Do you sing in the shower? Hum along to the radio? Then you have what it takes to join the Ahmadi Music Group! While AMG performs musicals, operas, choral recitals and has performed at the Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmad Cultural Centre (JACC), there are no formal auditions to join. You just have to love music and be able to commit to a couple of hours each week on a Sunday evening. Luckily it’s no longer based far away in Ahmadi, but rehearses in Jabriya.
In 2006, the outgoing director of AMG approached Richard and Harriet Bushman to see if they would be interested in running this musical ensemble and they took it on with gusto. Pushing the potential that they’d seen in the group, they produced some wonderful musical extravaganzas and memorable evenings, with the promise of much more to come. From West Side Story to Gideon, jazz to opera, the musical range is vast. Even embassies would host events with AMG like Last Night of the Proms which, for three years in a row had people planning their calendars around this very British live music event boasting an impressive 120-piece choir and orchestra.
It is important to the Bushmans that the people of Kuwait are introduced to other kinds of musical cultures to support the musical educational and cultural development in Kuwait. Last year two of the most incredible concerts Kuwait has seen happened in the Abdulhussain Abdulredha Theatre in Salmiya. Sponsored by the National Council for Culture Arts and Letters, both concerts were free and open to the public. All the way from Cuba, Sobreandor had the dishdasha clad VIPs samba-ing in their seats. The audience went wild on the balcony with many standing to dance. Two days later, the future of contemporary jazz, the Kevin Davy Sextet from London, was performing onstage, both bands hand-picked to perform by Richard Bushman, as talent scout is one of his many skills.
Auditions took place all over Europe to find a top-quality, international cast of successful professional musicians to fill the roles for the production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The level of work and commitment that goes into creating this kind of cultural experience is extensive, but it will have a positive impact on young, music students in Kuwait. “We hope that Kuwait will begin producing more experienced musicians so that local artists can do more and more of the roles” Richard is quoted in the Arab Times.
“We’re currently digging the foundations and figuring out how opera gets produced in Kuwait, written in Kuwait and exported by Kuwait,” says Richard. “The ultimate goal, is to make Kuwait the world leader in new, Arabic-language opera.” He insists that the talent is present in Kuwait and can be grown here, if continuously nurtured and developed to produce enough creative content to sustain a full cultural schedule annually.
Burgan Bank has fervently grasped at the opportunity and huge responsibility to contribute to such a noble cause. This includes playing a significant part in the growth of live music performance in Kuwait through the patronage of the Ahmadi Music Group. Their generous support continues for the upcoming season, which is an impressive sixth year in a row for the local bank with AMG.
Richard effuses, “We are consistently overwhelmed by the sheer enthusiasm and high level of support that Burgan Bank shows the Ahmadi Music Group each season. We continue to celebrate and appreciate this special relationship, and look forward to the great many more things we will no doubt continue to achieve together in the future.”
Playing in the orchestra of the first symphony performed in its entirety in Kuwait was Preslav Petkov on the clarinet. An outstanding soloist in his own right, Preslav often plays clarinet and saxophone with the AMG orchestra and says, “I joined AMG with my wife in 2006. I can’t forget those days as that’s when I first saw Mr. Bushman’s passion. Since then I’ve had a chance to collaborate and meet new people, make a lot of friends and last but not least to enjoy performing. I’m extremely grateful to be part of the AMG family and big thanks should go to the Bushman’s for keeping it running all these years.”
Preslav’s other musical collaborations with Richard Bushman have included a specially curated jazz ensemble at the Dar al Athar Yarmouk Cultural Centre with other AMG musicians, and in the orchestra of the One World Actors’ Theatre production of Sweeney Todd, supported by AMG singers and players. “What I enjoy most,” Preslav continues, “is the opportunity to perform at several venues across Kuwait, and sharing the stage with other wonderful people based in Kuwait.” This is a sentiment echoed by his wife, opera Soprano Anna Karadimitrova. It’s not unusual for Preslav to be seen playing in the same orchestra which sits in the pits below a performance of Anna’s. The couple moved to Kuwait together more than 14 years ago and have been instrumental in bringing over some excellent Bulgarian singers and orchestral musicians to AMG performances, which embraces and further solidifies Kuwait’s international musical connections. “Ahmadi music group has dramatically changed my life in Kuwait.” says Anna. “By joining I resumed my stage performances with professional soloists, choir and orchestra. The AMG repertoire is very broad and makes the group unique indeed. I have encouraged all my voice students to attend the AMG concerts throughout the years.”
But AMG music really isn’t quite as serious as you may think. The wonderful thing about Ahmadi Music Group is that you’re surrounded by 50 amateur singers and a full orchestra with hundreds of cumulative years’ professional experience amongst the players, which can hide a multitude of sins. “The audience will never hear you over the brass” Richard often jests in choir rehearsals.
Last year’s hugely popular three days of ABBA event had the entire audience singing along, and from the stage all you could see was an audience dressed up in 1970s flares and costumes! If you’d like to sing along in an AMG audience then the next opportunity to do so is at the Beatles concert 7.30 p.m. Oct. 3, 4, 5 at the Kuwait National Museum Theatre. Get dressed in your best colorful 1960s gear and bazaar will see you there!
There are many more events planned for the upcoming season; a brand-new outdoor performance venue is opening in Kuwait City where a number of jazz performances will be held regularly. The AMG Jazz Week is happening again so the Cubans are coming back! And a new African Salsa band will be visiting for that festival too. The traditional seasonal concert which occurs each year at the New English School in Jabriya is coming in December, so do bring your younger children to this enjoyable performance.
To stay updated about AMG’s latest events, you can subscribe to the mailing list and book tickets by visiting www.ahmadimusicgroup.com, and follow them on Instagram @ahmadimusicg. For further enquiries you can email [email protected] or call 5063 8435. Choir rehearsals are Sundays 7 p.m.-9 p.m., at the New English School, Jabriya, Block 12.