About this particular piece, to reinterpret this cultural touchstone, originally composed by Mohammad Abdel Wahab
, JIMH assembled a 15-piece orchestra in Beirut, enlisting the celebrated Montréal-Cairo musician/composer Sam Shalabi
(Land Of Kush
) as arranger and musical director for the session. Anchored by the stately hypnotic pace of plucked and percussive instruments (riq, santur, derbakeh, kanun), the piece unfolds with lush, languid, reverb-drenched manoeuvrings through virtuosic Maqam shifts (Oriental scales). JIMH’s Radwan Ghazi Moumneh’s
melismatic lead vocals and electronic production sensibility pay homage to the genre’s documented historical recording traditions, while guiding things subtly and respectfully into new territories of sonic distortion and noised, artefact-laden transmission. The song’s original title (with lyrics penned in 1928 by the poet Ahmad Shawqi) translates as “Oh Neighbour Of The Valley
”, but JIMH takes a different line from the original lyric as the new title for its orchestral-electronic re-interpretation. “Wa Ta’atalat Loughat Al Kalam
” (“The Language Of Speech Has Broke Down
”) is an expression of wordless love and transcendent communication between two lovers’ eyes in Shawqi’s poem; JIMH re-titles the song with this line, exploding the sentiment with more complexity, tragedy and socio-political meaning – also prefiguring the formal aesthetic ruptures JIMH bring to the piece itself.
Daqa’iq Tudaiq is a masterful, mesmerising artistic statement and confirms Jerusalem In My Heart as one of the most engaged and forward-looking avant-Arabic projects at work in contemporary music today.
Returning to one of the previously shared tracks via Charles-André Coderre’s video for “Thahab, Mish Roujou’, Thahab
”, it encapsulates the many fascinating strands at play in Daqa’iq Tudaiq
. Coderre is a leading practitioner of experimental analog filmmaking and his bespoke 16mm film treatments and live projections are a core component of Jerusalem In My Heart. For Daqa’iq Tudaiq
, he has created a visual diary capturing the making of the album’s orchestral suite, shooting the 15 musicians assembled in Beirut during that recording session (a film to be screened at select engagements during JIMH’s forthcoming tour). Fragments of this 16mm footage – interspersed with archival images from the Arab Image Foundation which feature in the album artwork – are used in the “Thahab, Mish Roujou’, Thahab” video, offering a taste of Coderre’s unique film-processing techniques and cut-up/collage sensibility. We see a sequence of Beirut-based musicians filmed in living portraits, a subtle and abstract homage to indie artists at work in the Middle East, whose involvement was an essential political, cultural and economic act for Jerusalem In My Heart with this new album. Set to Radwan Ghazi Moumneh’s processed-vocal track – the title of which translates as “(The Act Of) Departing, Not Returning, Departing” – makes this an ode and testament of sorts to unsung artists tending the flames of modern-contemporary culture in a region of the world too often and abominably depicted in the West as barbaric and backward, and too often with real-world implications for the freedom of such artists to travel and collaborate otherwise, simply based on nationality.