One of the most renowned and uncompromising entities working in 21st century avant-garde Arab-Levantine art and music, Jerusalem In My Heart presents a new album of vital and haunting electronics and electroacoustics, framed by founder and producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh’s spoken and sung Arabic, buzuk-playing and sound design.
Qalaq is the most distilled, variegated and finely wrought Jerusalem In My Heart album to date – featuring a different guest/collaborator on every track, yet as cohesive, emotionally resonant, sonically adventurous and narratively powerful as any release in JIMH’s celebrated discography. Guests across the album’s 13 tracks include Moor Mother, Tim Hecker, Lucrecia Dalt, Greg Fox, Beirut, Alanis Obomsawin, Rabih Beaini and many more.
“Qalaq” is an Arabic word with many shades of meaning but Moumneh particularly intends it as “deep worry” – on various obvious global levels, but also specifically with respect to Lebanon: its collapsing domestic politics, economy and infrastructure; the tragedy and aftermath of the 2020 Beirut port explosion; the intractable geography and geopolitics that continue to condemn the country to corruption, disruption, destabilization and violence. Moumneh writes: “The Side Two tracks are all named ‘Qalaq’ and then numbered, representing the degrees of layered and complex violence that Lebanon and the Levant have reached in the last couple of years, from the complete and utter failure of the Lebanese sectarian state that has driven the economy to a grinding halt, to its disastrous handling of the migrant influx from neighbouring failed states, to the endemic corruption that led to the August 2020 port explosion, to the latest chapter of Palestinian erasure and yet another brutally asymmetrical and disproportionate bombing campaign on Gaza.”
Qalaq is shaped by a “dismantled orchestra” of musical collaborations, forged through long-distance file exchange during lockdown winter 2020-21 (and the inverted companion to JIMH’s previous 2018 full-length Daqa’iq Tudaiq, which featured a 15-piece orchestra recorded live in Beirut). Moumneh initially through-composed Qalaq in purposely stark and skeletal form, then gave each guest artist a section to decompose, edit, re-interpret and recompose as they desired, working their stems back into his own mixes for each piece/section and moulding newfound coherences in the overall work. The result is
The album artwork—with a front cover colour photograph by Myriam Boulous capturing a scene during the Beirut October Revolution of 2019, back cover calligraphy by Krystian Sarkis, and inner sleeve photography of the Beirut port explosion aftermath by Tony Elieh—further contextualizes the specificity and lamentations of Qalaq; the deep worry at its heart.