When thinking about or interacting with musicians, it’s difficult to imagine them as separate entities from the genres they frequent during music production. After the Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) Info Session on Friday, the 6th of February - which you should read about here - it made sense to ask RBMA alum Hasan Hujairi to head the first post of my new Music Monday series.
During the Q&A info session, an audience member asked the Bahraini sound designer if he listens to experimental and noise music in his car. When Hasan responded with a smile and a hearty, “Definitely not,” my curiosity flared and I approached him to help me with this post.
So change up your music-listening habits for today with five tracks that Hasan Hujairi is listening to right now. I know I will.
I was asked to name five tracks that are currently on high rotation here in my home in Seoul, South Korea. These tracks are by no means a "best of" compilation and certainly don't reflect everything I am listening to right now (nor are they necessarily new to me). The reason I chose these tracks is because I find in them something that inspires an idea or an expression that I myself am looking for. These tracks all deserve a very close listen so turn up your speakers, or better yet, pull out your headphones and lose yourself just a little bit.
1. Rachid Taha, "Foqt Foqt" (Album: Made in Medina. Year: 2000)
The reason I chose this track, although it isn't necessarily one of Rachid Taha's most famous works, is because it just puts you face to face with a great groove and a really raw voice. I was reminded of how enchanting this track is recently while on a visit to Kuwait as part of a music event happening there earlier this year. I was a freshman in college when the album came out in 2000, and I felt that it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time. Nearly 15 years after this track came out, I still find it fresh and powerful.
2. Björk, "Stonemilker" (Album: Vulnicura. Year: 2015)
"Stonemilker" is the first track on the "Vulnicura" album that surprisingly leaked months before its scheduled release date. The reason I enjoy this track so much is because of how overwhelming it is. As someone who is deeply interested in Björk's work over the years, I feel that this track represents a moment in which she knows very well what her approach to writing and performing music is all about. As a musician myself, the journey of finding my own "sound" is something I strive for, and it's artists such as Björk who seem to show me that anything is possible musically.
3. Hwang Byungki "Migung (The Labyrinth)" (First performed in 1975) (Youtube: http://youtu.be/a_HrXfWsThU - For a performance excerpt: http://youtu.be/FfPJshJZiIA)
I first came to Seoul, South Korea in 2012 as a researcher/artist in residence at the Korea National University of Arts specifically because I was interested in this piece in particular. When I first heard it, I was shocked by what a "traditional" musician was doing to a "traditional" instrument. I felt that being able to understand Hwang Byungki's attitude towards his tradition in order to be able to come up with something like this is something I needed to research. As I write this review in 2015, I feel like I am still only beginning to understand this after personally visiting Hwang Byungki several times to learn more about his approach towards making music on a "traditional" non-Western instrument such as the Kayageum.
4. Daedelus "Stampede Me" (Album: Righteous Fists of Harmony. Year: 2010) (Youtube: http://youtu.be/B1yRtQ_RSCQ)
Daedalus is another artist who not only found his own sound but helped define the sound of an entire scene in Los Angeles. "Stampede Me" stands out to me from his other works because of just how different it is. I am constantly perplexed by how this seemingly simple song with its beautiful lyrics repeated again and again gives the listener a sense of stillness within infinity while the swelling of sounds (electronic or otherwise) build up calmly in the background to give a sense of motion within time.
5. Arvo Pärt "Tabula Rasa" (composed in 1977, first recorded 1984). (Youtube: http://youtu.be/-7slKVCqN4E)
This is one of those mythical pieces of contemporary music that relate to how an artist spends time contemplating his path to finding a new musical idea. The Estonian Arvo Pärt seemingly cut himself off for some time as he thought of a new technique to compose music. "Tabula Rasa" is one of his earlier pieces in which he demonstrates the compositional approach he arrived at which he calls Tintinnabuli. As someone interested in "new" music and finding my own philosophy towards creating a personal musical language, I am struck by how Arvo Pärt succeeds in creating a musical language that is both very much "new" while also deeply moving.