Donna Khalife Releases Her First Album

Bashar Hassanieh
Contributing Writer

Donna Khalife is a singer, double bass player, composer, arranger, and conductor. She received most of her music education (around 12 years of it) in Paris, France where she learned various styles of music including European classical music, conducting, jazz piano, double bass, and free improvised music.

Heavy Dance is the first album by the Donna Khalife Quintet (featuring: Pierre Tereygeol on guitar, Philippe Lopes de Sa on saxophones, Florent Corbou on electric bass, Khaled Yassine on drums, and Donna Khalife on vocals and double bass).

The contemporary jazz album does a great job at keeping the listener captivated, interested, and excited. The constant changes in the music’s tempo and time signatures, in addition to the surprisingly explosive music, which randomly shrinks back into fascinating periods of groovy silence and staggers back into mellow melodies, certainly get the job done.

At times, the mix of sounds created by the Quintet, from the perfectly timed claps and deep grooves of the drum kit to the way the saxophone melodically dialogues with Donna’s voice, result in a very warm ambient mood for the listener to sink into. While at others, the explosively heavy tunes invoke a rich, dancy atmosphere. That is partly due to the fact that part of the album was written with free improvisation, which makes it difficult for anyone to expect where each note is heading next.

“The lyrics for me are always in second place. The voice is, first of all, an instrument like the saxophone – you won’t ask a saxophone what language it speaks – or any other instrument, and this has always been my approach to singing.” Khalife told Outlook. “But of course in other projects, I can sing with lyrics especially when I’m singing more traditional jazz, there’s of course lyrics and scatting.”

Asked about her inspiration for the album, Donna specified each track comes from a different person or idea.

“The entire music on the album was composed by me and I had a lot of inspiration. Each track has a concept or an idea or a person behind it,” she stated. “Belmonte, for example, is for my closest friends in Argentina. ‘Koestlich’ is a love tune. The first and last collage (in the album) is a free improvisation on a collage by a Lebanese painter, and so it goes, each tune has a story behind it or/and a concept.”

The musician does not want to stop here, it seems, and is already planning for what’s to come.

“I was thinking of this album for three years now, and I got a grant last year from the Arab fund for arts and culture to produce it. The next step for this project [Donna Khalife Quintet] is to tour and to play as much as we can,” Khalife concluded.

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