Next to my favorite table and intersection in Paris there’s a recording and rehearsal space called Studio Bleu. Yesterday we had a recording session there with bassist Omar Harb, for my albums Earth Variations and Interspaces.
I was blown away. I had reserved the studio for eight hours because I thought we’d need all that time to finish at least some of the tracks. Not had we just finished everything in four hours but Omar had made everything so much better than what I’d imagined.
Omar understands your music like a fish understands water when it meets it for the first time. He can play as figuratively and elaborately as you want (or couldn’t possibly imagine) or beat a machine in precision, duration and slight liveliness. There were moments when I had to hold back my tears because his melodic basslines made me simply recall how unbeatably lovely the world is – or hold back my idiotic grin of joy because of the ecstatic funkiness and a human-overcoming-the-machine of a kind of bliss of his playing.
Omar is originally from Damascus, Syria, where, since 2005, he used to run a very successful music production studio and company (“factory”) of his own, becoming a mainstay of a thriving new Syrian music scene, producing work that went on to win praise and awards across the Arab world as well as Europe. That all came to an end in 2011 when the war broke out, and eventually he and his wife had to abandon everything they had and flee to Lebanon. Since then he has lived and worked globally, collaborating with artists around the world. (He’s also one of the nicest human beings I’ve met.)
Since my Earth Variations started as an interdisciplinary sonic art project about migration and the refugee crisis but which got subsequently cancelled, I was struck: here I was with a guy who actually comes from the origin of all that, who has experienced it firsthand, personally having witnessed the bombing and killing and the destruction of his home and those of his family and friends, and having had to plan a daring escape through everything all these (art) projects try to grasp but can only intellectualise. Yet here he is in front of me, playing the most beautiful and life-affirming music that seems to know no crises, conflicts, borders, ideologies, territories, let alone any art projects, curatorioral practices and their momentary trends. This is life. This is why music exists.