Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Arab Alternative Music (1): Jordan

As if musical stereotypes have to be associated with visual ones, almost all the (western) images of the Arab world that we see are illustrated by the same clichés : a vibrant nay (flute) solo or, more often, the call to the prayer.

Nevertheless, it is easy to hear and appreciate Arab alternative music and to understand, even without knowing the language, that something interesting is occurring in that particular field.

Zade Dirani (زيد ديراني), a 25 year old pianist and composer, is the great name of the Jordanian musical scene. His majesty mentioned him as “one of the six achievers that are leading the country into its new era” in recognition of his work in order to foster a better understanding between people, a necessity Zade Dirani get aware of it as he was living in the States at the time of the 9/11 events.

The performance given a few days ago by the young composer at the Roman theatre of Amman, with the London Philarmonic Orchestra and a English famous choir, has been attended, among many others, by Zade’s friend, princess Haya, daughter of king Hussein and wife of cheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the Arab Emirates.

Viewing that vidéo, in which the young Jordan composer explains his project, one feels that the Western taste, in this musical cooking, is obviously stronger than the Oriental one.

A blending which is also used by Rum, a band founded in 1998 and whose international fame comes to some extend from the music written by its leader, Tareq Al Nasser (طارق الناصر), for films and TV serials (see their Web site). But proportions are different with Rum as the Oriental spices exceed the Western ingredients.

In fact, every musician has his own way of mixing Western and Oriental influences, the last ones prevailing in Yazan Al Rousan’s (يزن الروسان) folk songs or Aziz Maraka’s (عزيز مرقة), Maccadi Nahhas’ (مكادي نحّاس) and Ruba Saqr’s interpretations.

All of them are from a generation in its thirty now, all of them using to some extend jazzy ingredients in their music. Referring to jazz, and especially what is called “Oriental jazz” mention has to be made to guitar player Kamal Musallam (كمال مسلم), to a new band called Sign of Thyme (زمن الزعتر) and to the very strange interpretations given by Ayman Tayseer of famous classical Egyptian songs of the 50’s (Jazz Abdul Wahab).

For rock fans, listen to Akheer Zapheer or Tyrant Throne , two local bands who give an idea of the vitality of the Jordanian musical scene.

Here to read the original and more detailed post in French, for which I am deeply endepted to Ruba Saqr, for her blog The Musical Thoughts of Ruba Saqr and to Khobbeizeh, another very interesting blog about music, especially in Jordan.

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