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RABIH ABOU-KHALIL

Prog Folk • Lebanon


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Rabih Abou-Khalil biography
Born in Beirut, the classically trained flautist and oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil relocated to Germany during the Lebanon civil war in 1978. Following his studies at the Academy of Music in Munich, Abou-Khalil recorded a couple of albums as a flautist with little acclaim. He returned to the oud with the formation of a touring band in 1986 that included famed jazz band Oregon bassist Glen Moore and former Miles Davis saxophonist Sonny Fortune, among others.

In the years since that initial effort, Abou-Khalil has pursued a lengthy career marked by numerous collaborations with both world-renowned and regional jazz, folk and ethnic musicians. His music transcends any single style, having been credited at various times as embracing jazz, Middle Eastern folk, klezmer, gypsy and modern classical music.

His most recent release marks a return to his roots, with a largely solo effort showcasing ethnic folk acoustic oud sounds and his trademark irreverent, global music that ignores political, religious and social norms in favor of celebrating the rich textures of music and life. Today Abou-Khalil resides and records in both Munich and southern France.

Rabih Abou-Khalil is undeniably a world musician, while his eclectic style, traditional instrumentation and innovative compositions are a testament to a creative mind. He deserves a place in the ProgArchives for those talents.

>Bio by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth)<

Rabih Abou-Khalil official website

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Sultan's PicnicSultan's Picnic
Enja 2002
Audio CD$49.83
$3.89 (used)
TarabTarab
Single
Enja 2002
Audio CD$8.49
$1.99 (used)
Roots & SproutsRoots & Sprouts
Enja 2002
Audio CD$10.27
$9.27 (used)
Al-JadidaAl-Jadida
Enja 2002
Audio CD$9.69
$5.56 (used)
YaraYara
Enja 2002
Audio CD$9.85
$4.98 (used)
Hungry PeopleHungry People
Import
World Village 2012
Audio CD$13.46
$20.25 (used)
BukraBukra
Enja 2002
Audio CD$10.27
$6.99 (used)
Abou-Khalil, Rabih Blue Camel Mainstream JazzAbou-Khalil, Rabih Blue Camel Mainstream Jazz
Records
Audio CD$17.06
Blue CamelBlue Camel
Enja 2002
Audio CD$10.15
$6.88 (used)
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RABIH ABOU-KHALIL discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

RABIH ABOU-KHALIL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Bitter Harvest
1984
4.00 | 2 ratings
Between Dusk & Dawn
1986
4.00 | 1 ratings
Bukra
1988
3.00 | 1 ratings
Nafas
1988
3.50 | 2 ratings
Roots & Sprouts
1990
4.00 | 1 ratings
Al-Jadida
1990
4.74 | 12 ratings
Blue Camel
1992
3.03 | 3 ratings
Tarab
1992
4.00 | 4 ratings
The Sultan's Picnic
1994
4.08 | 4 ratings
Arabian Waltz
1995
0.00 | 0 ratings
Yara
1998
3.60 | 3 ratings
The Cactus of Knowledge
2000
0.00 | 0 ratings
Il Sospiro
2002
0.00 | 0 ratings
Morton's Foot
2003
3.05 | 2 ratings
Journey to the Centre of an Egg
2005
4.00 | 1 ratings
Songs for Sad Women
2007
0.00 | 0 ratings
Em Português
2008
0.00 | 0 ratings
Trouble in Jerusalem
2010

RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Odd Times
1997

RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
SELECTION
2009

RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

RABIH ABOU-KHALIL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Roots & Sprouts by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 1990
3.50 | 2 ratings

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Roots & Sprouts
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by Lizzy

3 stars A stroll in the bazaar...

Although he most likely conjured up a completely different concept in his mind at the time of recording his fifth album, oud virtuoso Rabih Abou-Khalil manages to beautifully evoke the colours, smells and sounds of the oriental market, taking listeners on a promenade that will surely galvanise all their sensations..

Throughout his career, Rabih, with an innate sense of assembly, has surrounded himself with excellent instrumentalists who could embody his complex musical vision, and Roots and Sprouts was not going to be an exception. Fact of the matter is, Rabih's oud is not the driving force behind this record, as one might expect. There are very few instances where it actually takes the lead displayed with delightful craftsmanship, like in the solo from Remembering Machgara. Instead, it works as an auxiliary instrument for the two main noticeable gears of the album: nay and Arabic violin, stunningly played by Selim Kusur and Yassin El-Achek, respectively. The background rhythm section, which serves as sort of a vertebral column for the album, sees Glen Moore on bass, Glen Velez - frame drums and Mohammad Al-Sous on darabukka. Thus, with a solid foundation ? the ever so lively and alert oriental rhythm from start to finish, Roots and Sprouts' structure is built of soundscapes alternating from catchy dynamic tracks (or passages within the tracks) to mellow and sometimes wailful tunes, but uncharacteristic to Rabih Abou-Khalil, with insignificant jazz bits. An exception in this case is constituted by Duke Ellington's Caravan, beautifully covered with the now familiar alert percussion, along with the nay and lamenting violin painting the caravan's weary trail. At the other end of the spectrum, there are tracks with extremely catchy main themes suitable for raqs sharqi, like Remembering Machgara or Outlook; their only drawback, which is actually present throughout the album, is the middle section which leans more on musicianship than on music and composition, thus conveying that exotic walk quite a few lengthy moments of bluntness. However, this does not take away from the record's green and fresh vibe, as its title seems to suggest as well, which appears very different form other Rabih works, like Blue Camel or Yara that are more oriented towards pure Arabic jazz.

All in all, while not being the best embodiment of progressive folk, Roots and Sprouts is no stranger to the progressive sphere; therefore, with its construction revolving around Arabic folklore and the overall experience it provides the listeners with, it makes it worthy of 3.5 stars. (really? yup!)

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 The Cactus of Knowledge by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.60 | 3 ratings

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The Cactus of Knowledge
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Sometimes hailed by RA-K fans as his definitive statement, The Cactus of Knowledge is one of Rabih's livelier albums in his vast discography. Whether the title is a joke or not, we can see the main (and more numerous than usual) musicians taking turn sitting in a sofa next to a horrible toy cactus in a studio hall.

The album develops a Klezmer-Gypsy Jazz feel, a consequence of an 8-man brass section, not just in the opening two tracks, goes even further in the Got To Go Home piece. The opening Lewinsky March has some wild brass exchanges between the lead horns and the rest of the section. The Gypsy/Klezmer ambiances are generally very upbeat and happy, sometimes fairly complex, and approach Miriodor or Alamaailman Vasarat's works, but it doesn't develop their energy, partly because the latter two don't hesitate to go electric when needed. Probably the album's apex is Oum Said (probably a reference to the legendary Egyptian singer Oum Kalsoum) but I also find Malyese Chicken farm to my liking.

While this joyous Klezmer-circus-like music is rather dominant, it doesn't stop the other more Eastern "ethnic" music influences to permeate the album's soundscapes, most notably on Fraises & Crème Fraiche. Also worthy of notice is Ma Muse M'Amuse (my muse amuses me), where Courtois' cello is really on the forefront.

Cactus is a typical RA-K album, maybe a tad more than others due to the vast amount of wind instruments that have invaded his musical imagination. One of his better works, but not my favourite, despite some wild moments; but it should please most newcomers and confirmed fans.

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 Journey to the Centre of an Egg by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.05 | 2 ratings

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Journey to the Centre of an Egg
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Among RA-K's abundant discography, there are some (many?) albums that sound relatively similar (rather inevitable) but Journey To The Centre Of The Egg is one of those that stands out a bit from the "norm". You can already tell with/by the more discreet white artwork gracing its sleeve, and that only three musicians (including Rabih) intervening, with just one guest drummer on two successive tracks.

Still very much acoustic and instrumental, the general feel remains ethnic-jazz, mainly due to Rabih's oud and the scales used in the compositions. Note that this trio does not feature bass, but this is precisely why this yolk tastes different from the rest of the Egg's centre. Kühn 's piano is certainly very much and asset, and when he's not fondling the keys, he's sometime blowing into an alto sax, which fits the album's ambiance without being either disruptive or repetitive. Cagwin's drum sound is part of the excellent production job of the now- habitual Walter Quintus, and it adds much depth to the soundscapes of the album. The album's apex is the eccentric Mango, but it ends rather abruptly. For the rest, the "ethnic" flavour in this Egg is probably tandoori, because there are a few Indian raga moments, most notably in the longer pieces. As with many of RA-K's album, there is a dissonant piece and inn the cazse, it's not served in Plastic Cups.

While the album is still a typical RA-K work, Journey does stand out a bit, but one can still think of ECM-label jazz products even if the Oregon comparisons are a little harder to bridge. So if you're looking to have more than one of his album, but want to avoid the unpleasant feeling that you've bought the same one twice, this is an excellent second choice.

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 Tarab by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.03 | 3 ratings

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Tarab
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

3 stars 3.5 stars reall!!

In the RA-K albums I've heard so far (some 7 or 8), Tarab is probably the most "world" music in the sense that it's the most "ethnic", even we can't talk of a specific ethnic or continent with the Lebanese genius. It's actually no surprise since this album dates from 93 and is one of his earlier works, and one of the first to bear that luxurious Arabic arts wafer cardboard digipak.

In the accompanying band we can getv acquainted with contrabassist Glenn Moore and percussionist Nabil Khaiat, both of whom will become usual suspects in RA-K's discography. Tarab has a very much Arabic or Mid-Eastern sound, but some passages are strongly influenced by classical Indian music, especially when percussionist Ramesh Shotham plays tabla drums and engage in some raga. Unlike many of its successor, Tarab does not have much jazz influences, and remains acoustic and almost totally instrumental. The different pieces can range from festive and happy to reflective or even a tad melancholic, often coloured by Selim Kusur's flutes, of which the bamboo flute, but not only. If in general with later albums, the obvious Oregon or ECM label comparisons are unavoidable, it's not really valid with Tarab, although it could fit on the German jazz label without sticking out much.

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 The Cactus of Knowledge by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.60 | 3 ratings

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The Cactus of Knowledge
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars Rabih Abou-Kahlil's twelfth album seems to encapsulate almost all the traits of the man and the characteristics of his music that so endear him to his fans. At this point in his career Abou-Kahlil is clearly comfortable with being the vehicle that takes complex jazz music and creates collaborations that result in really memorable performances.

For 'The Cactus of Knowledge' Rabih has assembled a dozen musicians, most of them heavyweights in the jazz world. I'm not familiar with all of his music, but a quick scan of liner notes from previous albums indicates this is one of the larger, if not the largest group he's every worked with in the studio. There's a lot of brass in this ensemble; in fact, except for the percussion, clarinetist Gabriele Mirabassi and cellist Vincent Courtois it's pretty much all brass.

That said, Mirabassi takes a central role on the album, acting at times as a complement to Abou-Kahlil's oud fingerings and at other times supplanting him in almost- solo fashion. She shines particularly brightly on "Fraises & Creme Fraiche", the one song on the album that ratchets down the tempo to a laconic, reflective pace.

Aside from that piece and "Ma muse M'amuse", where Courtois gets a chance to lead with his cello, the rest of the album is pretty hopping and energetic, and at times the artists seem almost frantic in their improvisation. I'm not any kind of expert on the technical aspects of jazz music, but I suspect part of this impression stems from the fact that the group is working with some incredibly complex components in the music, not the least of which are the very challenging and Eastern-inspired time signatures (6+5+5+3/16 on "Oum Saïd, for example). And yes, I had to look that up as I'd have no way of figuring it out myself.

There are little treats all over this album, from the extended sax solo on "Got to go Home" that crosses the line between jazz and rock so many times that the two styles blend; a gorgeous clarinet passage that's followed by a brass (mostly sax) interpretation of the same arrangement on the toe-tapping and lively "Maltese Chicken Farm"; and a brass/ percussion frenzy on "Pont Neuf" that somehow manages to sound all the world like a klezmer band despite the fact it was composed by an Arab.

There's plenty more to hear besides this; the entire album could probably be used as backing music in an aerobics class considering the energy it both exudes and inspires. In fact, there is a DVD version of these songs recorded with a live audience where Abou-Kahlil has the listeners actively participating in the music by getting out of their seats and swinging with the band. I've not see the thing except for one piece in an on-line video, but that was enough to convince me everyone went home feeling they got their money's worth as well as made some human connections at that concert.

I find it difficult to write about jazz music at times, owing mostly to my lack of technical knowledge of the genre, which I suppose is akin to a child trying to expound on particle string theory. But Abou-Kahlil's music is jazz for a world audience, an audience that includes those who don't live and breathe jazz but who are very interested in exploring their world and everything (and everyone) in it. Abou-Kahlil gets that, and I suspect this pretty much describes his attitude toward life as well.

This is a great album full of vibrant, complex music, and highly recommended to just about anyone. I'm tempted to give it a five star rating, but the bar is pretty high for this guy since I've heard what he's capable of on other albums, so four stars it is but on a scale that's frankly different than the one others are judged on.

peace

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 Bitter Harvest by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 1984
5.00 | 1 ratings

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Bitter Harvest
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

— First review of this album —
5 stars ‘Stunning’ is the only word that approaches an accurate description of Rabih Abou-Khalil’s forgotten 1984 masterpiece ‘Bitter Harvest’. The fact that this record has never been remastered and released on CD is yet another demonstration of just how out-of-touch with the soul of the music they represent label executives really are.

I assume the title track refers to the modern history of Palestine circa 1914 through at least the late seventies or so. Although Abou-Khalil grew up in Germany and lives today in France, he is by birth Lebanese and surely is one of the few contemporary world folk musicians today with a first-hand knowledge and appreciation of the many nuances of that peoples’ struggle. The raw emotion that emanates from Abou-Khalil’s oud and virtuoso Michael Armann’s piano keys is breathtaking; the tabla and percussion give the music its Eastern flavor, but Abou-Khalil and Armann fairly shine over the course of the nearly eighteen minute opus. The rolling musical landscapes in this composition could only be accurately described by a knowledgeable music theorist (which I am not), but suffice to say the layers of percussion, piano and oud offset at times by strong flute and persistent tabla rhythm are rich, complex and thoroughly intoxicating. You have to hear it yourself to truly appreciate how many levels above the world-music norm this album sits.

Although Abou-Khalil would go on to considerable renown as an oud player, on this early release he also indulges quite a bit in another musical passion of his, the flute. This is especially true on the title track and “Haqul Wasi'a (Open Fields)”, the latter being a much more subdued piece than “Bitter Harvest”, and far more focused on flute and oud with Armann’s piano taking on a subtle complementary role.

“Machghara”, like the opening song, pairs up Abou-Khalil’s flute with Armann’s piano, but this is a livelier and less serious work that showcases the four artists’ abilities to feed off each other musically in what sounds to be at least a partially improvised and jazzy session.

And speaking of less serious, the album closes with a couple of brief, light pieces that brighten the mood considerably after the first half of the album’s more somber introduction. “Bala's Boogie” is another flute-driven composition, but not in the overpowering way the earlier tracks were, and with lots of discordant piano and erratic tabla to break things up in a humorous fashion. And the final song “Amal (Hope)” is a simple, largely bi-tonal postscript to “Haqul Wasi'a” which ends abruptly after just a couple of minutes.

I only have a few of Abou-Khalil’s CDs, and this one is only available on vinyl or on-line, with the vinyl being pretty much impossible to find. I don’t hesitate to peg five stars on the album even though there isn’t even half of another song as potent as the opening title track. The total package and experience is one of exquisite bliss amid somber reflection; like everything else I’ve heard Abou-Khalil put out, this is music that really gets under your skin – in a good way.

peace

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 Blue Camel by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 1992
4.74 | 12 ratings

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Blue Camel
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by Seyo
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Although the classification of Abou-Khalil's music as progressive folk may be misleading, since it is far more close to jazz, it is equally wrong to take it under the jazz-rock/fusion banner for the simple reason: it is lacking the rock element!

However, such an eclectic mix of jazz and the mid-eastern folk traditions (improvised soli on trumpet, bass and oud-lute and varied percussive and dynamic patterns) can be even called Global Jazz Music in order to avoid misinterpretation of the overused World Music tag. What is more important than the genre label is the beautiful music that is equally atmospheric, ambient-oriented and creatively produced as a top quality contemporary jazz act.

Jazz music has long outgrowth its American roots of the Southern Black communities and developed throughout the 20th century spreading across the Globe and incorporating many local, indigenous folk traditions from all regions. Blue Camel is one of the masterpieces of that kind of musical creativity, which will certainly be cherished by the fans of progressive rock, particularly those favouring not only prog folk but also jazz rock, psychedelic and the so-called oriental sub-section of Krautrock (e.g. EMBRYO).

What is maybe even more important is that Rabih Abou-Khalil is the authentic artist, native of Middle East, who is able to adopt some of the Western tenets of jazz production and technique, much like the earlier Western prog rock musicians (from the classic pshychedelic/prog era of late 1960s) were able to enrich their music with many oriental ingredients.

PERSONAL RATING: 5/5

P.A. RATING: 5/5

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 Between Dusk & Dawn by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Between Dusk & Dawn
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by trackstoni

4 stars Rabih Abou Khalil a Progressive face from Lebanon , i had the chance to purchase his second album from London in 1991 . Between Dusk & Dawn contains more than Progressive Folk , it's a Middle Eastern fusion of oriental jazz , ambient folk and new age remarkable sound . Rabih was the first Lebanese and oriental artist to use < oud > in the favour of his work , and tried to combine between oriental feelings in jazz globe . this album released in 1987 is one of his best works during 21 years . Nightfall , Dawn & the Oasis are simly amazing tracks , full of ambient oriental jazz - folk . Outstanding album , can be used as introduction for this talented artist from the middle east ( Lebanon )

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 Between Dusk & Dawn by ABOU-KHALIL, RABIH album cover Studio Album, 1986
4.00 | 2 ratings

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Between Dusk & Dawn
Rabih Abou-Khalil Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars Here’s an unusual artist who flirts with the fringes of prog, walking that fine line between progressive folk and world music. In Abou-Khalil’s case there is more than a little jazz as well, as evidenced in the complex arrangements and challenging instrumental passages that dominate most of his large body of work. This is one of his earliest albums, released on vinyl in 1987 and CD in 1993 (and again in 1999, I believe), although I think it may have been available under a different cover as early as 1986.

While some of his later work would introduce vocals sporadically, this is an instrumental album. Abou- Khalil’s music is highly percussive, with every album featuring loads of various ethnic hand drums and other percussive instruments. Like his other early albums this one features Glenn Moore of the fusion band Oregon on bass, although in later years Abou-Khalil would often use a tuba rather than traditional bass to give the music a bit more playful and dynamic feel.

The general concept of this album is just what the title says, a sort of musical expression of the period of a day between dusk and dawn. The centerpiece of the album is the opening “Dusk”, constructed mostly around Abou-Khalil’s principal ‘voice’, the ancient lyre-like oud, an instrument that dates back more than 5,000 years and is believed by some to have been one of the first musical instruments to be created. Abou-Khalil manages to cover a lot of ground with just his oud. Longtime jazz saxophonist Charlie Marino plays beautifully throughout, and on a couple of tracks (“Nightfall”, “The Thing That Came out of the Swamp”) Abou-Khalil plays flute, the first instrument he learned as a child in Lebanon. Otherwise the music all consists of marimbas, frame drums, dholak, ghatam and various other hand drums.

Besides the opening track, other standout compositions include the lively and alto sax-driven “Ugo in Love” in which Abou-Khalil manages to lay down some fervid strokes on his oud for the most lively song on the album; “Chess with Mal” where Marino playfully bounds along with the bouncy tempo set by the frame drums and marimba; and “The Thing That Came out of the Swamp” in which Abou-Khalil’s flute dominates and it sounds like there may be some uncredited piano as well.

But every track here can be appreciated, even by those like me where the technical complexity tends to go over their head. This isn’t casual listening music for sure, but if you are willing to invest an hour of your life for a taste of what Middle-Eastern music sounds like with a bit of jazz to infuse some life in it, Rabih Abou-Khalil is your guy. Four stars even if I don’t know what these great musicians are doing half the time – you just need a couple of ears to discern quality music when you hear it.

peace

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Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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