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Rabih Abou-Khalil, Yara (CD, 55:46); Enja ENJ-9360 2, 1998
Enja Records
P.O. Box 19 03 33
D-80603 Munich, Germany
Cyberhome: www.enjarecords.com

          The oud is a Middle Eastern stringed instrument resembling a lute, 
and it sounds like a very midrangey, percussive guitar. Rabih 
Abou-Khalil of Lebanon is a virtuoso on the instrument, and on 
Yara he combines it with Dominique Pifarely's violin, Vincent 
Courtois's cello, and Nabil Khaiat's frame drums to create an austere 
ensemble sound - an organic, non-contrived fusion, if you will, of 
Eastern and Western elements. Abou-Khalil wrote this music for a film 
of the same name by director Yilmaz Arslan. In the liner notes, 
essayist Harry Lachner writes, "What is so often lacking in film 
music is simply its own artistic profile." Abou-Khalil's soundtrack 
certainly does not fall into this category; it stands strongly on its 
	Most of the compositions feature involved melodies played in 
unison by oud, violin, and cello, with subtle frame drum propelling 
the music forward. The metric twists and turns of "On A Bus" are 
thrilling; likewise other fast-paced selections such as "Imminent 
Journey" and "Through The Window." It is on these tracks that 
Abou-Khalil displays his technical chops on the oud. The album also 
has its slow, hypnotic side: the singable melody of "Requiem," the 
sparse aura of "A Gracious Man," and the mournful quality of "A 
Grateful Parting." In terms of sheer beauty, nothing matches the main 
melody of "Puppet Master."
	Instrumental combinations are also varied at points in the 
program, adding unexpected dimensions. "The Passage of Life" begins 
as an unaccompanied oud solo, with frame drum joining halfway 
through. The other strings are absent on the track. The same is true 
of "Bint El Bahr," which also features some additional, 
tambourine-like percussion. Cello and violin take center stage on 
"The End of Faith," with oud and drum sitting out for a change.
	Yara was released by Enja, known primarily as a jazz 
label. The disc is therefore filed under "jazz" at record stores. 
Abou-Khalil has recorded with jazz musicians before, so the 
association makes sense. While this record isn't jazz at all, it 
represents Abou-Khalil's, and Enja's, commitment to blurring 
categories and giving audiences something they've never heard before.
          ~David R. Adler

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