Amman & All That Jazz!
To celebrate diversity and cultural fusion…
Amman’s Jazz Festival. In partnership with Blue Fig.
(Picture; Nadine is wearing a white tailored tuxedo trousers, and white chiffon top both Karen Millen. Hoop earrings worn thought-out, vintage.)
Music has always been a crucial medium amongst communities whether local or international, also, music is the silver stitch woven through society; it is comforting through times of anguish; expressive through tumultuous events; collective or individualistic; and serves as a witness and reminder of great accomplishments and defeats.
Jazz originated in the southern United States in the late 19th century and is considered as a type of African-American music. It was a fusion of both European and African notes containing African musical elements such as blue notes, improvisation, polyrhythms, syncopation and the swung note. Jazz does not have a particular shape or form; improvisation on the other hand is what gives jazz music flavor and a distinct sound. Early blues is the main influencer on jazz music, and is highly improvisational. It is a form of folk music, which was born on cotton plantations and was sung by African-American workers in the form of work songs.
Photographs by Agnes Montanari. Article by Raya Al-Khatib, Abdul Qader Miqdadi and Jawad Hijazi. Make-up by Amer Atta. Hair by Jubran. Styled by Fadi Zumot. Making of video by Ala’a Abu Qasheh. Model: My.Kali’s muse, Nadine. Photo edited and art directed by Kali. Location: Blue Fig Cafe/restaurant. Celebrating Amman Jazz Festival, in partnership with Blue Fig
(Picture; Nadine is wearing a softly tailored jacket with sheer sleeves, tailored black capri trousers, both Karen Millen. Gold loop chalker, H&M. Hoop earrings worn thought-out, vintage. Black bra, photographer's own.)
The beauty of jazz lies in its imperfection in comparison to classical music; in the later the performer’s main goal is to play a composition precisely as it written. Jazz music however is the polar opposite; its foundations are group creativity, interaction and collaboration. Jazz is determined by the performer’s interpretation of a tune, this is dependent on many factors: performer’s mood and personal experience, chemistry with other musicians, and interaction with the audience. A performer may alter melodies, harmonies, or time signatures on the spot, therefore performers never play the same composition twice and the value added by the composer and performers depends on their level of creative input.
Improvisation was revolutionized over the history of music. In New Orleans and Dixieland jazz, jazz performers took turns playing the melody while the others improvised countermelodies. However, during the swing era bands started to rely more on arranged music, which was either written or learnt by ear and memorized. Soloists would improvise within these arrangements. Later on, in bebop, bands formed in small groups with minimal arrangements; the melody be established briefly at the start and end of a piece, but the core of the performance would be a series of improvisations.
“Timeless moods you can crab”
In later styles, such as modal jazz, the chord progression was abandoned, allowing individual musicians to improvise more freely within the context of a given scale or mode. In various forms of jazz a rhythm section, is created by playing chords and rhythms, supports the soloist simultaneously it serves as the outline of the song structure at the same time complementing the soloist. In avant-garde and free jazz idioms there is no separation between soloist and the rest of the band, also there is the option of abandoning chords, scales and rhythmic meters.
Jazz for Syria is an international event that aims in raising awareness and support for Syrian refugees. The event commenced on UNESCO’s International Jazz Day Wednesday 30th April 2014. The event comprised of simultaneous concerts that took place in The Hague (Netherlands), Beirut and Amman. The concerts were connected through Internet broadcasting. The concert that was performed in Amman and was considered the opening of Amman Jazz Festival’s third edition. This was achieved through collaboration with Syrious Mission; a Dutch NGO operating in Jordan, connecting Syrian urban refugees and the local community through music. And Syrian Music Live; a concert tour, which took place at Zara Expo. “Our mission is to keep Syrian music alive, to share Syria’s rich, vibrant culture. Join the soulful journey.” States the tour’s page.
(Top image; Nadine is wearing a white tailored tuxedo trousers, and white top, both Karen Millen. Image below left; embroidered white mesh shift dress from Karen Millen. Gold loop chalker, H&M. Image right; short fringed top, silver chalker, all H&M. Tailored capri trousers, patent leather lace-up brogue shoes, both Karen Millen. Hoop earrings worn thought-out, vintage.)
Amman Jazz Festival was commenced throughout the month of May and it’s concerts were performed in many venues, Corners Pub, Villa 14, Shoman Foundation and Blue Fig to name a few. Sometimes in life, things seem to be separate and far from each other, such as family, business, pleasure, or just the simple feeling of relaxation, like pieces of a puzzle that just seem chaotic and out of place when seen individually, but thankfully, Blue Fig had brought all that together and showed the bigger picture. The fine ambience inside that perfectly complements the fine foods and drinks served, along with a pleasant sound system that is not too low yet not too high, a big plus in the Amman scene of pubs and restaurants, as a lot of them tend to overlook that sometimes and just shove the music down your throat (or ear canals in our case).
The outer terrace is a great escape to fresh air if you’re sick of being cooped up indoors, and if the weather is pleasant, then you’re in for a treat, as it does the terrace justice, and shows you the excellent service and offerings of the friendly staff. The restaurant/cafe celebrated the opening of the terrace with the beginning of the festival, and celebrated the first traces of summer.
(Picture: Nadine is wearing a black Figure-fit crêpe dress, black long waist- coat, twisted beaded turquoise necklace, all H&M. Hoop earrings, vintage.)
Overall, it is an ideal venue as its spirit is harmonious with the essence of jazz, to enjoy jazz you must “Engage all of your senses” and “Timeless moods you can crab” which is what Blue Fig encourages its customers to experience through the establishment’s ambiance. Another motto that brings together jazz music and this restaurant is “improvised rituals of delight”. Jazz music is built on improvising around the harmony that Blue Fig wants its customers to experiment with its delightful menu.
“…this band feels like it is it’s duty to bring people together in Syria and bridge the gaps between the different sects by tackling non-political themes in their music.”
The first jazz band that opened the festival in Blue Fig was Fattet Le3bit. It is one of the first contemporary Syrian bands that started in 2004. Its founder and guitarist Hannibal Saad, who lived in the United States for 12 years, and when he returned to Syria, he coordinated a jazz festival which started off in two cities and grew from there on. He collaborated with musicians in Lebanon and Jordan. He wanted to form a band that avoids strict classical music and concentrates on being a band that is entertaining and contemporary. That is why he created the band Fattet Le3bit, and was able to experiment and create new sounds. They played different genres of music other than jazz such as hard rock and rap. As a band they started off by playing in unknown cultural centers, villages and cities that were unfamiliar with jazz music. In 2010 the band released its first album and then split up temporarily. In order for people to accept their music in the beginning, they sandwiched a classical Arabic song from famous artists such as Um Kolthoum between jazzy music. The band possesses great synergy due to the ability to create and experiment, this band feels like it is it’s duty to bring people together in Syria and bridge the gaps between the different sects by tackling non-political themes in their music.
As far as Jazz goes, they have created for themselves a very unique, interesting, and entertaining style. The influence of the greats, such as Miles Davis, David Brubeck and many others is very apparent, but then again so are many other talented and upcoming Jazz artists of our current time. The combination of the Arabic Derbakeh or Tablah with a drum set is an attribute that adds much more richness to the beat and rhythm.
(Picture: Nadine is wearing a black top with sheer sleeves and wide leg tailored jumpsuit worn under, patent leather lace-up brogue shoes, all Karen Millen. Orange and gold bracelets, H&M. Hoop earrings, vintage)
This, working in adjacent to the smooth yet bold bass lines leading the way to the guitar playing, spreads the overall feeling upon their songs, followed by the keys which at sometimes sound subtle and perfectly hidden in the background, or stand out with every keystroke and shine in the limelight. The brass additions are used as a more folky Levant touch, rather than just an instrument to accompany the music played, and it adds character that any other Jazz subgenre lacks. The closest in comparison to this oriental jazz is Cuban or Latino jazz, and even that doesn’t have the oriental scales played within Fattet‘s music.
The vocals have a special twist to them, where at times they are sung within the spectrum of Arabic scales and arpeggios, and at others they are given more of a freestyle rap feel, while the lyrics range from trivial everyday occurrences to strong bold words that have powerful emotional undertones to it.
(Top image; with band The Rembrandt Frerichs, Nadine is wearing a embroidered white mesh shift dress from Karen Millen. Image below left; black top with wide leg tailored jumpsuit worn under, patent leather lace-up brogue shoes, all Karen Millen. Orange and gold bracelets, H&M. Image right; short fringed top, silver chalker, all H&M. Tailored capri trousers, patent leather lace-up brogue shoes, all Karen Millen. Hoop earrings worn thought-out, vintage.)
The second band that played in Blue Fig is The Rembrandt Frerichs Trio that was created in 2005. The pianist and composer Rembrandt was a teacher in several music conservatories, with a higher education in music, shortly after graduating from the US. Rembrandt also started composing in 2005, he played in different groups using different instruments. The band played traditional jazz music for several years, however the trio has an interest in oriental music. Rembrandt lived in Cairo in his earlier years and played with famous Lebanese singer, Rima Khcheich for 15 years. He also travelled to Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan and has an interest in Iranian music. Tony Overwater, the bassist in the trio, played in Jordan’s Jerash Festival for The Culture and Arts 15 years ago, he also performed in Al Balad Theatre. The band tries to integrate what interests them in each musical style. An obstacle they have faced is related to the piano, some beats cannot be played on the piano therefore they incorporate the techniques of the Qanun and use ornaments played on this Arabic musical instrument. The band works with Syrian refugees, they performed a concert dedicated to Syrian refugees on the 30th of April, International Jazz Day, in Holland. They collected money in Holland and coordinated with Syrious Mission, to purchase musical instruments such as guitars, tablas and melodicas, with the money collected, for Syrian children in refugee camps. They also donated musical instruments to the King Hussein Cancer foundation to be used in a music therapy program to help treat cancer patients. They plan on taking donations to the Syrian refugees living in Lebanon in June. The band is very fond of Middle Eastern culture. Since it is a collective culture forming connections with people is much easier than it is in more individualistic cultures.
(Picture: Nadine is wearing a black Figure-fit crêpe dress, and twisted beaded turquoise necklace, all H&M. Hoop earrings, vintage.)
You would think that this is the typical Jazz trio, piano, contrabass and a drum kit, but this is far from the typical Jazz band, especially when the oriental notes that are mashed up with classical pieces start soaring with the oddest time signatures. Although it is perceived that changing time signatures in such a consistent manner would be off-putting or even confusing, this is no close to reality here. All the notes, variations, and moods are played in a very listener-friendly pattern.
As all typical musical pieces begin, the intro starts you off gently into this journey of turbulent tempos and brilliant beats, with the bass lines setting up a mood to start with, while the drums starts off like a revving engine of a car, with gentle beats all over the drum kit, accompanying the piano strokes, that brings it all together, showing the silver linings of what may be a dark and misunderstood sonic piece.
The Middle Eastern influence can be sometimes hidden in an intricate way, where the notes would typically move on western scales, but just maybe at the middle or the end of the scale, a quarter note is placed, changing the whole scale and mood of the tunes expelled from the instruments, adding a mystical vibe that is often how the west portrays the east, but as a listener from the middle east, it hits home and sends you to simpler, better times.