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Asil Ensemble's new album inspired by Egyptian activist's article penned from prison

Asil Ensemble, whose new album Tawahhud explores the themes of loneliness and isolation, was founded by Beirut-based Egyptian musician Mustafa Said

Ahram Online , Tuesday 3 May 2016
Asil Ensemble
(Photo: Courtesy of Simsara Music)

The latest album by Asil Ensemble for Contemporary Classical Arabic Music, entitled Tawahhud, or Autism, will be released during a 12 May concert at Beirut's Al-Madina Theatre.

Composed by Beirut-based Egyptian musician Mustafa Said, who formed Asil Ensemble in 2003, the album was recorded in one take as a 48-minute piece.

Tawahhud explores the loneliness and isolation that often result from resistance to mainstream thought and discourse.

The idea for the new album was inspired by an article by prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, written from his prison cell.

“The article moved Mustafa Said to delve into one’s self and psyche to create new music that forges the individual from the collective, the irregular from the disciplined and the frenzied from the wholesome,” the press release stated.

Asil Ensemble perform new Arabic music on the principle of internal development that builds on classical Arabic forms, charged with "the realization that for over a hundred years Arabic music evolved mostly by importing forms from other musical systems and traditions," the release said.

The ensemble’s 12 musicians play 15 instruments, including oud, bass oud, soprano oud, violin, viola, cello, qanun, santur, tanbur, buzuq, ney, reqq, darabuka, dumbak, dumbak Zurhane, as well as a bell cymbal and various sticks and tuning forks.

Their forthcoming album Tawahhud is the collective's fourth release, after 2008's Rubaeyyat El-Khayyam, Asil, released in 2009 and Burda, released in 2015.

Founder of the ensemble, Said is an Egyptian musician and musicologist born in 1983 in Cairo.

He is director of the Arab Music Archiving and Research (AMAR) foundation, which recorded the album in Lebanon with support from the Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy).

Said taught at the Arab Oud House in Cairo between 2004 and 2006, then went on to teach at the High Institute of Music at the Antonine University in Lebanon until 2014. 

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