Desert Songs - Memories of Rumi

by Esbe

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Where Is He? 05:54
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.
Your Promise 07:20
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.
Die 05:41
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.
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 05:45
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 01:42
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 04:33
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 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 04:54
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 04:27
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 04:44
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 10:34
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.


Nigel Williamson - Songlines

Composer and singer, Esbe, has produced an album featuring lush cinematic strings, delicate Early Music arrangements and Arabic scales. These arrangements, combined with her clear and resonant vocal style, bring together this eclectic mix to celebrate the musical and historic influences of the poetry she has set to music of the renowned Sufi mystic poet, Jalaluddin Rumi (b1207).

Esbe first became interested in the literary heritage of the Middle East when she read that the European troubadours took their tradition from Bedouin poet travellers. And so, she began reading English translations of these poems, some from as early as C9th Iraq, and she was struck by the resonance of their themes and their timeless connection with contemporary thought and life experience.

The Rumi poems are taken from “Words of Paradise”, a book of reinterpretations by Raficq Abdulla MBE.


released April 6, 2018

All tracks composed, recorded and produced by Esbe
Vocals, programming, guitar - Esbe

(1), (3), (5), (11) violins - Anna Hemery, Anne Wood; viola – Philip D'Arcy; cello – Dinah Beamish. (8) violin – Anna Hemery; recorder and percussion – Mike Taylor

New interpretations of poems by Rumi printed with kind permission from Raficq Abdulla (1,3,4,6,7,8,10,11)

Mastered by Ian Jones at Abbey Road Studios, London
Artwork and album cover design by Esbe


all rights reserved



Esbe UK London, UK

Esbe is a Royal Academy of Music graduate, a composer, producer, and vocalist from London. Her music is an eclectic blend of many influences, from her pure classical roots, but uniquely drawing on contemporary, world music and film scoring. Esbe’s writing has been partly inspired by her North African and Eastern European heritage. This eclectic blend makes for a unique and distinctive sound. ... more

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