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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Marcel Khalife

By Doug Merlino
Published April 27, 2007

Taqasim
Nagam

This deeply personal and ruminative album by a master Lebanese composer and oud player is dedicated to and inspired by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. While on previous releases Khalife has sung Darwish’s poems, this album is completely instrumental, containing three linked 20-minute pieces. In his notes, Khalife writes that his goal is not to “portray” any specific poem, but to “re-create what the poetry of Darwish has created in me.” “Taqasim” translates as “improvisations,” and there is a vigorous, jazz-inspired interplay between Khalife’s oud, the double bass of Peter Herbert and Bachar Khalife’s percussion, with the leader introducing themes and inviting the other players to interpret them. Lower register explorations on the bass and the oud’s searching melodies throw ideas back and forth, at times coming together with the drumming to form an assertive whole before breaking off again, like a collective consciousness probing, falling back and pushing itself forward.