On the third day of Al Balad Music Festival (f, t), I was lucky to attend two concerts by Tamer Abu Ghazaleh and Maryam Saleh. In it’s third iteration now, Al Balad Music festival started in 2009, as an effort to present independent musical acts from the Arab world to the Jordanian audience. The festival venue is the renovated Odeon in Amman, a ancient Roman theater. What was interesting about the concert venue is the incredible acoustics, where the sound would be blaring inside the theater, but barely audible once you step out the door, which speaks volumes about the architecture skills of the ancient Romans.
The first act for the day was Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, with his unique brand of Arabic Alternative music. As a vocalist, he shows amazing dexterity in shifting through various accents, tones and styles to deliver a remarkable variety of songs that he has composed, but written by a plethora of Arab literary icons, most notably the famous Arab poet Najeeb Al Suroor. Tamer echoes a forgotten voice of Arab music that was buried by decades of extremism and gentrification.
However, the main dynamic in the performance was the constant struggle between Tamer’s oriental instruments, his Oud and Buzzok, and the classical rock instruments, the bass, drums, and keyboards, all manned by accomplished musicians in their own rights. While the rest of the band would play together in harmony, even laughing and giving each other glances on stage, Tamer would stand alone with his chest out, holding his Oud unconventionally like a punk rocker would, vying to carve his own music out of the noise of rock. It’s a refreshing brand of Oriental fusion, unlike the norm where the Oud or Buzzok would bow for a mere complementary role. It’s in this dynamic of dissonance and the rebellious lyrics that the band was able to manifest the complex post-Arab Spring gestalt, making Tamer Abu Ghazaleh a live act that’s not to be missed.
The highlight of the show was the performance of the song “Breaking News”, the one in the music video below.
Follow my blog for the next part, where I review the amazing Maryam Saleh’s concert.