Arabic music sounds different to Western ears. We’re not accustomed to hearing the buzuk, riq, oud, qanun, and santer. To demonstrate the unfamiliarity of these names, autocorrect has changed my words to buzz, Rio, our, quaalude, and saunter, leaving only the derbakeh alone while underlining it in red. Even our Western computers are dismissing the “foreign” culture, not allowing their words to be written. The grammatical program insists that it is right: smarter, superior. A digital border appears before the music even plays.
When it does, it’s beautiful, beguiling, astonishing. Jerusalem In My Heart is a blend of West and East, Montreal and Beirut, that merges facets of each world. The wonderful first side, “Wa Ta’atalat Loughat Al Kalam,” is a transcendent entry point into a world of shared culture, one without borders in which ideas are freely exchanged. The music flows like a worship service, eventually eradicating all concept of time. Radwan Ghazi Moumneh’s voice hangs over it all, although we don’t yet understand what he’s saying; the voice comes across as another instrument, the original instrument. Some still hear threat in the Arabic voice; others hear beauty. The same is true on the other side of the cultural divide. We have to listen to understand.
So let’s take another angle: what does Google say? Google translate, known for its mangling properties, translates the title as “And the languages of the mother went down,” which seems poetic and perhaps even accurate based on the current topic. The track itself is based on another work, which Google calls “O Valley of the Valley.” But Constellation translates the titles as “The Language of Speech Has Broke Down,” a sentence whose grammatical error may be extremely clever (“Watch out for strange verbs which has crope into our language”) or an extension of the problem; and “Oh Neighbor of the Valley,” which makes more sense. Thankfully, music has its own unifying language.
As the vocals recede and club beats emerge, we intuit this language: the language of dance. One need not be Western or Eastern, religious or atheist, to surrender to the beat. “Bein Ithnein” (“Between Two”) is a marvelous transition point. The combination of chant and electronic stutter in the subsequent piece represents the best of two worlds. The style changes from flowing to halting as the music falls into silence again and again, implying the silence of active listening. Truth lies in the pauses.
We’re still missing something ~ the 16mm work of Charles-André Coderre. Jerusalem In My Heart is a duo, although half is heard and half is seen. Together, they complement each other’s artistry, lending new tones to already-bursting palettes. If Daqa’iq Tudaiq is any indication, such an experience may offer the fulfillment of their dream: that multiple cultures might mingle in a shared space, speak with each other in the silent spaces and dance together as the music reminds them of their commonality. (Richard Allen)