All tracks composed, performed and produced by Esbe.

Mastered by Ian Jones at Abbey Road Studios, London.

Artwork and album design by Esbe.


I first became interested in the literary heritage of the Middle East when I read that the European troubadours shared a tradition with Bedouin poet travellers. I'd always been intrigued by the Troubadours – the freedom and romanticism. Reading more about the era and examples of poetry – in English translations – I was struck by the resonance of their themes and timeless connection with contemporary thought and life experience. With two day passes to the British Museum, I pored through various almost forgotten translations of Ibn Sa'id, Jamil of Udhra, and the most famous of all today, Jalaluddin Rumi – the most widely read poet in America.. The earliest date from around the 9th Century, whilst Rumi, the mystic Sufi poet from Afghanistan who lived most of his life in Turkey was born in the C13th. The Rumi poems are taken from 'Words of Paradise', a book of new interpretations of Rumi by friend, Raficq Abdulla. This album is my homage to the region, its poets and our own literary past.

Unlike most of my other writing, the text very much arrived first, being existing poems. But as always the music itself is a Neo-Classical – Psych-Folk fusion. As many of the poems are written in a prose style, the approach is probably more classical and there are only a few standard verse-chorus structures, although the melodies repeat in a similar and familiar way. I've never overly analysed the harmonic progressions and scales, but have always been drawn to rich close harmonies and lyrical Middle Eastern/ East European music and love Russian and French composers. Vocally, I'm drawn to Early Music, in particular Dowland, and somehow feel a little part of the British song-writing tradition. We're lucky to be living at a time when we can hear so many styles of music, and on this album there are glimpses of those I've heard. A very special recent one was when a group of local musicians were hastily assembled for an impromptu courtyard gig when I was cycling in Macedonia.

I also work as an artist - the CD cover is 'I Just Retrace Your Wake' from the last line of 'Burning Lips'. There are other illustrations in the booklet.

LYRICS/POEMS


YOUR PROMISE


Love at home burns low, some say,

And distance calms the longing flame.

Both I’ve tried, in none found cure.

But know: to be near is better than far.

And know: to be near is nowhere on earth

When the one you love has forgotten your face.

It was you that broke your promise, man,

Delighting my taunters, familiarly fond,

It was you that stripped me, let me down.

A butt to be jeered, while you could abscond.

Could words draws blood, the talk, the tales

Would have left my body a living wound.


WHERE IS HE?


Where is he, where is my soul’s delight?

My North, my West, my South and East?

Not here with you where nothing is conceived.

He’s not here, but where has he gone?

No compassing aroma dwells where nothing is conceived.

I look here. I look both up and down, I cannot see even the shadow of his beard.

O believers, only speak to me!


Tell me where he’s gone who shone like blue flame in my conceiving eye.

Shout out his name and your echoing bones shall never crumble in the receiving grave.

You who kissed his hand are blessed.

Even in death your lips shall remain as sweet as grapes.


And should I? Should I be grateful?

For the beauty of his face or the sweet severity of his soul?

His lucid soul, no longer sketched in memory of his body – I do not care.

My love revolves like the planets around the storm of his sun.

I am calling, calling out for Shams. I chant familiar names of friendship.

Lighten our dark grief, enliven the ears’ lassitude with the energy of his name.


DIE


Die, die, expire in love, From your votive death new life is born.

Die, die, fearlessly die, Rise anew like green shoots, and seize the heights.
Die, expire in love.
Die, die, un-peel your skin, Escape the jail of the bones.

Take a spade, dig yourself out, Break down the cell and breathe like a king.
Die, die, bathe in the fire, Of beauty in love, Astonish all lovers.
Silence breathes, fomenting death,

While we cling to the debris of life,

While we flee the dark heart of silent night to die.


UNDER A SCORCHING SKY


Will you hear me tell the news of distress

Or content yourself with reports received?

Endlessly, under a scorching sky,

Up and down the land I have marched.

Our desert crying out for help, Can give no rain to our stricken town.

Cry

Many’s the widow roaming the squares,

The orphan, suffering almost blind,

Calling you, calling, choking its’ last

As if blighted by demon or hurt by man,

Looking to you for a father now, Like a nestling, unfledged, that cannot fly.


HABIB


I long for night, Your arms to hold me tight.
Each day, it seems so endless, I live for your smile and soft caress.


TAKE HEED


I will only to an open heart a story tell,

Listen or your heart be lost in hell.

Take heed, attend, and you will know –

Blind greed, it sucks you in its’ undertow.

The lust of blind possession rules the heart,

The lust of rank and place keeps you apart

Like falling hair it robs the eyes of light.

Greed suckles for it’s young with grasping spite.


BURNING LIPS


Again with burning lips I swore an oath in last night’s heart.

I confess with sigh again I swore an oath on your ruby blood.

I swore that I would fix my longing gaze on your chaste smile.

I swore that even struck I would not flinch from your cruel blade.

My faith in you would rise both green and strong again unscathed.

My suffering heart is torn from you which none can cure but you.

You cast me like an ingot into fire, I glow for you.
I swear that I am dust, dry powder rising from your path,

As hapless atom, a circling world that’s drawn to you, I just retrace your wake.


WHERE YOU DWELL


Where you dwell is dear to my sight, a celestial city bedecked with light.

In whatever corner you are found,

Whether small needle’s eye, is holy ground.

Wherever the rainbow of your face alights,

Be it dank gorge of well, you make it paradise.
With presence in hell a heaven’s discerned,

The rigour of prison to a lover’s garden turned.

The devils’ chamber with you glows with delight,

Your absence makes beauty horror, it widows my sight.


MAGIC SCREED


The river is a page of parchment white;

The breeze, that author sage, there loves to write.
And when the magic screed is finished fair,

The bough leans down to read his message there.


SEEK


Seek to replace the lead of your eyes with a living ear which learns to die.

For sacred words too fine to pierce frost of blind hearts, dwell in hearts with light embossed.
The devil insinuates the hearts which just lie

As crooked feet only crooked shoes try.
Intone sacred words and ancient sounds

With mechanical tick of a clock expound

For a fool words will fall on barren ground

Even if you mint them on the willing page,

Even if you speak them slowly like the sage.

Oh sinner! The devil may just take you on your word,

But wisdom’s too wise – by you it’s not heard.


LISTEN


Listen, oh listen to my plaintive cry,

Listen to my longing, or else I die.


From the sweet home of bed I was torn,

So my pain and longing was born.

Listen to my longing cry,

Listen, or else I die.

With so many secrets I sing aloud,

But none sees nor hears in this crowd.

Oh, for a friend to know my burning state

That our souls may entwine and contemplate.
The flame of Love discourses in me

And the wine of Love so enforces me.

Do you wish to know the fire, the flow?

Listen, then you will know.


Listen, oh listen to my plaintive cry,

Listen, to my longing.

Do you wish to know the fire, the flow,

Listen to my longing cry,

Listen, or else I die.


BUTHAINA

Memories crowded back at the place,

And every question fell on a pall, silence loomed.

To patterns ran, like faded brocade or hurried scrawl.

I stopped my mount, the tears welled up,

For lovers forever had parted then.

I remembered Buthaina, a long time past.

Days lost and won, and eyes that shone.