"From The Wood To The Oud"
It has been just a few months since the Covid pandemic spread around the world. We were already stuck at home in the first quarantine and we were confused by this new virus that turned the world upside down.
I sat in my small home studio in Istanbul and asked myself again and again - what the Hell can I do with myself? There were no live performances, no teaching classes and no ability to meet other musicians to rehearse or record. Just a complete isolation !
I was already a bit depressed, not to mention being worried about this unknown world crisis, and I knew that I had to find some meaningful project that would keep me busy for at least part of the day. After thinking hard, I realized that I actually had good tools to work with. My laptop, music software, a simple sound card, a 535 microphone and a small studio room with reasonable isolation - but…
"Can I record?" I asked myself, and "would the recording quality be good enough?" And "how can I involve other musicians in this recording?"
Different questions and thoughts ran through my mind, but I nevertheless started. That is always the toughest part. Once I start – it is easier to keep running.
I opened "Heal" and started to listen to the simple demo I recorded a few months earlier. I wrote "Heal" after I found out I had Rheumatoid Arthritis. Back then I was completely devastated by the disease that invaded my life out of nowhere, and I looked for some sources of relief.
So, I started to work and recorded again my parts playing Oud, Cumbus and percussion and using my vocals.
After the demo recording was ready, I wrote the scores and sent it to my friend in Berlin Eyal Lovett who added his piano while recording it in a small room at the music school where he teaches. I asked Eyal to also take video footage of his playing because I thought that it would be a good idea to create a video clip for Heal.
It is challenging enough to ask a musician in another country whom you do not meet to record himself with limited sources. Why make it even more difficult by asking him to also be a cameraman? Ok, it’s true that many musicians were forced during the Covid-19 period to become a “one-man production”, but after all - video is not their expertise!
But I was stubborn and explained to the musicians why it was so important to create those "Home-made video clips". Miraculously - I was able to finish the recording of the song and the video clip. Stefan Engelmann contributed his Double Bass and dancer Berrak Yedek created a wonderful choreography for this music clip. The mix and the mastering were done at the Ada studios in Istanbul.
See "Heal" here Heal video clip
After completing "Heal", releasing it as a single with Galileo music and getting good feedback, I thought to myself: "Hey, I like to compose, I have other unrecorded compositions and I can compose new ones. Why not dive into it and create a full album?"
That was quite a challenge but it was a great way to check my boundaries and my ability to find solutions and keep myself busy with my art in this strange and limited period.
I always felt that the Beatles' “Norwegian Wood'' could work well under a “World Music” theme. When I finally created it with the Oud it was just natural that I would call my version "Norwegian Oud".
Eventually I completed the album with ten tracks and with the participation of eighteen musicians (!) from Israel, Turkey, Germany, Denmark, Australia and India.
While creating it, I lost both my mother-in-law and my Father due to Covid-19.
I feel that Norwegian Oud might be my most significant work, precisely because it was created during a very challenging period and under very limited conditions.
You can listen to the full album on Spotify and also watch the clips for Norwegian Oud, Sevdiceğim, Father (Dedicated to my late father David), Give Me Some Light, SMS to India and Oriental Circles.
See "Father" Video clip, Dedicated to my beloved Father, David
The Album was chosen as “Top of The World'' album for Songlines Magazine in its November 2021 Edition and received great reviews from several international music magazines.
My next story in the Blog will be dedicated to my father David Muallem his Maqam Book and his strong influence on my life and others' music life.