The ancient Arabian sagas from the famous stories of One Thousand and One Nights still appeal to the imagination today. When the tale about the white slave princess Zumurrude (night 352) was reworked into a modern parable especially for Osama Abulrasol, the Iraqi composer and qanun player was immediately inspired to write new compositions. For Night 352, he joins forces with Brussels Jazz Orchestra.
While writing the music for this project, Osama Abdulrasol incorporated his own story as well as that of Zumurrude. Night 352 offered Brussels Jazz Orchestra a chance to dive into the complex patterns of classical Arabian music. More than a union of a western jazz orchestra with an Arabian harp, the arrangements (by a.o. Callum Au, Frank Vaganée and Pierre Drevet) are the result of a mutual fascination for both genres.
Together with Jahida Wehbe (vocals), Osama Abdulrasol and BJO approach the century-old story of Zumurrude from a fresh and contemporary perspective.
When writer Hazim Kamaledin (Longlist International Arabic Booker Prize 2015) rewrote the story about night 352 for Abdulrasol, he imagined how the blond slave Zumurrude would rise from the pages of the ancient book and relive her life anew today. In the stories of One Thousand and One Nights, this blond slave princess plays a key role in the sagas from night 345 to 364. It became a modern fairy tale about contemporary slavery, but also about the passion for music and how it can expand someone’s horizons - something that composer Abdulrasol can talk about from experience.
The music will take the audience on an adventurous journey, but I also hope they will pick up on some of the universal themes we deal with in this project. Ghent is my home town now, but people should not forget how complex it is to make a place your home. Night 352 is not just a retelling of an old story, it is also about contemporary slavery, the passion for music and how it can push one's boundaries. There are countless people like Zumurrude today, who overcome all kinds of obstacles because they continue to hope for a better life.
- Osama Abdulrasol
In the new compositions, Abdulrasol mixes tradition, present and future, but also reality and imagination. Callum Au, Pierre Drevet, Geoffrey Fiorese, Gyuri Spies and Frank Vaganée arranged the music for Brussels Jazz Orchestra. The Middle Eastern fairy tale provides the background, the music tells the story.
Qanun & compositions: Osama Abdulrasol
Vocals: Jahida Wehbe
Arrangements: Callum Au, Pierre Drevet, Geoffrey Fiorese, Gyuri Spies & Frank Vaganée
Percussion: Francois Taillefer
Adaptation from 1001 nights: Hazim Kamaledin
Osama Abdulrasol is an Iraqi composer, qanun player and visual artist. He was born in Babylon, studied western classical music (classical guitar) in the UK and Eastern music (qanun or Arabic harp) in Iraq. Growing up in a devout religious family where music was forbidden, he learned to play music in secret as a child. In his insatiable hunger for music, he discovered jazz. In 1997 he fled Iraq and moved to Ghent. The cultural and musical diversity in Europe opened up a new world of influences and opportunities for him. Now Abdulrasol is a sought-after soloist in Belgium and beyond, has written music for film and theatre and toured worldwide with the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra (de Filharmonie), Brussels Philharmonic (conducted by Dirk Brossé), The Metropole Orchestra, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Goran Bregovic, Jahida Wehbe, BJ Scott, Wannes Van de Velde, Luc De Vos, Waed Bou Hassoun, Arifa, Olla Vogala Melike, Oblomow, Weshm, Muziektheater Transparant, and more. In 2013 he won the city of Ghent’s cultural award.
Jahida Wehbe is called the 'Priestess of the Stage' by Arab and Western media. After earning a degree in directing, acting and oriental singing at the Beirut Conservatory (Lebanon), she immersed herself in Arabic opera and Syrian and Byzantine singing. Besides numerous projects in Lebanese and Arabic theatre and film, Wehbe taught music, performance, diction and Arabic poetry. She has represented her homeland Lebanon at various prestigious artistic and cultural conferences such as the Arab Music Festival and the Frankfurter Buchmesse. Her unique voice has been heard at venues such as the Royal Opera House Muscat (Oman) and the Temple of Bacchus (Baalbeck, Lebanon). She has been accompanied by Omar Munir, the British Symphony Orchestra and the Mediterranean Symphony Orchestra, among others. Wehbe - who is also active as a composer - strives to enrich the Arab canon with a wide range of musical projects and is considered one of the most important contemporary, musical voices in the Arab world. As recently as 2019, Wehbe received the Munir Bashir Artistic Ingenuity Award, which rewarded her artistic achievements and musical ingenuity.