Afro-Jazz fusion Dutch band A Fula’s Call, in town for this weekend’s Artbeat Festival, are in some ways, living proof that the world is getting smaller.
The band, which formed in 2006, is made up of a melting pot of cultures, effortlessly and ‘organically’ entailing their musical fusion. Senegalese musical director and vocalist Omar Ka leads German’ flautist, Mark Alban Lotz, Dutch guitarist Mark Tuinstra and Iranian Afra Mussawisade, percussionist and band producer. Joining them for their weekend performances across Darb 1718, Cairo Jazz Club, el-Geneina and el-Menya is Egyptian bassist Ahmed Nazmi.
Soft, jazzy melodies are ‘africanized’ with Ka’s strong, passionate vocals sung in Fulani, the language of the Fula, a historically African nomadic tribe, today spread over many countries, predominantly in West Africa.
Highly in-tune with the issues of the day and passionate about the world around them, the band’s peaceful melodies invite one to escape political strife. Indeed, with elections in Holland preceding the band’s visit to Cairo by a day, with far-right politician Geert Wilders (leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom) gaining 24 out of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, politics were very much on their minds.
The band’s harmonious, soulful melodies captivate and their more upbeat tunes may get you shaking. What’s for sure is that their musical blend of jazz with African tunes are in perfect harmony — as the group itself seemed to be. A 45-minute dynamic and at times, hilarious, sit down with A Fula’s Call could have gone on much longer.
Al-Masry al-Youm: How did you all come together and form A Fula’s Call?
Mussawisade: We all live in Holland and some of us studied music there. Holland is a small country and jazz and world music musicians like us are all somehow connected. That’s how we met, we were all part of a community of musicians.
Al-Masry: What themes do your lyrics touch on?
Ka: Inspiration comes from who you are and what you know– these are the roots. You need to go back to the nomads, to nature, back with the animals, back with the children for a better place, or a better life. In terms of politics, I’m mostly focused on back home Africa, where children die everyday, from HIV/AIDS and sickness and nobody cares. One machine gun in Liberia is cheaper than a plate of rice.
Al-Masry: What inspires your music?
Mussawisade: Our songs are based on melodies of Fula culture, which Omar [Ka] shares, and some compositions of Mark [Alban Lotz]. But the mix of it is something which just happens. We just play together and the result of it is a peaceful song, where we all have a part. But we dont think anymore ‘ok let’s mix Fula music with jazz’. We do it, but we don’t think or talk about it. Not only we, but all musicians nowadays. To say ‘let’s make fusion and have world music, let’s mix this and that’– that’s kind of over. So there is a new musical language being developed by musicians. You cannot draw the borders between cultural boundaries anymore.
Al-Masry: You arrive in Cairo just as the political scene is shifting in Holland. What do you think gained Geert Wilders his seats in parliament?
Tuinstra: I think it’s really fear because he plays with people in Holland. He says things like ‘there’s going to be a tsunami of Islam’. Everywhere he goes he says exactly the same things, whatever question you ask him. In each answer, he tries to put ‘the tsunami of Islam is coming, in Holland there’s this war going in the streets of Holland because all the cities are not safe anymore.’ It’s a lie of course.
Al-Masry: Kind of a common theme across Europe over the last several years…
Mussawisade: Yes, it is something which is happening all across Europe. Many people in the world think that Europeans are all educated people, and that in Europe there’s no poverty, but this is totally untrue. That everyone is rich or educated in Europe is as much a lie as all Muslims are terrorists. In Europe, there are children who are hungry. So the desperate in Europe are very open to these kind of extreme ideas, where they think there will be a solution immediately if they vote for such politicians. People start to believe, if we stop Muslims from coming to our country, there will be much more money for us, which is not true. If there’s much more money it will be for the rich. So they vote for these politicians, and after some time they see it doesn’t work and they don’t vote for them. That’s how it goes– it’s just lack of knowledge, lack of wisdom.
Al-Masry: Do you feel you have a target audience?
Alban Lotz: Musically of course– people interested in African music, people who are interested in world music, they like it. But not politically.
Mussawisade: It’s a very small niche in Europe. Of course there is an audience, but the percentage of people that listen to this kind of music is proportionately small to the mainstream.
Alban Lotz: That’s what happens with intelligent music. (laughter)
Al-Masry: So you’re not building your music around any trends. Why do you think this kind of music appeals less to the masses?
Mussawisade: It is the media. Cheap fast music is made to make money for big companies and it’s not necessarily just music companies, could be clothes companies to promote something, they create a band just to sell a product.
Alban Lotz: If there would be more creative music playing out there, more people would recognize creative music, and that would give it more exposure. Stravinsky said: ‘The most important element of creating music or receiving music is the moment of recognition.’
A Fula’s Call will be performing tonight at el-Genaina stage at 7pm, at Cairo Jazz Club at 11pm; and at el-Menya Roman Theatre Sunday 13 June at 7pm.
For full details and the complete Artbeat Festival’s schedule for information on other international and local artists’ performances, check: http://www.afri