Abaji, who is known as a ‘global one-man-band’, takes centre stage on January 12
Musician Abaji always knew that his life “would be on stage.” The Lebanese born multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, who specialises in ‘Oriental Blues’, will be performing in the city in a concert organised by Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum this Sunday. The artiste speaks to MetroPlus in an email interview. Excerpts from the interview.
I come from a musical family. My grandmother played the lute, my great grandmother the zither, my maternal aunts were all musicians… music naturally became everything for me. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Egyptian singer Uum Kalthum and the like with strains of Turkish music in the background.
I started playing and experimenting with music on a guitar. My musical education began in earnest when I fled the conflict in Lebanon to Paris in the mid-1970s. Realising music was my calling, I started training in percussion instruments. I have a learnt a variety of instruments and still buy and learn them.
Instrument of choice…
My favourite instrument is the one that I still don't play! I'm always interested in discovering new instruments, new sounds… I always carry and buy instruments as I travel a lot for concerts. I usually have a sound in my head. This leads to the question: How can I bring it to life and through which instrument?
Sometimes this leads to cross cultural amalgams like the oud guitar; I took an old classical guitar, removed the frets so I could play quarter notes and doubled the nylon strings for the lute effect. I have transformed quite a few of these old instruments to cater to the sounds I hear in my head. I think my passion for music comes from the desire to take the sounds I heard in my childhood and turn them into a vibrant yet personal music. I started my musical feat with ‘Origine Orients’, an album in which I recorded all my songs in a single take, playing all the instruments myself.
I'm a solo musician but I love to fuse and meet other musicians. I'm open to improvisation.
I was born in Lebanon and my cultural background is a mix of Lebanese, Syrian, Greek, Turkish, Armenian and French. These different backgrounds and traditions have influenced my music.
Singing the blues
German journalists have named my music ‘Oriental Blues’ and I kept it. I compose the music that I play because it is double the fun. I sing in different languages and I enjoy playing instruments that have a “voice-like” effect.
Music, all year round
I am lucky to be a full time musician. And when I say full time, I mean full time. I breathe music, eat music and dream music. I love mixing my passions: playing music, travelling, meeting people...
It is my first time in India. I will be visiting Chennai, Chandigarh, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Bangalore, Pondicherry, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram. What is fascinating about India is the richness of the music: north and south, traditions and modernity!
I love classical Indian music, the great masters of the sitar, tablas, santur, bamboo flute... Coming to perform in India was always a dream. In fact I tell my fellow musicians that if I go to India, I am not sure if I will be returning home to Paris.
Music for the city audience
The music that I will play will be based on my latest album ‘Origine Orients’. I will also improvise and bring new innovations during the concert.