JAZZ inspired by the country’s pearl divers and traditional wedding songs will provide the soundtrack for the return of a Bahraini-British musician, who will be performing here for the first time next month.
Among the audience at Yazz Ahmed’s first concert in Bahrain will be her father Sameer Ahmed, who has never seen her play live. The 33-year-old flugelhorn player spent her early childhood in Bahrain, but moved to the UK when she was nine and is looking forward to showcasing her talents – and making her father proud.
“We will be playing a new piece of music that I wrote last year, inspired by Bahrain’s pearl divers and wedding songs sung by women, which is mixed with jazz,” Ms Ahmed told the GDN.
“My dad has never seen me play live, so it’s really exciting for me and obviously my dad.
“I hope I can make him proud.”
Her impressive CV already includes a collaboration with legendary British rock band Radiohead, playing on their 2011 album The King of Limbs. She has also released two of her own albums with a third due out soon, appeared at the London Jazz Festival and is touring with iconic 80s band ABC this year.
Her first appearance in Bahrain, at the Cultural Hall in Manama on October 15, is part of the Bahrain International Music Festival and it will be her first visit since 2014.
“I miss Bahrain very much, the food and the weather,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to bringing my music to my first home and performing in front of my family and my friends.”
It’s fitting that her debut Bahrain show coincides with the 200th anniversary of relations between the UK and Bahrain. Her mother is English and she draws influence from both cultures for her work – and in 2012 represented both Bahrain and the UK at the 2012 Cultural Olympiad, a concert sponsored by the British Council celebrating the Olympics.
“I have always loved music and was introduced to jazz and classical music by my mum, as she had a nice record collection,” Ms Ahmed told the GDN.
“When I moved to England, my mum asked if I wanted to learn a musical instrument. Excitement “I chose the trumpet, as my maternal grandfather played the trumpet.”
However, she later took up the flugelhorn – which she described as being similar to a trumpet, but with a warmer tone – and has even created her own instrument, the quartertone flugelhorn, specially for a piece she wrote for the London Symphony Orchestra’s Soundhub scheme.
Among Ms Ahmed’s early influences was her grandfather Terry Brown, himself a trumpet player and record producer in the 1950s. “When I started playing he played his collection to me,” she recalled.
“I was caught up in the spirit and excitement of the music and I fell in love with it. “Now I am more into exploring sounds and making field recordings.
“I like to make a recording and create loops and textures, then put those sounds on top of live music – which is something I have been experimenting with lately.
“I’m going with manipulated sounds and going with a new sound world, with music from my Bahraini heritage and still continuing with the jazz element – as that’s my English heritage.”
She will be accompanied in Bahrain by her band the Ahmed Family Hafla (the Arabic word for party) to perform her own composition Alhaan Al Siduri, which means Melodies for Siduri.
“I am also about to start recording for my third album and this year I am doing a tour with 80s pop band ABC, with an orchestra and a brass section, and I have a gig next month with BBC proms,” said Ms Ahmed.
Despite the busy schedule she plans to release her new album La Saboteuse, so named due to her penchant for experimenting with musical genres, in November.
“It’s a mixture of my two bands that I run and is Arabic music fused with jazz and electronics,” she explained.
And while she continues to seek new collaborations, she admits she would welcome an opportunity to record with Radiohead again.
“I would like to work with Radiohead again and work with oud player Dhafer Youssef,” she said.
“And maybe do more with Johnny Greenwood, who writes pieces for orchestras, as I find that very interesting.”
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