Five Songs Cycle

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The 2014 archive

Ahmed Essyad , Fawaz Baker and Amir El Saffar

Created in 2014

Oración © Jérémy Clément


The question at the heart of Oración (a 2014 creation) would be: how can the great monodic songs that are the Andalusian saeta flamenco and the Adhan (the muezzin's call to prayer), still very much alive today, inspire the three great composers of the Arab world Ahmed Essyad, hailing from Morocco and well-known on the contemporary music scene, Fawaz Baker, the Syrian architect, oud player, and musicologist, and Amir ElSaffar, the Iraqi American trumpeter, santur player, and singer based in New York?

Five Songs
"Was Andalusia here or there? On the land or in the poem?"*

* On our last evening on this land, by Mahmoud Darwich

While western music evolved around the concepts of polyphony and harmony, so-called Arab music, and more generally the music that developed in the Muslim world, has remained first and foremost vocal and melodic, faithful to the tradition of monody in which singing and the human voice play a central part, whether they are accompanied by instruments or not. This music is built around a rich system of melodic modes, called maqams, a term used by both Arabic and Turkish music, and which has endured mostly thanks to oral tradition. That music has evolved by coming into contact with different legacies and ancient cultures. It is “an impressive poetic and musical common core that still today allows improvisation, from Marrakech to Bukhara,” according to Frédéric Deval, director of the Transcultural Programme of the Royaumont Foundation. “The present is shattering this frame of reference, at least in part. The political fault lines in the Arab world also betray a deep shift in terms of sensibilities and aesthetics.” The Arab Spring, globalisation, and the internet all played and continue to play a part in the porosity one can find in the work of artists who upset cultural, linguistic or religious affiliations, but also legacies and practices of transmission of artistic knowledge. The result of a partnership with the Royaumont Foundation, Five Songs brings together five creations and that share a common approach, testifying of the possibility of a fertile hybridization between poetic and musical cultures.

Mustapha Laribi, April 2014


Composition Fawaz Baker, Amir El Saffar & Ahmed Essyad
Artistic advice Francisco de la Rosa

With in the song  Khaled Hafez, Jésus Méndez and Eva Zaïcik
The musician Tarek Assayed (oud)
and le Quatuor Tana : Antoine Maisonhaute (1st violin), Pieter Jansen (2nd violin), Maxime Désert (alto), Jeanne Maisonhaute (cello)

Practical infos


Oración © Jérémy Clément


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