composer, oudist, udist

Rif (Countryside)

The idea behind this project is to musically integrate the internal energy of "little things": leafs, dew, insects, birds, and everything that comes with them. These "things" that our senses got used to interacting with since childhood, at first seemed a little out of place for a little boy who is supposed to be paying attention to things other than those claimed by most to be irrelevant, or non-inspiring. However, my observations as to how these elements interacted with each other grew to intense fascination with their general movements, rhythms, sounds, patterns, reactions, conflicts and harmony. A different type of activation of my senses has accordingly emerged and later constituted the bases for nearly all my instrumental compositions, regardless of instrumentation or musical tools incorporated. The idea behind this mechanism of energy has remained the same, and simple. While the search for the inner energy of the self, the things and their surroundings regardless of their orientation, has become an obsession since those early days. During a quiet evening at our Ramallah home veranda, one physical spot set in motion the entire state of affairs in this work, and played a crucial role in putting together the main theme in Rif ; the fig tree, the oldest artichoke plant in the neighborhood, the Mediterranean scenery towards the west, the color of soil, and the feeling of coziness and unity with everything that exists in that little corner. I observed carefully all the events that were taking place within that corner and started moving towards integrating my being with theirs, me the alienated one! It wasn't my intention to tell their stories. I was, rather, telling my own through them, and with them. At that point, music started popping up and the process of writing down all these ideas for later treatment has begun. The musical key that I used to unwrap the complexities of the inner self while articulating the sense of being through other beings has become the obsession that will follow me throughout the journey of observing my own sounds and writing them down. The issue of instrumentation was one of the technically most difficult to resolve. I wanted an instrument that immediately gives the impression of authenticity and simplicity, while versatile and rich. In addition, I wanted an instrument that can hold up to the technical challenges that were evidently coming up as reflection of other types of complexities. Along with a few things that I knew at that time, I knew the instruments that I would not use, that at least helped me get a better idea about where to look. Although my sketches were nearly complete, good fortune found its way to me and was able to meet with Turkish kemençe master Nermin Kaygusuz through Martin Stokes, a mutual friend. We got together the following week and I was mesmerized by the energy of this instrument, especially when played by someone as good as Nermin. It took me a couple of weeks before making my final decision. It was the kemençe that I wanted, and one of the main reasons behind using it became much clearer; it's the kemençe's tone characteristics and call for simplicity, depth and sophistication. It reminded me of how "things" really are rather than how "things" may become, especially when comparing the kemençe to violin. As for percussion, which is an element that I wanted to use to reinforce the concept behind the whole process, using the simplest form of all percussion instruments, the bendir, was the way to go. This at least is my subjective understanding of how I made this selection. This project ended up being different from nearly everything that I have done so far, in fact often containing contradictions; I believe it still stands on its own quite well. The final result is an open-ended mixture of experimentations with maqam and some vague portraits of melodies that ceased to exist. I was able to resurrect an old man who danced in a wedding in his village the day after his wife passed away in Raqsat al-Khityar, and to make the southbound Chicago bus dance for an immigrant on his way home in Raqs al-Janub; I witnessed the birth, transformation and return of a dew in Radhadh and confessed my surrender to alienation in Gharib; tasted the smell of olive trees in Zaytun; calmed down the elements in Tahlilah; reminded myself of mortality in Murur; wondered about whom we have become in Su`ual; made promises to loved ones in Wa'd; bridged the roughness of exile in Masafa; and prayed for a better world and touched the morning breeze in Sabah.

Issa Boulos