It was an ominous start to what was supposed to be the musical high point of the year: weather conditions postponed the concert’s initially planned date, and even many in our own office were beginning to get skeptical. After all, how do you put on a successful event with so many people, for such a large audience and have something as basic as the event date itself plunge into a state of limbo with the hopes of the clouds clearing up? Consider it a testament not just to good planning overall then, but to the desire of local people to get out and see a wonderful live music performance, as well as support those involved (many of whom we all know well), that the final outcome turned out to be the amazing, jaw-dropping, entertainment-of-the-year event that it had been predicted to be.
The event in question is the now not-so-secret Samsara, Nawaf Gheraibah’s brainchild and expression of past meets worldly present of a multi-cultural, multinational large-scale performance. Ask anyone present and they will tell you that something quite magical happened as the 30 plus performers took the stage in front of roughly 2500 people at the GUST University Amphitheater, for 15 songs over a couple of hours; quite simply—transcendence! Now, it would be quite easy to think that I am overselling or just waxing poetic here as many are want to do in such cases, but when few other words will suffice, you must call it for the musical awesomeness that it indeed was. It simply represented the best of what music (and more specifically Live music) can be. The moment when the collective musical note or expression surpasses the individual efforts of those involved forming a collective experience for band and audience alike—kudos!
The music itself, with its variety of ethnic influences such as Indian, Thai, Moroccan, African, Middle Eastern and European sound and song—and notably performed in as many languages including Arabic, French, Swahili, Portuguese, Hindi, and English—was a mix of old world tradition and newer influences, meant to appeal to our many varied interests. With the 30-odd performers on stage, all decked out in white, you would be forgiven for thinking you were watching the house band and Puff Daddy’s Hamptons residence, which is notorious for its guest list of who’s who of the entertainment world in attendance. Consider this our equivalent then, with all of these artists present: from enigmatic female vocalists Coco and Neelima Dominic, and male vocalists of Montaster Al Farsi, Hadi and Faisal Marei, and Daffy, there was enough soulful voices present to set a backdrop to even the blandest script. A trumpet, saxophone and French horn rounding out the horn sections, and a 4-man percussion section billed as the Stylus band, throw in Mohammed Rashid, Abdulla Adnan and Soud al Saad on guitar, drums and bass, respectively, and we are already well on our way to an amazing soundscape. By the time you add an additional 7 violinists, 2 people on Cello and Viola each, the Piano, Nay, and Oud—and you indeed have a full-fledged multi-cultural orchestra. I am told also that the majority of these players are Kuwaiti students from the Higher Institute of Musical Arts, Kuwait. In addition, a variety of musical students and professionals from other countries, such as Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Lebanon, India, Jordan, Korea, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Sudan also rounded out the mix.
For those of you who may have missed the event itself, you are in luck, as live recordings of the bulk of the event recently went on sale at iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and CDBaby—the indie artist mecca for physical product—in the middle of December (not too bad of a turn around for mixing and mastering no matter where you are in the world). These 7 songs come straight from the last show and were released through Nawaf’s Ajna Records.
It would be a fair critique of the local music scene in general to say that one of the inherent problems in growing a scene is the lack of a middle ground (the sweet spot between large shows and just playing in your own living room wherein most live music incubates and gets good, or disappears into the ether) for live music. That said, it is precisely nights like Samsara, which show music in all of its multicultural and inclusive glory, that will in the end change the local music scene, one show at a time.
For more information, check out www.ajnarecords.com.