim is music of the most elevated, Sufic complexion, transporting and cleansing, delighting and reviving, and a hotline to something beyond words, something unmistakably higher.


Track Listing: Part One; Part Two; Part Three.

Personnel: Marcel Khalife: oud; Peter Herbert: double bass; Bachar Khalife: percussion.

Title: Taqasim | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Nagam Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read "Seems Like a Lifetime Ago 1977 - 1980" CD/LP/Track Review Seems Like a Lifetime Ago 1977 - 1980
by John Kelman
Published: November 5, 2017
Read "Unfiltered Universe" CD/LP/Track Review Unfiltered Universe
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 29, 2017
Read "Kurrent" CD/LP/Track Review Kurrent
by Friedrich Kunzmann
Published: November 15, 2017
Read "Unloved" CD/LP/Track Review Unloved
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 12, 2017
Read "Awakening" CD/LP/Track Review Awakening
by Hrayr Attarian
Published: January 5, 2017
Read "Counteraction" CD/LP/Track Review Counteraction
by Roger Farbey
Published: March 20, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor