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Monday, December 22, 2014  
Celebrating ethnic tunes
Global Fusion 2012 brings together another exciting experience of world music that everyone can enjoy, David Solomon writes

PLAYING an instrument or performing an art form steeped in tradition and ethnicity demands a different kind of commitment and dedication. For one thing, it is not exactly mainstream and then to become a master at playing these ethnic instruments or performing some eclectic art form with the world as your stage is a truly awesome achievement. But beyond this, too, there are more esoteric horizons: Where cultures meet, blend and harmonise into a new sound, the sound of fusion music. A global fusion that is beyond borders and belongs to everyone, a synthesis of sounds, melodies and rhythms that becomes the heartbeat of an exciting and new kind of music that will unfold at the Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa’s Amphitheatre on Thursday November 8 from 7pm onwards. This is the fifth year of the Global Fusion Concert in Muscat.

The concert brings together five Indian musicians – Niladri Kumar (sitar/zitar), who leads the group, Gino Banks (drums/percussion), Satyajit Talwalkar (tabla), Agnelo Fernandes (keyboards), and Sheldon D’Silva (bass). These world acclaimed artistes will be performing along with outstanding and exceptionally talented performers from around the world. They include Ossam Ezzeldin from the US (keyboards), Hassan Jumaa Sangoor Al Balushi from Oman (mizmar/drums), Eliana Burki, Switzerland (alpenhorn), Abbos Kosimov, Uzbekistan (doyra) and Chloe Arnold, USA, (tap dancer). 

To showcase the event Oman Tribune presents an exclusive interview with four of the performers, three musicians -- Omani Hassan Jumaa Sangoor Al Balushi who plays mizmar/drums,  Eliana Burki, Switzerland (alpenhorn) and Abbos Kosimov, Uzbekistan (doyra) because of the exotic choice of instruments they play and US tap dancer Chloe Arnold.

Hassan Jumaa Al Balushi says “The mizmar is a traditional wind instrument that was originally played by sailors on their voyages. I was inspired by the masters of mizmar before me. It is a beautiful and traditional instrument. Nowadays it is very popular at weddings and celebrations.” Al Balushi, who also plays drums, says he is mostly self-taught and began his career in music at the age of 11.

Al Balushi says he has performed at official and public events locally and abroad, including Al Ain, the UAE, Kuwait and Egypt. “I’ve also travelled with the national football team to major games in Thailand and Qatar and performed in these countries as well. I also take part in Festivals and I am regularly invited to join local bands.”

To a question of how fusion music brings people together and what message does it carry or hold, Al Balushi says: “I believe that music is not only a language that unites people, but also a way to express an emotion, to give thanks, to honour, to love. Just by playing someone a piece of music one can convey these feelings without the need for words. I am happy to be invited to play at the Global Fusion concert organised by Sarasin-Alpen and Alpen Capital and this gives me an opportunity to perform with some famous names in the field of music.

Eliana Burki from Switzerland says, “I started playing my instrument when I was 6 years old because I fell in love with the sound of the Alpinehorn. It is a traditional Swiss instrument and is a part of the Swiss culture”.

Eliana entered the world of music at a very tender age. “When I was 4, I started playing the piano because my mother is a classical piano player.” She started giving performances from the age of 8. “I started playing professionally when I was 17. At 18 I went to the Classic- Konservatorium in Bern and then to jazz school in Basel. I played my first big show in the Sydney Olympic Games when I was 15. I love playing with people from all over the world. It gives me a lot of new inspiration and I learn about different cultures. For me Sarasin-Alpen and Alpen Capital’s Global Fusion event in Oman showcases “world music” and I’m thrilled to be playing together with all the great musicians. I thank them for this opportunity.”

Abbos Kosimov of Uzbekistan, who plays the doyra, talks about the history and origin of his chosen instrument. “This round-shaped percussion is known by many names as doyra, dap, childirma and charmanda and is regarded to be one of the most ancient percussion instruments”.

According to the artiste, “Doyra originated as an instrument played only by women and spread widely among Turkic peoples. Even today the doyra is used as a major musical instrument in the ritual ceremonies of Uzbeks”.

Kosimov, who started playing the doyra from the age of 10 and gave his first stage performance at 12, says: “My family was a musical family and they played melodic instruments but nobody played percussion. My father and brother persuaded me to play the doyra. My very first teacher taught me all the traditional rhythms and compositions. Later on I attended a musical school in Uzbekistan then went to the College of Culture and then to the University of Music in Tashkent.”

To a question of what fusion music mean to him, Kosimov says: “Fusion music brings different types of music and musicians from around the world and is for all types of music listeners. Sarasin-Alpen and Alpen Capital’s Global Fusion gives the message of uniting people together and creating peace in the world and I thank them for making me a part of this experience”.

Chloe Arnold, while talking about her tap dancing says, “Tap Dance is an original American art form. It originates from the African drum and dance rhythms of the slaves, and grew further from the meeting of cultures in the US, such as the Irish and Scottish indentured labourers.

Elaborating further Chloe says, “Dancers like William Henry Lane, Bill Bojangles Robinson, and John Bubbles, were key artistes in pushing the art forward and had major influences on the style we dance today.

Chloe who started dancing from the age of six says: “Tap Dancing is a unique style in which the artist is both a dancer and musician. I studied all styles of dance, but because I’m a lover of music, I was drawn to tap based on its infinite possibilities to create as both a dancer and a musician.”  

Speaking about her journey as a dancer Chloe says: “I was fortunate, at the age of 10 to be a part of Savion Glover’s DC youth company.  He was a young and virtuosic tap dancer, and he introduced us to tap as a musical art form, as well as to the legends of the art form, including Gregory Hines, The Nicholas Brothers, Dianne Walker, Jimmy Slyde, Ted Louis Levy, and many more”.  

“These masters of the art were like storytellers, and they changed my life, inspiring me to become a part of a rich legacy.  They encouraged me to be an improviser, and my best training came from jumping into jam sessions with gap dancers and musicians.  I find great joy in being able to express myself in jam sessions, creating music with my feet, while the visual aspect reflects how the music makes me feel through dance.

She adds that at 11, she again got to perform with Savion Glover’s DC youth company in NYC at Frank Hatchet’s Broadway Showcase.  “That changed my life forever. I knew I would move to NY and become a tap dancer, and when I was 18 I went to Columbia University, while training in NY with some of the best tap dancers in the world.  

Recalling her long career as a tap dancer, Chloe says: “I have had the incredible opportunity to perform as a guest performer on both ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars’.  It has been an absolute honour to represent tap dance on a professional level on the biggest dance TV shows”.  

“I have performed on major stages around the world across 22 countries, and in 35 states around the US.  One of my greatest accomplishments is performing a sold out run of my One Woman Show, “My Life, My Diary, My Dance” at Lamama and being awarded Chloe Arnold Day in Springfield, Massachusetts.

“Having the opportunity to work with Beyonce, as her dance double in the music video Upgrade You completely inspired me to bring that kind of rock star status to my art of tap dancing.

To the question of how fusion music brings people together, Chloe says: “Music and dance are universal languages.  Coming together with these incredible musicians creates a bond that transcends cultural differences.  We are united as we share our passion and move forward together, creating the most liberating feeling and unique sounds as we share the stage.  It is the most joyous and inspiring way to communicate.  We are united, and there is a mutual respect that we have for one another as we elevate each other to new levels and heights.  I think that the world needs more of this cultural bonding, rooted in love, respect, and understanding.  Together we celebrate and appreciate our differences and commonalities.  

In conclusion Chloe says: :I wouldn’t  label or categorise the music because everyone brings a different sound and vibe, and we can move in many directions together, based on our brilliant musical director, Niladri Kumar’s lead.  I think the music we create together is accessible to all because it is filled with passion, and love, and delivered with great skill! Together our possibilities are infinite! I thank Sarasin-Alpen and Alpen Capital for this opportunity and it is always wonderful being a part of the experience. This is the third Global Fusion concert that I have been a part of”.

Global Fusion is the flagship event of Sarasin-Alpen and Alpen Capital. The concert is very unique as it brings together artistes from across the world from different musical genres and provides them with a single platform to perform. The first fusion event marked the launch of the operations of the two organisations in Dubai back in 2005 and is the 17th Fusion concert across various locations.

Rohit Walia, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO Bank Sarasin-Alpen and Alpen Capital says: “We have always been very keen to support arts and music and what better way than to host a concert which brings together different kinds of music. What makes the concert so special is that, every year, there is a whole new mix of artistes who come together and create a different level of musical experience.”

Sarasin Alpen Co LLC is a subsidiary of Bank Sarasin-Alpen, Dubai, providing a complete range of first-class private banking advisory services. Apart from Oman, it has offices in Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar and India and caters to the requirements of private and institutional clients in the Middle East and South Asia.

Alpen Capital is the investment banking associate of Sarasin-Alpen and offers a full range of investment banking advisory services including Debt Advisory, Equity Advisory and Capital Markets and Mergers & Acquisitions Advisory. Alpen Capital also brings out extensive research on various GCC sectors and so far has brought up research in sectors such as hospitality, retail, education, insurance, takaful to name a few.

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