Program Note

Xarja, pronounced Shar-ja, is a Spanish or Catalan spelling of the Arabic word Kharja (خرجة)
which means ‘exit’ or ‘final’, but is also the last stanzas of genre of Arabic poetry (called
muwashshah) that originated in Arab Spain around the tenth century. These ending stanzas were
often in Classical Arabic but some mixed Arabic with Ibero-Romance languages (Spanish,
Catalan etc.). On a personal level, this work marks a creative ‘exit’ from a musical language
which has been inspired by the music of the muwashshah genre.  The work begins in a traditional
sounding mode but quickly morphs into a more chromatic language with a more irregular
musical pulse. Like the speaker of the poet, the sense of loss is one filled with sadness and
desperation. Like the grief stricken lover, ‘death is my state’ can be applied to the musical
language I’ve been using for sometime. However, out of ‘death’ comes ‘rebirth’ and the
opportunity to begin anew. The text is taken  from from the “Waterfire” muwashshah  by
Al’Ama al-Tuttli (d. 1126 Tudela, Spain) and other poets of that era.
¿Ké fareyo, ya ummi?
Gar ké fareyo, ya mama?
O ké serad de mibe
Meu ’l habıb enfermo de meu amar
Que no d’estar?
Non ves amibe que se ha de no llegar?
Alsa’amu mio hali, / porqe hali qad bare.
¿Ké farey, ya ummi? / ¡Faneq [me] bad lebare!
What shall I do, oh mother?
Tell me what shall I do, oh mother?
What will become of me.
My lover is lovesick, how could it be otherwise.
Don’t you see he’ll never come back to me again?
Death is my state,  because my state (is) desperate.
What shall I do, O my mother?  The spoils I will leave.
Amän is a word that is traditionally used in extended improvisation in the music of the Near
East. It connotes the asking for refuge (i.e. “gimme shelter” in Blues). -K Roustom

About Kareem Roustom

Syrian-American Kareem Roustom is a composer whose genre crossing collaborations include music commissioned by conductor Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet, arrangements for pop icons Shakira…