Thursday, March 8, 2012

Classical Jazz Arabic Style: Marcel Khalife

Lute and Oud players

Dear readers,

First of all. Happy Holi to all revelers in India and Indian communities across the world. May you, your clothes and your hair quickly recover!

Secondly, to all women who check in with the Dog from time to time, happy International Women’s Day!  May you receive lots of flowers and good wishes from the other half of the human race.  We couldn’t do it without you!

In third position, lets turn to tonight’s piece of musical bliss.

The oud or Arabic lute is one of my favorite instruments. It’s voice is lush and mellow. And in the hands of a good player the oud makes a very melodious companion.

Marcel Khalife is a Lebanese composer and oud ist (or is it oud er?) whose musical expression explores jazz, traditional maqam and classical music.  Many of his compositions have given musical life to the lyrics of Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish. Their association and collaboration has endured for many years and goes to the political as well as the artistic.  Khalife has never shied away from speaking his mind which has gotten him into hot water at home and abroad.

In one famous case, he inserted a line or two from the Quran into one of his compositions which brought the condemnation of most of the Sunni clergy in Lebanon.  He was taken to court and faced a severe sentence but in the end the judge ruled that artistic expression cannot by definition ignore religious subjects and found in Khalife’s favor.

In 2005 the government of Tunisia banned Khalife’s music from being played on national radio and TV. The composer had, in a concert in Carthage, publicly criticised certain Arab governments for imprisoning their own citizens. The  Tunisian rulers felt that cut a bit too close to the bone and declared his music haram (forbidden).

Over the years Khalife has performed with orchestras all around the world, including Australia, the US, UK and throughout the Middle East. His list of awards, including recognition by UNESCO in 2005 as an Artist for Peace, is long.  On this record he plays oud in his own Concerto Al Andalus.   The arrangements and pacing of the concert are beautifully conceived and his playing is ultra discrete and tasteful.

In addition to the Concerto the final 5 cuts explore a more jazzy and traditional performance style.    All in all a wonderful album.  I’ll have to go out and  find more of Mr Khalife’s music as soon as possible.

            Track Listing:

            01 Al Zagareed
02 Flamenco
03 Bint El Shalabeyya
04 Ya Banat Eskendereyah
05 Kadouka Al Mayas
06 Sirto Nakriz
07 Granada
08 Waltz Zangeran
09 Waltz Tazanween
10 Taqsim Hejaz Kar
11 Logna Nahawand
12 Finale
13 I pass by Your name
14 Passing Train
15 Breeze
16 Night traveler
17 They Say

Listen here.


Hammer said...

Howlo, dawg.

Marcel's music is better described as 'avant-garde'-acoustica-dressed-as-academia world... music.
He strayed so much from the norm of oud-playing that masters had worked so hard to keep as a tradition that dates back to more than 1300 years ago, maybe as a sign of his beliefs: He's a sworn-till-death Communist (these are ten-a-dime around Beirut), and the sole object of their music is to declare rebellion against God. Not the Muslim 'Allah', nah: he's a Maronite Christian, FYI... it's just a 'God' somewhere.

Marcel is not alone here in this shit-basket, mind: there are half a dozen also-Lebanese artists who took this troubled water road (i.e. Charbel Rohana who's also another Christian oud-player). This is how the young rebel around Lebanon: taking it all against a silent 'entity' that might at the end prove worthy of believing in or at least capable of being a nice diversion from permanent poverty, joblessness and yeah war.
But, religiot Muslims are extreme as well as these Christian-cum-hardassed-atheists. Atheism itself is quiet ripe in Lebanon as a result of ex-Soviet intrusion in the Mid-Rim region in the 60's, ma friendo. They've been playing this role of 'trying to keep the keels of powers even' with 'Imperialist' America, and paid for students to come to the U.S.S.R. (still does, by the way), to confirm their foothold in the region by planting it using these intellectual stools. It's actually a long-as-my-arm story, so I won't bother trying to explain its nittiest-grittiest details here.

On the other hand, his playing the oud was at its best when he played with his original 'street-band' that he founded with some other artists in the early 70's. Sadly, not one record is left from that concert. Tsk. It's sad because they played improv-music, and not preplanned bleh. The name of that band? I guess they called themselves Ferqat Al-Watan, or something, but do not mistake this one with Al-Mayadeen Ensemble: this earlier band was where it's at.

Beirut is a culturally-stuffed city in all honesty: once you're there, you'd see every walk of any kind of philosophy, belief, cult etc... and it's all just mere acts of copycatism of the west, and pure... rage. I am not talking here about 'popular Lebanese music' on which my blog bears some two or three posts by the best of these popular musicians and bands that were known between the mid-70's and late-80's. This is a different kit of kaboodle. It's these pseudo-intellectuals that resorted to music as a vessel to carry a message but at the end had a seachange of mind-set and went commercial/world/avant... meh.

Khalife was no exception. In fact, he was the starting spark in Lebanon because maybe of his leading 'academia' position in that period.

I don't recommend to listen to oud music being played by an erm, 'academusician'. Really. That's not even music to begin with. Never. It's just bullshyat, my good chappie.

If you still would want to give these 'intellis' a listen, try one or more of the following oud ahem, players. The list I made on purpose to start with Iraqis because the modern players of oud who come from Iraq are the least worse IMNSHO. Dig:

- Omar Bachir (Iraq).
- Naseer Shammah (Iraq).
- Rahim El-Haj (Iraq).
- Ahmed Moukhtar (Iraq).
- Ali Jihad Racy (Lebanon: worthy to give a listen to).
- Ziad Sahab (Lebanon).
- Samir Joubran (Lebanon).
- Sakhr Hattar (Lebanon/Palestine)
- Rabih Abu-Khalil (Lebanon/Palestine).
- Simon Shaheen (Palestine).
- Dhafer Yousef (Tunis).
- Anouar Brahim (Tunis).

Note: Marcel's only listenable album for me is Jadal (Controversy). DL it from here:


ajnabi said...

Hammer, It would be good to meet and share a cup of coffee or beer and discuss the topics you raise and argue in your comment. Thanks a lot. I learn new things every day and I too prefer Rabih al Khalil and Anour Brahem to Khalife but probably not such a harsh critic as you! I'm basically learning (on my own) about Middle Eastern music and so your insights are appreciated as excellent signposts along the way!
Shukran, habibi.

Hammer said...

Ma Rawd Dawgger,
In all honsty, and with a generous slathering of truth here...
I never wanted you to learn anything new at all: all I offer is the other side. One should be able to always look 'beyond the immediate things', to quote but that Latin, olden saying (and British band's name) Procul Harum.

Do not misinterpret my comment as mere criticism. Ma mayne, I don't wear a white wig.

Let me tell you 'zactly why I was a bit harsh on Marcel for a reason. Back at my Uni days, I saw these guys trying to get high by just listening and reciting Mahmoud Dawrish's poo-etry. Crappy at best, that now-dead poo-et's words were made for the sole purpose of boosting a rather deadened Palestinian population when Israel was high-on-the-horse fucking them up their lazyass. Palestinians are not revolutionaries. Their poets are not intellectuals (Mahmoud? Try again babes). Everything was just a drug for a semi-nation of people who weren't brave enough to kick Israel's ass right in the crack, only... (longest sigh 'ere), to start fighting Lebanese people in 1972, then Jordanians two years later... then after also-getting-kicked-in-the-bum-bum... they started fighting each other (Hamas vs. Fatah - Goo' that shiot).
Guys I was talking about were Palestinians, of course. And, who;d sympathize with such people unless they don't make the proper distinction between Shit ... and Shinola? People at war. Lebanese people. And, who's bored enough to join this fuckered-up wagon full of bullshit? Artists trying to make a living in a city full of ruins (Read: Beirut, or what's left of it 'neways >> 'Beiruins').
Marcel was the boss of these because he was in some sort of intellectual power-seat. Adding to this is the fact that he was a communist same as those self-claimed 'revolutionary' Palestinians were. If you still don't get it, dawg... Here it is again in clear print:
Marcel's music was not music: it was politics. He's so full of shit, man I tell ya his eyes are so brown. Point.

Later, and with years and years coming and going at this tragedy called 'The Palestinian Crux', young people with horse-manure inside their skulls wanted to be out... 'there' with this fight against Israel. This has not a happy goddamn thing to do with them so enamoured with say, oud as an instrument. Hell nah. They just want to read Dawrish's poo-try and sing out loud Marcel's music, and hang posters of that poofster Che Guevara (it was known later on that he was certifiably gay), and read Marx, Lenin, and what-all.

In Lebanon... right now... as I am fuckin' typing this... there are people kow-towing; genuflecting' kneeling down to these old faggots' pictures to feel alive! Oh wow! And, ask yourself again here: who was it that led Lenin to the powers in Czarist Russia? American and British intelligence. Funny. Being a Communist you can be only because Capitalists want you to believe that there are two pulling poles in this ailing, fucked world.

Music has nothing to do with these pulling powers. Trust me. Not when one is listening and liking and un-liking this and that because of their own beliefs. Or, worse... religious ones.

Religiolous bullcrap should stay at a damn Chruch, mosque, synagogue, ashram, bodega, etc.

A musician... a real one is that who writes this line that separates what's religious with what's sacrilegious with tunes so that other people would enjoy each as a separate entity/body. One can't enjoy say, the day-light and night all at the same time: these are different times.


Music. Only that, or... nothing at all.

Live and learn, yeah. That's what makes us cool.

Yer coo'.



kokolo said...

Thank you anjabi, I am little behind the events, and short in time, beleted thanks for this beauty.