An Arabian night by The Band Beyond Borders

Updated: 08 February, 2018 11:46 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

Curious about what music rooted in Arabian influences sounds like? Attend a gig helmed by two Tunisian brothers at a SoBo venue to find out

Amine Mraihi (right) plays the oud while his brother, Hamza, plays the qanun
Amine Mraihi (right) plays the oud while his brother, Hamza, plays the qanun

Quite a few unusual sounds from across the world seem to be floating into the city these days. Last week, we previewed a concert that was titled Sounds of Cuba, where a band showcased the musical traditions of the Latin American country. That same act will soon play a different gig where they will introduce Mumbai's audience to Brazilian rhythms. But in the meantime, there is another out-of-the-box performance lined up at a SoBo venue, which puts the focus on music inspired from classical Arabian tunes.

A qanun is similar to a type of Indian harp called swarmandal. Illustration/Ravi Jadhav
A qanun is similar to a type of Indian harp called swarmandal. Illustration/Ravi Jadhav

It will be performed by The Band Beyond Borders, and to get an idea about the nuances of the genre, we ask Amine Mraihi, the frontman from Tunisia, to take us through what classical Arabian music entails. He says, "It's actually quite similar to Indian traditional music, in the sense that it is based on the master-disciple principle. The songs consist of maqams, which are a lot like ragas and are meant for different times of the day, such as mornings and evenings. The instruments, too, bear a likeness, since the oud can be compared to the sitar and the qanun to the swarmandal [an Indian harp: refer to visual]. Plus, it's a lot more spiritual compared to western music."

The Band Beyond Borders
The Band Beyond Borders

Mraihi adds, however, that even though The Band Beyond Borders uses classical Arabian traditions as a sonic fulcrum, it also keeps its doors open to music from other parts of the world. "So, we have the violin and tabla as part of our sets, apart from other different types of percussion instruments. In fact, my brother [Hamza] and I aside, everyone else in the band comes from different parts of the world and brings their individual musical influences on the table. It's thus not easy to put our music in a bracket, because you can't define where it comes from," he says.

The 31-year-old further says that though Hamza and he are now based in Switzerland, they spent their formative years in the North African country. "We come from a family that practises medicine, and we are actually both doctors ourselves. But our father had a deep love for music and he encouraged us to play instruments from as early as when I was three years old. Then, in the '90s, we heard artistes like Shakti and Trilok Gurtu, and that's what shaped our musical influences. So, you will find a lot of Indian inspirations as well in our songs," Mraihi reveals.

That, he adds, is precisely the reason why their tour of India is a dream come true. "The culture has influenced us so much that the audience in Mumbai can expect a lot of love coming at them from the stage. There will also be a lot of unexpected musical turns, and as much sensuality as powerful rhythms. All in all, it will be a journey of complete discovery," Mraihi ends.

On: Tonight, 9.30 pm onwards
At: The Quarter, Royal Opera House, Girgaum.
Log on to:
Cost: Rs.749

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First Published: 08 February, 2018 09:55 IST

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