Oum: Daba

September 1, 2020

Here & Now

Listening Post 268. The singer-composer Oum clearly intended her fifth album to be poetic, spiritual, optimistic and instructive but it’s unlikely she realized how prescient it would be. Released several months before coronavirus emerged, its message beautifully and eerily fits the atmosphere that has since descended on everyone, everywhere. Daba (Now) is a meditation on living in the ill-defined but all-important Present, isolated between the unalterable past and a future we can only influence by what we do today. Her concerns are precisely those the pandemic has thrust into high relief—humanity and nature, how we treat our planet and ourselves, isolation for the right and wrong reasons, populations (women, migrants, sexual minorities) often forced to hide their identities, aspirations or love behind masks, even in so-called good times. Born in Casablanca and raised in Marrakesh, Oum sings in Darija (Moroccan Arabic) and Tamazight (Berber), her supple, soft-powerful voice supported by a musical palette of traditional Arabic and Sahrawi styles, jazz, Afrobeat, soul and—for the first time on this album—electronic sound. In the title track she encapsulates the dilemma of defining “Now” as percussion and strings beat and thrum like Mother Nature’s clock (video 1). Creation’s elegance sets the tone in Fasl (Season, video 2), marveling at the world’s bounty and also questioning our consumption. Words merge into feelings in Rhyam (Cloud, video 3), a bluesy, dreamlike journey through “a heart’s unknown language.” In Ha (Here, video 4) the Earth again offers its resources, with the implied condition that we not abuse them. Kemmy (You, video 5) extends compassion to women whose destinies are imposed by patriarchies. Martin Luther King spoke of advancing justice by recognizing “the fierce urgency of now” and Oum adds a telling detail: In Darija, the reverse of daba is abad—eternity. If the eternal exists, it is built on everyone’s Here and Now. (LOF Music/MDC)

Oum: Daba / دبا‎ :أم‎
Oum El Ghaït Benessahraoui: Vocals
Carlos Mejias: Programming, keyboards, saxophones
Yacir Rami: Oud
Damian Nueva: Electric bass, double bass
Camille Passeri: Trumpet, bugle
Amar Chaoui: Percussion

Related post. Oum: Zarabi, Listening Post 73, Nov 13, 2016

Oum: Zarabi


Daba / Now / دبا
Lyrics & music: Oum El Ghaït Benessahraoui

(From the Moroccan Arabic lyrics, all lyrics translated by Brady Ryan)
Ahyyana…/What to say now
About how we are?/What was and what could be

Ahyyana…/Where do our minds wander?
Amongst our secret dreams/Those that can come true and those that pass us by

Ahyyana…/Our future is still unknown
How time escapes us/What do we know of time

What was yesterday/But a light upon today
Still here now, not yet a yesterday/Now, a little bit of tomorrow and today

If darkness falls, the stars still shine/If streams run dry, the skies still rain
If we grow apart, hope will bring us close/If the earth quakes, mountains will rise in its wake


Fasl / Season / فصل
Lyrics: Oum El Ghaït Benessahraoui/Music: Yacir Rami

The green of 40 springs offered me her hand
Her flower opened early/So might I harvest her fruit
Or should I leave it, let it fall
Is the tree mine if I didn’t plant it/Even though I let it drink and more
Might I test the honey/Or should I leave it for the bees
And live with their sting
If I cry, will the fruit go bad/If I smile, will it grow sweet with time
Should I fear or accept fate/Let the knowing heavens decide
Lost, I dream/Lost, by love I swear
Asking but finding no answer/Do I fall silent, sleep, disappear, tame
Will I wake?/Will I wail?


Rhyam / Cloud / غيم
Lyrics: Oum El Ghaït Benessahraoui/Music: Kamilya Jubran

A whole night I wandered in my dreams/Above the clouds, walking toward you
I found you sleeping, your heart awake/Already moving my mood
Awake with a smile
When I arrived, your heart warmed me and said/What do you desire, shepherd of the clouds
Come closer, ask and I’ll tell you/So closer I went, I whispered
I’m afraid I might wake you
Please little heart, tell me about/That feeling that is untellable and inexplicable
Except with the heart’s tongue/The little heart smiling, beat in my hands
A surge of emotion, pictures in color/Voices and names, languages and tongues
Flames everlasting, and the salt of tears/Never tasted before
A heart’s unknown language/Without understanding, I feel it so close
My entire being, an ear to your voice, a homeland/Spellstruck, I hear it right
My art will keep it, there it will dwell


Ha / Here / ها
Lyrics & music: Oum El Ghaït Benessahraoui

Here is my water, my fire, my air, my earth
My rain, my land, my rivers, my seas
My sky, my mountains, my highlands, my plains

Drink, look, smell/Touch, and taste all that I am
All that I am, all that I have/All that I have, I give it to you

Here is my foundation, my caverns/My roots, my trees, my crops, my fields
My seeds, my grains, my flowers, my petals/My pollen, my fruit
Till, plant, harvest and reap all that I am

Here is my silver, my gold, my stones/Here is my salt, my honey, my sugar
My coral, my marrow, all my secrets
Take all that I am/Everything I have is for you


Kemmy / You / كمين
Lyrics & music: Oum El Ghaït Benessahraoui

(From the Tamazight lyrics)
Hiding something in your heart/
Unable to do as you wish
Crying but no one hears/I hope your dreams come true
Your mind at ease no more/How many sleepless nights
Your people have forgotten you/Build your home on my shoulders
You who hate what life has given you/Unable to do as you wish
Where has your freedom gone/I hope you find it, fly to the heavens
I hear your silence/I see your patience
You are not alone/You are not alone



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