The mood at the Amphitheatre was one of relaxation, with a low hum of conversation, and laughter hanging in the air. The place had been dimly lit with soft lights, under the moonlit sky, and the stage was set for the first ever live performance of an aspiring artist, 17-year-old Oud player Amal Waqar Ghulam.
As the artist stepped onto the stage with her troupe, bowing in acknowledgement of the honour of their presence, the connoisseurs hoped and expected of a performance, best at her very level. But barely had she disturbed the air with the strummed chords, and all the conversations ended abruptly. Having constrained them to face her, she continued with such magnificent skill, little by little, making the strings languish under her fingers in her sublime way, amazing and swaying her listeners to total aural ecstasy with virtuoso playing and profound compositions.
The audience watched spellbound as the artist melded and intertwined, playing pieces by prominent artistes, as well as her own compositions, adding richness and nuance to the arrangement.
The show got underway with sweet motley of Oriental tunes fused with a touch of jazz in the opening number – Mamdooh Al Jabbali's 'Longa'. Creating a fusion of oriental compositions and western genre, the artist combined the tunes of Oud with western instruments like the piano, bass clarinet, guitar, and violin, along-with other traditional instruments like percussion, flute, and qanoon, in the 8 compositions she performed at the show.
"Fusion music is not bound by any particular genre or confined to any particular class of people. It suits the tastes of one and all, and that is what I love about fusion music the most" said Amal.
'Among the Bougainvillea' was founded upon Adam Cole's bass guitar and percussionist Idrees Al Balushi's insistent cymbals. The emotion loaded 'Amwaj' paved ground for a more reflective song;
Mohammed Abdul Wahab's 'Anshoodat Al Fann', set in by pianist Momoko Nishino's intro.
Even with a variety of different melodies, Amal made the songs flow into each other. With few pauses, the cinematic effect of the show's orchestral form created the illusion that the concert was a musical voyage with a beginning and an end. Flutist Samantha Springett's high register, crystalline intro set the tone of 'Reddi Al Ziyara', a pretty composition whose cool impressionism evoked cheerful response from the onlookers, whistling and clapping to the beats.
Very impressed by the performance, Wael Kakish, the famous music instructor at Royal Opera House Muscat, also present at the show said, "The beauty of the band lay in its hybrid nature—harbouring the flexibility to switch between groove and swing modes and more orchestral soundscapes with such ease, and how comfortably Amal mixed and performed with changing co-performers, switching after every other number".
Her third self-composition, the rhythmic 'Sunset to Sunrise', with a mix of Latin beats, was based on the jolly experiences with her troupe while composing the pieces, contextualizing good times; enjoying the company of people, and sharing happiness with them.
Praising Amal's efforts, Kakish added he was greatly impressed by her abilities as a musician. "She knows precisely what she is doing and how she must do it. Calm and composed; so perfect at the very first performance, I give her a lot of credit".
The encore brought another full-ensemble combination, in The Rahbani Brothers' 'Kan A'Zaman Wakan', including energetic beats of the percussions, bass guitar, violin, saxophone, and tunes of jingle. And as she slowed down the music, reached silence, then restarted full force the composition melting back into the brass section, this time with flute; the music grew from an intimate setting to the enveloping warmth of the jolly audience; feet clapping and cheering in admiration- featuring prominently on a memorable number that concluded a stirring set.
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