Airtime Records - The Culture




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The Culture - Original Instruments, Ancient Heritage


The magic of the music began in the spring of 2005, when Airtime Records assembled fourteen Arabic performers with their traditional Bedouin instruments for a spontaneous recording session.


When they gathered in the Jawaher Studios of Dubai, we gave each musician an hour to record selections of his choosing, or to improvise freely. Our instructions had to be translated, so conversations between us were stilted. But it was not simply a question of language.


The rules of music were different, as were chords and harmonies, tonalities and rhythms. We explained to them that the purpose of the session was to gather samples and loops for use in electronic compositions back in Europe. What that meant could not be made entirely clear. But in the end, of course, it was the music that connected us.


We watched through the windows of the control room as these virtuoso performers worked their instruments, filling the air with the rich moods of shifting sands and starlit skies, of winds in the Wadi and deep desert silence, of travelers telling tales in their tents. It was all there that day, music we were feeling, if not completely understanding. For us, it came from somewhere faraway. The performances sent shivers down our spines.


Each musician had his own style. Kusay's violin struck melodic chords that rang familiar in our ears, while Ahmed plucked at his Oud, an Arabic Lute, at fast and furious speeds. We wondered why our percussionist Riad sat on a rug in the hallway with a gas burner. He was tuning the skins of his drums, we learned, which he played with enormous skill.


Alaa Majed, a renowned Iraqi Maestro in his own right, insisted we extinguish all lights before he play his wooden flutes. In the darkness of the studio, he then created an hour of breathtaking desert moods. Hasan's fingers flew over the strings of his Qanun, a Bedouin zither, dancing widly, hypnotizing us with his virtousity.


Finally, we called in the vocalists, three men and two women. None heard what was recorded before them. They improvised freely. At the end of the day, I realized this had been one of the most amazing experiences I ever had in a studio.