Image Credits: Yazz Ahmed © Yazz Ahmed
March 12, 2018
Yazz Ahmed is a British Bahraini trumpet player and composer who in 2017 published her second album La Saboteuse and fused the maqam melodic modes used in Arabic music with modal jazz.
> Ivano Rossato
How was the album La Saboteuse born and what message would you like to communicate with it?
The album evolved from five short improvised flugelhorn and vibraphone duets, recorded at the Cowshed with Lewis Wright back in 2013. We experimented with different themes, i.e. rhythmic, fast, slow etc. over an Arabic maqam, recording a couple of takes for each idea. I like to call them 'spontaneous compositions'. La Saboteuse is the name I have given to the entity with the self destructive, malevolent voice, the one who wants to undermine me, belittle my achievements and keep me in my place. I think the voice of La Saboteuse will be very familiar to many from outside the artistic community too. I hope that by highlighting my own insecurities and talking about them I can help other people to overcome their own demons.
What are the common elements that you want to bring out through your music?
The elements I like to experiment with in my music, which are found in both jazz and middle eastern traditions, are space for improvisation, storytelling, exploring grooves, with maqams and Western scales interwoven with one another and taking unexpected turns to create moments of surprise and contrast.
Which musicians of today are particularly interesting for you?
I've been listening to a very cool band called Bargou 08. Their album, Targ, is a modern take on the traditional music from Bargou village which sits between the mountains of northwest Tunisia and the Algerian border.
What is your opinion about the new streaming and distribution services offered by the internet to professional musicians?
More than ever has it been easier to promote your own music to a global audience. One reason to have your music on streaming sites like Spotify is in the hope of getting onto one of the big playlists where there are thousands of listeners. The streaming services should be thought of as a shop window rather than a source of income. I have found that many people who have discovered my music through Spotify playlists, for example, go straight to Bandcamp to order the CD or vinyl. Bandcamp's option for fans to donate more money to the artists is a very important factor in helping an artist to grow.
What are your plans for the future?
I have so many! I'm currently working on a EP which will be the very last chapter, the coda, to La Saboteuse, including two new compositions and some remixes by guest artists. My third album, Polyhymnia, which is a suite, composed for a large ensemble and comprising of six movements, each inspired by a courageous and influential female role-models, is in production. I'm about halfway through the recording process and hope to have it ready for an autumn release.
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