INTERVIEW: MARWAN ABADO

Marwan Abado is a native Palestinian singer and oud (a traditional string instrument very similar to a European lute) player who has lived in Vienna for over twenty years. His music and lyrics are influenced by both the improvisational Arabic tradition of Taqsim and contemporary Austria. LUNKHEAD spoke to him about music, politics and the future. 

How has your music been influenced by the music and traditions of Austria? Do you believe all music should be ‘borderless’?

“My music is deeply Arabic in its tonal and rhythmic forms and, besides, the usage of Arabic lyrics. The influence of Austrian and western musical traditions is reflected in my music through the art of performing, through musical arrangements, aesthetics, dynamics and for sure in including instruments from other traditions in this music. In my view, the reception of music is borderless, not the music itself! Music has its own structure and definitely its own identity and as such it is very much contextual.”

In light of current events in the Middle East, how important is it that Arabic traditions (such as playing the oud) are kept alive?

“The Middle East and the Arab world at large is undergoing difficult political transitions. This region has a long standing history of cultural diversity that is being threatened at the moment. Music traditions such as oud playing have lived for hundreds of centuries and it will surely survive the current crisis and wars. Yet, I do believe that the Arab diaspora all over the world will have to play an important role in preserving and developing musical traditions.”

How different/difficult is the process of writing music for film and theatre? Do you find it less personal?

“Whenever you are writing for a film or for theatre you find yourself in a space where music has a certain function, fulfilling external wishes of a filmmaker or a stage director. It is a different view, and sometimes an extremely difficult exercise, to create a certain musical theme of very short length that still can function as a melody. Somehow it sounds as if it is not personal, although your own spirit is still there in short melodies.”

What are the main inspirations for your songs? Is it the sights and sounds of your youth or the contemporary music of Vienna?

“I wish I knew where the source of my main inspiration lies! I think my personal longing for freedom is one source of inspiration, out of which this longing creativity may emerge.”

Is Taqsim more liberating than other forms of music? What, in your option, is the role of a singer? Is it to ‘offer a greater truth’ or entertain?

Taqsim has a significant form and a huge portion of improvisation; it requires a lot of practice and experience in oriental scales, besides the skill not to imitate other Masters. The only liberation in this musical form is not having a definite rhythmical schema; the rhythm comes from your own impulse as a performing musician. I think, in terms of a certain role for a singer or an artist, it is offering a dawdling of time. Nowadays whenever you ask someone about himself, the most frequent answer you hear is stressed. If artists could help slow our time that would great!”

Finally, what can you tell us about your current projects?
“I am finishing my new album MASAAR HUB (Path of Love) which offers a unique combination between harpsichord and oud. Both instruments are old in age, very exotic for the audience, yet at the same time playing music of today. Hope to see you and your readers in one of the upcoming concerts on this Earth.”

Here is his song Wadah:

WORDS: MAX FIGGETT

To find out more about Marwan and his concert dates, visit: marwan-abado.net/en/

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