Tradition meets contemporary in a Cairo concert
Khyam Allami, a well-known oud player of Iraqi origin, came to Cairo to deliver a melodic concert along with percussionist Khaled Yassine and electronic musician Maurice Louca. The studio’s small concert hall was filled to the brim with eager concert goers.
The trio semi-improvised together, listening to each other and building up an overall relaxing composition. Allami noted: “Improvisation allows you to stop worrying about the technique, and instead, present proper compositions. You can just let it go.” Yet, the process of letting it go asks for an undoubting virtuosity, and a musical complicity between the artists.
It is not the first time Louca and Allami combined their two styles. In a collaborative project called Alif, they had gathered oriental with electronic sounds, and acoustic with semi-electric music. While the two musicians were in the studio recording for Alif Ensemble, they began to play outside the project. “It’s not necessarily electric music in terms of being amplified,” said Allami. For him, the music they produce is more about building different musical textures.
“I’ve been playing solo oud live for the last couple of years, and after a while you get a little bit tired of the same sounds,” he said. “So it’s nice to have all these different textures.”
“We just found a way of communicating musically together.” he emphasised. In fact on stage, the instruments are dialoguing with each other. Yassine’s large panel of percussions, from the tambourine to the drums, serve as a rhythmic base for the musicians. Then, the oud’s plaintive voice joins the melody, enhanced by the electronic sounds. The music they produce, according to Allami, “is not about the melody; it’s just about making a more exciting [musical] texture”.
Having performed on stage along with Louca several times before, Allami naturally thought of him for a duo at 100Copies. Aside from being part of Alif Ensemble project, the Egyptian electronic musician is also a cofounder and member of the electronic band Bikya, and released a solo album almost two years ago.
Speaking about his partner’s music, the oud player said, “Maurice is very great at building rhythms, and taking loops on the fly. He brings texture, layers, and his ability to create a very sharp change in the atmosphere.”
“These textures that come from Maurice, they are very important because they build the dynamics. It affects you on the stage a lot.”
As for Allami’s part: “What I can bring is the melodic side. Sometimes it’s Arabic in flavour, another time it goes elsewhere,” he said.
The result of this combination is soft and uncluttered music, even during more intense pieces of improvisation.
Alif Ensemble will launch its Summer Tour with a performance at Darb 1718 on Friday, 7 June in Cairo.
By Fanny Ohier
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