The Curtain Collective

A collaboration and musical experimentation within the desert of Bahrain
The curtain collective
© Ilaria Lupo, film stills
By Fatime Al Saad - Bahrain

Today, March 9th, ushers in the eve of ‘Nocturne for Pit Orchestra’, a culmination of chaos, craft and hopefully, catharsis. It has been a month of explorations and articulations on what and of-whom this event pertains. Now that the final hour is about to be met, I find myself anxious to attend the underground. To tune you for tonight, let’s talk about how it all came about.

The Bahrain National Museum it is; my first meeting for the project, and I’m late to meet Ilaria Lupo. Lupo wastes no time, swerving into mid conversation, with an immediate disclaimer of what the project is not about. Her speed of entry into subject so brash and brazen, it didn’t leave time for a first impression. Though a first and lasting impression of Lupo it has remained.

Lupo is the Artist behind this magical something at the Quarry. And she brings in Berlin-based musician Rabih Beaini to maestro the music. In Beirut, Lupo assembled a similar experimental participation; “Concrete Sampling” featured Syrian workers performing a derbekah within their active construction site. The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, Red Bull Music Academy, and Nass Group and Nass Corporation are sponsoring her project, as she takes up residency with AlRiwaq. Nass have offered the Quarry for the project, are providing all logistics, and supporting the performers’ participation. Meanwhile, Beaini’s creative steering comes into the structure of Fidgeri music, pressing on the human vocal, and hand made tempos; rehearsal after rehearsal. As evident, many a player had to amass in order to unearth this nocturne.

Lupo’s curious sentiment goes, “My work is about contextual intervention… a way to question the tension which inhabits a space, and how an artist can be within. I take the situation, pull it upside down, and give it another functionality… creating an unrealistic situation.” This situation unrealistic as it may be, carries value and implications unique to each project participant. Perinba Paul, concert performer and the Drilling and Blasting Engineer, tells me he’s been singing in choir for years already. Easy-going, he delights “Ultimately music will touch the hearts of persons. This will bring peace and the world is hungry for peace”. Then Ravi Varma, the Quarry Manager looking after production and operation, describes it as an escape from routine. To Lupo, this project is a precious single-chance to bring back an echo, into its meaningful collective voice. Finally for me, it provided a platform to probe art into conclusions. A coming-together which found us all in the most unlikely of scenarios. And in true creative play, I share only a couple, leaving the rest up to you.

The curtain collective
© Ilaria Lupo, film stills

For one, this endeavor ascertains the role of an artist, which is for the stretching of questions followed by a release into imagination. While the role of an art-form is to extend the questioning to us. Thus our participation comes in an act of observation, resulting in a curiosity continued. This renders us, the audience, a necessary and natal piece of the assembled performance.

And where I sit within the Quarry, cross-legged on a platform, swaying to simulated Fidgeri, spun by an electronic musician, I revel at this fleeting and unrealistic truth that is the Nocturne for Pit Orchestra. Tomorrow, by the stroke of noon, the stage dissolves back to Quarry, spot-lit singers back to workers, song into distant echoes. Let us go this eve (eight sharp, for the vigilant), to the National Quarry of Bahrain, to help raise curtain and lay carpet for the seldom heard. And perhaps months from now, a little magic from tonight’s center stage, may linger still.

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