Koum Tara: Chaâbi, Jazz and Strings

This groundbreaking ensemble breathes new life into one of North Africa’s most appealing popular traditions, Algerian chaâbi. Vocalist and mandole player Sid-Ahmed Belksier came of age in the Algerian port city of Oran, steeped in passionate works of chaâbi’s great singers. Here, he collaborates with acclaimed French pianist and composer Karim Maurice, who brings the freedom and openness of jazz improvisation and even the subtle swing of Afro-Cuban music and traces of flamenco to chaâbi classics like “Ya Kalek Lechia” (Creator of all things), with its poetic lyrics of yearning and repentance. And there’s more. A string quartet drawn from Gaël Rassaert’s larger ensemble, La Camerata, adds richness and heft to these exquisite arrangements. Maurice’s piano breaks are consistently crisp and eloquent, and at times heworks in synthesizer elements, as on the earthy chaâbi folk melody “Koum Tara” (Stand and behold beauty), which opens with the lope of mambo, and ends in a dreamy swirl of electronica—cross-cultural fusion at its best.

Koum Tara: Chaâbi, Jazz and Strings

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