Friday, 10 November 2017

Origins – Two worlds collide in perfect harmony

By: Rolla Bahsous



Toronto audiences had the chance to witness one of the most unique musical collaborations last night at the Aga Khan Museum on the seventh day of the Festival of Arabic Music and Arts (FAMA).  Origins was just that – the first of its kind.

Canadian Arabic Orchestra poet/singer, Hassan Tamim, the mastermind behind this fusion of cultures, worked with Indigenous artist, Laura Grizzlypaws, to combine the sounds of Arabic music with that of the Indigenous nations of Canada.

Tamim explains that the idea for Origins came from Wafa Al Zaghal co-founder, CEO & Qanun player of the Canadian Arabic Orchestra and .  Wafa suggested “that as the Orchestra vision is to find a way, a joint program to bring together Arabic music with Indigenous music and music of the world, and to connect people from diverse cultures, and reconnect people from Arab origins with their roots.”

The music, accompanied by twirling dervishes, took the audience on a mystical journey of spirituality, fantasy, and showcased what happens when cultures collide in perfect unity.
Grizzlypaws, Tamim, and the rest of the vocalists took turns to sing traditional native and Arabic folkloric songs, respectively. The music from both cultures highlighted the parallel narratives: the struggles of the Indigenous nations of Canada, and those of the Indigenous populations of the Levant (Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan).

Tamim debuted his original songs, “Li Annana Nughanni,” “Azkar Rabbanieh”, “Aradian,” and “Al Rimal Al Khadra’a.”

Grizzlypaws’ powerful voice captivated the audience as she performed some of her own compositions, “Hear Me,” “Can You Use this Child,” and “I don’t want to sing, I have to sing!”
The common theme of humanity was exemplified when Grizzlypaws sang in Arabic during some of the Arabic songs, while the Arabic vocalists joined her during some of the Indigenous numbers.
A discussion panel followed the performance when Grizzlypaws proudly introduced herself in her Indigenous language.

“It’s customary for me to acknowledge my ancestry. I give many thanks for the opportunity to celebrate the joys of culture through music, art and dance,” Grizzlypaws said, while holding her baby daughter.

“This is what we are all here for, to ensure that our cultures survive and are passed on from generation to generation.”  

“I firmly believe that we are all people of the land, and we are all equal, regardless of differences in religion or ethnic origin. We are all people, we are all the same, and when we come together like this and celebrate in good harmony, that itself is good medicine,” Grizzlypaws continued.
When asked how they prepared for this performance, Tamim explained, “I started by working with Laura in selecting what music she wanted to sing. And then I looked at the music involved in Laura’s art, and tried to find the harmony between Indigenous music and Arabic music, until I found a point where it clicked.”

“From there, we worked to build a rhythm between the two different genres of music, and that’s where Wafa Al Zaghal came in to play with trying to find the harmony that involved not only the instruments, but also the choir to end up with something that we were able to present to you tonight.”
Tamim’s final score, “Al Rimal Al Khadra’a” (“Green Sands” in English), represents the process in creating Origins.

“To find eternal peace, I coined the term ‘Green sands.’ ‘Green’ comes from Canada and North America, and the Indigenous people and their lands, coupled with what people may associate Arabs with, ‘sands,’ to represent the desert. ‘Green sands’ signifies the unison between these two lands,” Tamim explained.

When asked what message do they each hope this collaboration brings, Grizzlypaws eloquently said “It goes back to the people of the land.”

“We have a responsibility for the sustainability for our own unique culture, our own songs and dances, but there’s also a time to educate, a time to share, a time to celebrate, a time to come together, a time to sing and dance and honour each other as people of the land. With that unity, we can have respect and a better understanding of each other. This has to be shared throughout Canada. So many cultures are clashing, but there is a time to share and honour one another. This is something that should continue to happen.”

Tamim echoed her response, “It also goes back to what I said about ‘Green Sands.’ We connect on the same level. We are all people of the land, regardless of where we come from.”


For more information about FAMA, and to buy tickets to the rest of the amazing performances until November 12th , visit www.canadianarabicorchestra.ca/FAMA

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