Review: French-Algerian Supergroup Koum Tara At The Mississauga Living Arts Centre, Ontario, Canada
By Stevie Connor.
Koum Tara, absolutely breathtaking ....
I could leave it there, but I would like to tell you more about this amazing collective of musicians who played their first ever performance in Canada at the Mississauga Living Arts Centre, in Ontario on Friday, October 27th, an experience I'll never forget.
French-Algerian super-group Koum Tara landed in Toronto the night before their first performance on Canadian soil, they launched their new album ‘Baraaim El-Louz’ which was released through the innovative Odradek Records label on October 20th, so we were being treated to some of their older material, but also being introduced to songs from their new album. I felt honoured to be one of the first people this side of the Atlantic to be hearing this live performance, I had listened to the album over the course of the past few weeks, as I'd been sent it through their PR team in the UK, Angie Lemon PR, and we decided to run a news article on the album and their visit to Canada.
Listening to the album did not prepare me for what I was about to hear ! Let me give you a little background as to who Koum Tara are ....
The incredible, award-winning French jazz pianist and producer Karim Maurice leads Koum Tara accompanied by the versatile Algerian singer, Mohamed Hamam (Hamidou) who also plays the Algerian mandole, banjo, darbouka and bendir, Brice Berrerd on double bass and Kamal Mazouni on cajón, derbouka, bendir and percussion. Koum Tara also includes La Camerata string quartet.
Koum Tara’s string quartet players are members of La Camerata, who have since 2012 become an executive producer and partner for some of Karim Maurice’s creations which includes Koum Tara.
Created in 2004, La Camerata is a Lyon-based string orchestra that plays without a conductor. Founded by Gaël Rassaert, La Camerata stands out for its original artistic approach, free from hierarchical structures and favouring work and commitment in participatory and democratic forms. The orchestra has performed at classical, world and jazz festivals in France and internationally.
And so it was, we arrived at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga and were greeted by the wonderful people of The Canadian Arabic Orchestra, who were presenting the show as part of The Festival Of Arabic Music & Arts, one of the representatives, Rami, gave us a unique insight into what the organization was all about and the many performances that were taking place in Mississauga, Burlington and Toronto, and as part of the festival they had invited Koum Tara to perform, Rami explained that they were masters of their craft and we would be in for a real treat... that was the understatement of the year !
Photo Credits: Anne Connor - The Sound Cafe
As soon as the first chords were struck I became mesmerized, the musicianship throughout the entire performance was off the charts, the string quartet played with such feeling, giving lengths to notes that pulled you in closer to the music, I could see by the expression on their faces that they were living every note, that's something you do not get from a recording, this was music as every human should experience it, live, expressive, free from any boundaries!
Kamal Mazouni on cajón, and Brice Berrerd on double bass were so in tune with what was going on around them, they seemed like the engine of the collective, I watched closely as their intricate riffs and runs floated seamlessly behind the melodies produced by Hamidou on Algerian mandole and Karim Maurice on piano and synth, all the time watching for the breaks and cross overs from string to piano to mandole, it was such a beautiful thing to watch. I wondered at the orchestration of the pieces they were playing, in my head I was trying to work out what sort of genius could come up with such complicated arrangements, yet make them sound and feel so beautifully eloquent and pleasing to the ear. I have listened to a lot of world music, but, quite honestly, I have never heard such fusion before, from traditional Algerian folk music, through Jazz and all fused with contemporary compositions.
The evening seemed to have passed so quickly, Koum Tara transported me to another dimension from the onset of their performance and then dropped me off gently at 9.30pm wondering where I had just been, well, I'd been in Koum Tara's world, as Karim Maurice explains so eloquently;
“At a time when humanity, respect for different cultures and tolerance are seen as necessary values for building a better world, Koum Tara offers and continues to defend a musical universe where everyone brings their own identity, heritage and originality to the song of universal love.”
I do not speak Arabic, but there was no need, I felt the music, I felt the emotions, I felt the love, music is a universal language, and Koum Tara are a universal collective, go and see them live, you will not be disappointed.
For more information on Koum Tara, visit their website and social media platforms below, and also please check out the Canadian Arabic Orchestra and The Festival Of Arabic Music & Arts, there are still some performances left to see in Mississauga and Toronto.
Canadian Arabic Orchestra
Festival Of Arabic Music & Arts
FOLLOW KOUM TARA