Convergence & Co-existence
Listening Post 160. Like most urban settlements, Lyon began with people and currents from other places—Roman refugees camped at the confluence of the Saône and Rhône rivers. For two millennia the rivers have framed the city’s heart and in recent years La Confluence, France’s largest urban renewal project, has transformed the area near the original encampment into a vibrant residential, business and cultural hub. Now Lyon is home to another kind of convergence, a dazzling confluence of sound. Koum Tara—the name of album, title track and performing group—fuses traditional Algerian chaâbi, classical strings, jazz and just enough electronica to convey that this merging is of today. Conceived by virtuoso pianist-composer-arranger Karim Maurice, it is built around the repertoire and the warm, textured Arabic voice of Algerian-born chaâbi singer Sid Ahmed Belksier and elevated by members of La Camerata, a string ensemble under the artistic direction of violinist Gaël Rassaert. With streams from all directions, the album’s nine tracks reflect universal experience—love, beauty, loss, error. Ya Taleb (O Patron Saint) focuses ostensibly on a flyaway bird, though it sounds suspiciously like a lover: “I will always forgive him, despite his wanderings” (video 1). The narrator of Alik Belana (Let Your Mind Be at Peace) assures an absent beloved that he won’t pursue her (video 2); while in Ya Kalek Lechia (Creator of All Things) a repentant sinner pleads for forgiveness (video 3). The centerpiece—Koum Tara (Stand and Behold Beauty), a reworking of a popular Algerian folk song—counsels the need to appreciate wonders because the world is also harsh (video 4). Converging rivers typically paint stripes of different hues when they come together, before blending into a unified color. The currents that feed Koum Tara manage to retain their identities and also merge into something never heard before. Not unlike civilization. (Oradek Records)
Koum Tara Group Members
Karim Maurice: artistic creation, direction, piano, keyboards
Sid Ahmed Belksier: vocals, mandole
Kamal Mazouni: percussion
Brice Berrerd: double bass
Camerata of the Rhône
Gaël Rassaert, Mathieu Roussel: violins
Jean-Baptiste Magnon: alto
Amandine Lefèvre: cello
Ya Taleb/O Patron Saint: “Accustomed to travel, he always returns to his nest/His plumage soft as silk
A piercing look and a brave heart /My bird comes back, injured from battle.
O Patron Saint of this place, my bird flew away/
Will he come back today?
He adores me, even when we are parted for ages/In the name of love, I cannot forget him.
Whatever my enemies say, my passion for him is pure
I will never forget him despite his attitude/I will always forgive him despite his wanderings.
O Patron Saint of this place, my bird flew away/Will he come back today?
I appreciate the value of his friendship/His silhouette and beauty subjugate me.
In his veins flows Arabian blood/ He allows me to forget my sorrows.
His beauty makes me believe that he is no longer a bird.”
Alik Belana/Let Your Mind Be at Peace: “You are out of my thoughts and out of my life.
Nothing is possible between us anymore
I thought you were mine…/ Today I promised myself that you would never be able to replace me
I swore in my heart/ That you will not find my equal
Don’t ever imagine seeing my shadow again/Even if you crossed oceans and seas.
By your actions you wrote your destiny/
You tore our book to pieces
You forgot our story/I thought you loved me
You shared my life and then destroyed me”
Ya Kalek Lechia/Creator of All Things:
“You who never rest and never sleep/Neither on earth nor in heaven
You, the holder of all kingdoms/ You, who shape the universe by your will
You, who read into hearts/ cure mine of its sufferings
You, creator of all things/ my soul implores thy clemency
My faults are endless, but my path to repentance is sincere
My tears flow like heavy rain/An internal ember burns me from inside
My tears flow like heavy rain/ My burden is too much to bear”
Koum Tara/Stand and Behold Beauty:
“Take pleasure in this early evening/For you cannot know what tomorrow will bring
Enjoy an hour of happiness/ Life is only joy and distraction
Have fun in the middle of the night/ And dedicate your life to beauty.
Cupbearer, arise and pour us a drink/
Make our cups overflow, far from any slanderer
In this garden, next to a river/ The sun is about to fade into dusk”