A poetic Parisian awakening: Tarik Hamdan makes music from Arab bards
In 2011, Palestinian poet and musician Tarik Hamdan (b. 1983) performed his concert, Awal al-Kalam (The Beginning of Speech), for the first time, in Ramallah. After that, he went on to perform in Alexandria, at al-Kabina Cultural Centre, Cairo, in the Ahmed Shawki Museum, and in Amman in al-Balad Theater.
Recently, Hamdan arrived in Paris. There, in the City of Lights, the Palestinian poet and musician presented an evening of poetry and music, which featured sung pieces of modern poetry, at Le Theatre de la Cite International des Arts.
The event came about after the oud player received an invitation from the Theatre de la Cite during his stay in the French capital. The invitation was for both his music and a book he has been working on for years – revolving around the idea of instability, with a chapter about Paris.
Speaking to Al-Akhbar, Hamdan said, “Paris is a focal point for musicians and important experiences, and being there is an opportunity for any artist, given how rich and diverse the city is.”
In the course of his 45-minute concert, the young poet performed nine songs which he had composed, based on the poetry of contemporary Arab poets. He had performed eight of these in the past. The ninth song was an erotic poem he had recently adapted. The poem is entitled The Desert Tent, by Egyptian poet Abdul-Moneim Ramadan.
The other songs were, Clouds by Ounsi al-Hajj,The Beginning of Poetry and Jaffa by Adonis, The Harvest Song by Najwan Darwish, A Prayer by Kafafi, The Cave by Khalil Hawi, in addition to two poems Hamdan wrote – Promises and When I Was a Sperm.
No doubt, The Beginning of Speech is a new and unique experience, particularly so because it only has a one-man team behind it. Hamdan handles the selection of poems, composition, arrangement, and singing, as well as playing oud, the single instrument accompanying the lyrics and vocals.
Hamdan believes he is still in his experimental stage. He says, “My past performances provided me with a strong push that encouraged me to believe this kind of music and lyrics may find a wide audience to interact positively with, and eagerly receive it.”
In addition to poetry and his work as editor of the Palestine Youth magazine, which is published by Jeel Publishing in Palestine, Hamdan says that he perceives music as a medium to express himself, and the world as he sees and experiences it.
The Palestinian poet says that works involving contemporary Arab poetry are scarce. He believes that music is an important medium for expression, for communicating ideas and for influencing audiences, “at a bitter time when readership in the Arab world has declined greatly, especially regarding poetry.”
Hamdan’s future production will include instrumental oud pieces, that is, without any vocals, composed by him. But he is keen on not falling into repetition, something he could not manage to avoid in some parts of The Beginning of Speech.