Koum Tara is a project around the French composer, arranger and pianist Karim Maurice in which chaabi ("popular" in Arabic and thus the Algerian equivalent of our pop music), classical strings (four members of twenty-piece La Camerata, a Lyon based string orchestra led by violinist Gaël Rassaert) and jazz find each other effortlessly. The musical backbone of the project is the repertoire of Algerian chaabi singer Sid Ahmed Belksier, who in turn drew inspiration from renowned chaabi artists like El Hadj M'hamed El Anka ('Mazel Khatmi'), Hassen Said and Amar Ezzahi. The band got its name from the Algerian folk song of the same name, which was completely reworked for the album and can be translated as: "Get up and admire!". At times (opener 'Alik Belana', title track 'Koum Tara' and especially 'Ya Kelek Lechia' and 'Ya Taleb') Karim Maurice's piano playing reminded yours truly of the work of Algerian jazz and raï pianist Maurice El Médiouni. Asked to describe the project, Maurice answered: "My purpose was to do something really sophisticated, but keep it accessible. There are many influences, Bach, Stravinsky, Bartok, Herbie Hancock, Björk, Pink Floyd, Jobim and many others. The purpose was in fact to use the different identities of the band, in what they used to do, but on something they haven't done before! At a time when humanity, respect for cultures and tolerance appear to be necessary values in order to establish a better world, Koum Tara offers a musical universally where everybody can contribute to build his identity, his cultural heritage and his originality to share his love of singing the universal language of the world: music!". The proof is in the pudding, as 'Koum Tara' is an absolute gem of an album and an absolute must for those who still have to discover Algerian chaabi!