The new Egyptian trio, ‘Teryola’, held their first ever concert at the prestigious Pierre Boulez Hall in Berlin, Germany as part of ‘Arabic Music Days’ — a five-day-long event that ran from 1 to 5 March and was curated by the renowned Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Shamma.
Brainchild of Hany El-Badry, who also plays nay in Teryola, the trio also features Mohamed Essam on piano and Mohamed Arafa on percussions (tabla, req, daf, and cajon).
The formation’s name comes from the Egyptian take on the French word “Triolet”, which represents a three-note pattern in music notation.
The trio focuses on Arabic compositions, mainly those written by El-Badry over the past two decades, topped with works by other Arabic composers as arranged by the nay player.
However, while looking at the traditional musical formats known to the region, El-Badry challenges the established canons, allowing the music and the musicians to move freely between the structures and melodies.
This freedom of expression gives his music a unique taste, which — as was proven during the evening in Berlin — has easily gained the audiences’ hearts, with the listeners applauding the trio vigorously and asking them for several encores.
The trio performed a total of 11 tracks, eight of which are El-Badry’s compositions, representing 12 years of his creativity.
For instance, ‘Jaharkah Fantasy’, which the trio closed the evening with, was composed in 2007, while ‘Tayeba’ was created in 2019. The latter provided a musical story about a lovely and kind Egyptian girl. Infused with a lot of warm emotions, the compositions resonated deeply with the audience.
The trio also performed ‘Enta Omry’ by Mohamed Abdel-Wahab, ‘Just in the Memory’ by Mohamed Fouad, and ‘Sands’ by Ahmad Hassan in their own arrangement.
It was with ‘Noun’ that the audience was taken into a known Hijaz maqam, one of the systems of melodic modes in Arabic music, which opened the composition, giving it a sense of mystery, before moving to a more natural Kurdish maqam.
The complex rhythmic patterns adorned the work, expressing the complexity of the relationship in their advanced stage. In fact, Noun stands for one letter in the Arabic alphabet, a simplicity that El-Badry is searching for in a very complex net of human relations.
Lighter in its feel was ‘Sammie Oquad’, a piece in which El-Badry challenges the old form of Arabic music and allows his imagination to carry the listener through the emotions. This composition was part of the musician’s master’s degree that he obtained from Cairo’s Faculty of Music Education.
An interesting composition of the evening was ‘Haphazardly’, a song which the trio created on the spot. While starting to build the track, the musical lines began emerging, with each musician adding his own touch to the piece. The idea of improvising in front of the audience is not new to El-Badry, as he has experimented with this approach in some of his past concerts in Cairo with other formations.
In response to the warm reception of Haphazardly, El-Badry plans to work further on the piece and name it ‘Germany 3 March’ to memorialise the time and place of its creation.
Moving on to Sands, which was composed by Ahmed Hassan in 2013 (Originally for kanoun, nay, and violin), the song was a touching picture of a blue sky and yellow desert. As El-Badry explained, no matter how long the piece is in its emotional build-up, it can never compare to the length of a journey that a caravan takes through a vast desert.
The closing piece, Jaharkah Fantasy, was a lively track filled with a sense of light cheerfulness. As piano converses with nay, the rhythmic patterns add a feel of dance to the composition, changing its tempo and infusing it with a lot of creative freedom.
Enamoured by their performance, the audience, which included event host Daniel Barenboim — the general music director of the Berlin State Opera and an internationally renowned pianist and conductor — refused to let Teryola go.
El-Badry thanked Barenboim and Naseer Shamma — the spearhead of Arabic Music Days — before offering an encore to the listeners, repeating their performance of ‘Shahinaz.’
Hany El-Badry is among the leading Egyptian musicians specialised in playing the nay, an end-blown flute and one of the oldest instruments in Arabic musical culture.
For over three decades, El-Badry has developed a unique technique for the instrument and composed over 100 works featuring the nay. While in his compositions, El-Badry takes the nay beyond its traditional functions, exploring a variety of musical forms and toying with them in a highly imaginative manner, he has also established his name as a player in classical Arabic ensembles and those exploring a variety of music genres.
Teryola’s premiere in Germany is an important step in the musical journey of this new formation. Energised by their success, they are already laying plans to perform in Egypt as well as internationally in coming months.
The brainchild of renowned Iraqi oud virtuoso Naseer Shamma, the Arabic Music Days event is a recurring initiative and a platform for musicians from the Arab region to showcase their unique creativity.