From October 22nd to October 23rd the latest JAM Music Lab workshop was held with the support of world-renown jazz pianist John Beasley. Carried out in cooperation with Universität für Musik and Darstellende Kunst, the event ensured the university’s strive for excellence in both pedagogical and musical terms. New York-based artist John Beasley shared his remarkable knowledge with students of JAM, alumnis, as well as other musicians. In the course of the event, particular the band “Barakah” stood out.
Since the collective is led by a drummer, a strong emphasis on rhythm and beat distinguishes the quintet. In order to learn more about the band’s musical approach, I conducted a short interview with drummer Sherif Abdalla in the following.
1.) First of all, for how long does “Barakah” exist as a band by this time?
Abdalla: We’ve been a band for one year now, perhaps a little bit more. It all started when I met Anton with his Sax.
2.) Who is actually composing music for the band?
Abdalla: Most of our compositions are written by Anton and me. Further, our bassist Markus has also introduced ideas for the repertoire. He wrote some tunes.
3.) I reckon, being originally a drummer the process of composing for a multi-instrumental collective must be rather hard… What is your approach to creating music? Does a melody initially come to your mind pro the purpose of underlying such with rhythms?
Abdalla: First of all, I try to think of different rhythms. I am trying to hear how the song could sound with the rhythms I play. Then I try to compose a melody. Actually, the goal is that melody leads the rhythm. Afterwards I usually come blend harmonies with the songs basic melody. Finally, carry all suitable ideas to rehearsals where we all work on the arrangement and change some details if needed.
4.) Which instruments do you use for composing? Highly likely not only drums…
Abdalla: It’s only drums and piano!
5.) Interesting. Now back to the workshop! Have you been familiar with John Beasley’s music before?
Abdalla: To be honest no, not really.
6.) Therefore you did not feel any stress while performing in front of him ?
Abdalla: I would not say so! Owing to the kind of event -just a workshop and not a real concert- I did not worry a lot.
5.) What did you expect from the master class? Did you want to get anything specific from it?
Abdalla: Honestly, I didn’t have any expectations. I was not even sure what this master class would be about. Marcus Ratka, called me and asked if we would like to play on a certain workshop. So how could I deny the opportunity to play?
8.) Lastly, did you get any useful advice or inputs from John Beasley?
Abdalla: Oh yes, for sure! He gave us some really amazing advice on the sound of the band. In particular, John taught how to emphasize some important accents in the music, where to make breaks and even which drum sticks to use in particular tunes. What was even more important is that he constantly motivated us to keep on working and playing. Therefore I consider the event a great workshop from a great musician!