The «Orquesta Árabe de Barcelona» | babelmed
The «Orquesta Árabe de Barcelona» Print
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The «Orquesta Árabe de Barcelona» | babelmedMohamed Soulimane (violinist and percussionist) lives in Barcelona and is born in Chefchaouen (Northern Morocco). He is the founder of the Orquesta Árabe de Barcelona. He undertook his high level music studies at the conservatoires of Chefchaouen, Tétouan and Rabat, where he played in Al-Andalusi and Arab traditional ensembles. He later collaborated in Morocco with Al Yanabi-Al Kaouakeb, Abdessadak Chekara and Amin Akrami, Layali al Arab, Sanabel al Hilal and Achabab al Bougaz.

Made up of musicians from Morocco, Greece and Catalonia trained in the most diverse disciplines – from classical music to traditional Maghrebian and Middle Eastern music, including rai, jazz, new music trends and electronic music –, the Orquesta Árabe de Barcelona has a peculiar approach, both intimate and remote, which emerges from the successful fusion of styles and cultures. With wide-ranging individual careers, its members have collaborated with artists such as Rosa Zaragoza, Chab Samir, Samira Said and Lotfi Bouchnak, among others, and have formed part of prestigious Moroccan orchestras and European ensembles of very diverse styles. With a repertoire combining traditional pieces from different parts of the Mediterranean and original compositions, the ensemble offers us a very peculiar reinterpretation – full of nuances and surprises – of Arab music, with reminiscences of the different music traditions of its members.

In only three years, the members of the group have managed to pass from being completely unknown to producing their record, achieving the respect of the Catalan institutions. According to them, “we are much more than a music group. We are responsible for explaining who we are because Arab immigrants in the street have no voice. Our work goes beyond music; it is social, political, artistic and educational.”

All their songs are written in Arabic, except one, L’emigrant (“The Emigrant”), Jacint Verdaguer’s poem. Soulimane discovered Barcelona when he was studying electrical engineering. In Morocco he studied classical and eastern violin, harmony, and Arab and Al-Andalusi music theory.

Mohamed Soulimane is the agglutinating element of the orchestra, formed by four compatriots from Morocco, as well as a Catalan musician and another from Greece. The group has already released first record, called Baraka . As Soulimane says, “I believe that God is on our side because there are many good groups but not so many which have achieved such a rapid projection as ours. Our music is an important way of explaining our culture in a moment which is very politically sensitive, in which Islam is identified with terrorism, violence and radical postures. For us it is quite the contrary, and this is what we try to transmit with our rhythms, lyrics and music.”

The feeling of an immigrant arriving in Europe on board a small boat, and the lyrics explaining that Islam symbolises peace and love in a culture which is against terrorism are two of the most important issues on the first record of the Orquesta Árabe de Barcelona, which will perform at L’Auditori, a concert hall in this city.

The Orquesta Árabe de Barcelona was born out of the determination Soulimane and Mohammad Bout Ayoub. Their first album is called Baraka , a simple word which, according to the leader of the group, “embraces a major concept and defines the beautiful things that we can share.” Soulimane is the author of most of the music on the album from which we should point out the track “No a la tristeza”, composed after the terrorist attacks in Madrid. As the author states, this song supports the idea that “Arabs and Muslims are against terrorism. We don’t like it to be linked to Islam.”

(14/03/2009)

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