Saudades, Rabih Abou Khalil and the Magic of Imaginary Folklore

Lebanese composer and musician, Rabih Abou Khalil‘s attempts at creating world music, which transcends musical and geographical barriers. His attempts resulted in a music, ‘imaginary folklore’ with a group of musicians from all over the world. It is a musical journey from traditional Arabic music to Portuguese folklore with a distinct touch of Western Classical and Jazz.

Born and brought up in Beirut, Rabih Khalil moved to Germany after 1978 Civil War. He brought along with him training in traditional Arabic music and musical instruments and mixed matched them with western classical and Jazz and created world class ‘Arabic Jazz’.  Rabih Khalil took training both in oud and classical flute but he decided to express his musical soul using oud, a traditional Arabic string instrument. Rabih Khalil’s mastery over oud and ability to blend it with music from all corners of the globe gives his music a distinct melody of folklore.

After blending his music with classical European music and jazz it doesn’t come as a surprise that Rabih Khalil discovered poetry for his music in Portugal and voice for his music in a Portuguese singer Ricardo Ribeiro, a young lad from Lisbon. However, what is indeed surprising is that when he agreed to do this collaboration with Ricardo Pais from Porto he didn’t even know the Portuguese language! His musical compositions seem to transport one to the desert. The sound of desert and melodies from Middle East transports itself to Europe, Latin America and then into world of jazz thus blending the language and music of all lands.

Rabih Khalil’s music is a new genre of music that can be identified with the modern globalised world. It picks up local language and poetry from one continent, adds local folk music from another continent and mixes it with music from Europe and America.  Thus it bridges the troubled middle-east with rest of the world, the first world in particular. However, in real world all bridges to Middle East are being burnt down by unresolved crisis and wars. Music transcends not only geographic, language barriers but also the ones erected by hatred and intolerances.

One cannot but notice the saudades in Khalil’s music, which certainly is an influence that Ricardo left on him. Saudades could be loosely translated into English from Portuguese to convey a sense of nostalgia for something that was lost long ago. A deep sense of loss over a loved one’s death and knowing the person would never return is an example of saudade. Saudades are particularly relevant in a Middle Eastern context where people have lost families, joy, and even nations.

Territories that may never be found again, people that would never crawl out of their graves again, a child that was crushed by a bomb, these are the experiences people in the Middle East are especially familiar with. Khalil himself being from Lebanon, may have found a lasting solace in the mournfully pleasant saudades and Fado music of Portugal. Perhaps this is a sign of the Universality of human emotions and that of music and poetry, which is evident in Khalil’s music.

The joy of Rabih Abou Khalil’s magical compositions lie in his unique ability weave common thread between different genres of music, across the continents and finally hinting at the nurturing and silencing ability of music.


Rabih Abou Khalil’s MySpace Page

Source: AllAboutJazz/EnjaRecords

In collaboration with Jaiyant Cavale

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