posted on 09/06/2012: 652 views
One would think that blending what time, cultures and generations kept separate for centuries would be an unachievable feat.
But, Faisal Al Saari, an Emirati oud player, his never ending passion to be distinguished, combined with superior skills and a talent that was perfected through training and practice, brought forth a perfect marriage of two classical musical elements that perhaps were never meant to be integrated.
Customary performances suggest that the notes of Bach, Flamingo, and jazz genres were destined forever to be sung on the traditional mix of instruments like piano, violin, saxophone etc. After all, that is the way they have been presented to us for generations. And, it might be possible the idea of using a classical and traditional instrument of the East to lay out western tunes probably did occur, and perhaps some had tried the concept.
But, Al Saari, is perhaps the only artist who had successfully demonstrated this mélange to a paying audience. As odd as this Oud-Bach maybe, one listen to Al Saari has converted many doubters into loyal fans.
"I wanted to grab the attention of the world and show them that oud instrument can play Bach, Vivaldi, Paganini, Chopard and more,” Al Sari said, sharing with Gulf News his path with music.
Composer, player and Oud Virtuoso, Al Sari translated classical notes on Oud strings, enchanting his fans with a transcendent innovative repertoire that eloquently combines classical music, jazz and variety of genres with the sounds of Emirati heritage.
"I consider oud an international instrument. I played Turkish lyrics, jazz, rock and roll. I was the first to play Bach on oud which shows the potential of this instrument, which we have unjustly limited to certain melodies, and which should be a part of full orchestra,” he explained.
If the ultimate test is the approval of the audience, history he showed that his art and style resonate with a large segment of the Emirati population.
"This is my way to bring forth our heritage and give it an international flavour. The audiences love this mix, and their enthusiasm is flattering. On several occasions during my performances, some could no longer hold their enthusiasm and erupted with applause when I played Godfather music and Speak Softly Love,” he added.
Al Saari represents a new generation of young Emirati talent. It took years of dedication, perseverance and training to perfect his sounds into unparalleled music.
Al Saari's interest in music started at an early age.
"When I was 15 years old I used to go to the Equestrian Club in Sharjah. One of the club goers always had an oud with him and I always admired the instrument and his skills. An oud was not always available to me, he and his friends used to hide their oud, as they didn't want to be interrupted with my beginner's skills,” Al Saari recalled.
Al Saari initially taught himself how to play the basic cords of the instrument. But, in pursuit of perfection, he enrolled to study music at the Institute of Professor Ahmed Fathi in Sharjah.
Although never lacking passion and love for his instrument and the art, his path to stardom was not an easy walk.
"My parents found in my passion a disgrace to the family's name. They forbid me from playing and strongly fought my passion. I had to hide my oud and could only play secretly. They also fought my passion to other art forms – I have an ardor for charcoal drawing as well, and some of my work has won awards,” he said.
With the family's stand against his worship to oud, Al Saari built his career away from music.
"I joined the Abu Dhabi police and rose to rank of First lieutenant in the Anti Narcotics Department. I was honoured to serve my country in this path, but my love for music was a constant force that eventually drove me back into what I was meant to do. I felt I can serve my country in another way that better matches my passion, natural abilities and skills. I felt I wanted to change my entire life,” he recollected.
Al Saari also was convinced that in order to be successful, being a good Oud player needed to be complemented with other relevant capabilities. So, he joined the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and obtained a diploma in Sound Engineering, Radio and Television Production. He also received a post graduate diploma in Information Communication Technology- Applied Media Studies.
"I would finish my work at the Abu Dhabi police then go straight to college until 9pm. It was a long, tough path but definitely worth it,” he said.
As for oud playing skills, he initially taught himself how to play the basic cords of the instrument. But, in pursuit of perfection, he enrolled to study music at the Institute of Professor Ahmed Fathi in Sharjah. He also enrolled in the Arab Oud House Academy, in the Capital, where he got his Oud Soloist Teaching Degree, and practiced with several masters including Naseer Shamma, Director and Founder of the House of Oud.
He performed in many concerts. He also composed Operetta "Oriental Tale” on the occasion of the Fujairah Shopping Festival opening. He participated with Shamma in the inaugural event of the Royal Opera House in Muscat and in Baalbek Festival. He took part in the First Egypt International Oud Forum in Cairo and in the International Festival in Morocco.
As a researcher he has three studies on oud and on the Emirati musical heritage.
Some of the experts in this form of art have been vocal supporters of his talents.
"Al Saari possesses extensive talent, excellent artistic taste, rich scientific authority and creative practical experience. He is thought by many to be an artist who is able to effectively and passionately reflect the richness of the musical heritage of the UAE and the Gulf region”, said Abdullah Al Ameri, Director of Culture and Arts at Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH).
His first composition was in 1992. Among the most important musicals he composed "The story of a Nation Operetta”, which won several Awards, the Operetta "Mother of Emirates” and the Operetta "Education without Borders” that won "Kanoo Creativity Award”.
As a soloist, researcher and composer, he teaches others to continue the historic art form, blended with modern rhythms. He also worked with various UAE and GCC singers including Emirati singer Abdulla Hameed and Ibrahim Abdulla from Saudi Arabia.
Al Saari has received numerous awards throughout his career including the 2009 Abu Dhabi Festival Creativity Award. Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak awarded him the best student work. The General Headquarter of the Abu Dhabi police awarded him for his Operetta "In Zayed's Era”. HCT recognised his work and efforts on three occasions. In fact most of his operettas got awards.
He established Al Saari Institution for Artistic Production and Distribution in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, where he founded, according to him, the biggest recording studio in the Emirate at the time (2001).
Al Saari clearly dared to be different.
"I have my style and don't like to copy. Each composer has his print and his style. Challenge enthralls me, and playing difficult music improves me and makes me learn. My music is a mix of cultures. I wanted to be distinguished and have my style,” he said.
"Converting some music like Bach's prelude on oud was a challenge that many advised against saying: "you're wasting your time, classical music is not convertible on oud”. My perseverance required creativity at the technical level where I had my innovation; I also added my personal oriental touch,” he added.
Simple, modest, full of enthusiasm, passionate about music, proud of his accomplishments, yet believing there is a lot still to give and to share.
"I practice about ten hours a day, on average, and more before concerts. But, I always feel I can improve. I have no secrets in my profession. I like sharing knowledge and expertise and feel happy for the success of my colleagues”, Al Saari shared with Gulf News.
Al Saari continues to look for ways to make the UAE more globally known for its sounds of music.
"The Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, and especially Hoda Kanoo, have been a phenomenal supporter for my efforts and career. I want to represent my country in international event as a Oud player and composer, and hope the concerned authorities share my enthusiasm to help put the Emirati oud playing talent and call on them for their support.
Perhaps Al Saari's biggest fan and critic is his wife, who is always the first audience for his work.
"I am keen to have my wife listens to my music before I play it in public. She has a high taste and knows where I can improve and what the people would like to hear. I also share my initial work with a few close friends for input. At the end, I play the music that reflects my true soul as a musician and composer,” he said.
His talent seems to have influenced his five year old daughter who shares his love for drawing, singing and piano. He promises to help her pursue her passions with fewer restrictions than he was working under.
Al Saari is currently working on the Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Paganini to further bring to his admirers classical western music on what he called "the soul of the oriental heritage”. – Gulf News
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