[Imc-uk-radio] [Montreal] Hour: Cultural Crossroads; Musician Sam Shalabi
christoff at resist.ca
Sat Mar 8 19:13:48 PST 2008
Hour: Cultural Crossroads; Musician Sam Shalabi
by Stefan Christoff
Hour's new in-depth interview series featuring
the voices of critical cultural actors in Montreal
* Listen to a track from Shalabi's latest album at the link above...
Sam Shalabi, a key player in Montreal's free improv scene, loves to explore
everything from freeform psych-rock to abstract performance. On his latest solo
album, Eid, developed on trips between Montreal and Cairo, the musician
continues his exploration of a diverse range of musical styles, offering
striking cross-continental compositions rooted in his own personal reflections
as a Montreal musician working in the Middle East in a time of war.
A meditation on cultural reflections of identity, culture and politics, Eid
features the influence of Cairo, one of the world's great cities. On the album,
Shalabi has composed "songs for singers," featuring appearances from Montreal
musician Radwan Moumneh, who sings in Arabic, as well as internationally
celebrated recording artist Lhasa de Sela and Constellation Records recording
artist Elizabeth Anka Vajagic. While Shalabi is known best as a guitarist, on
Eid he also performs on oud and a variety of other instruments.
The following in-depth interview, recorded in Montreal, is an attempt to
explore the ideas and cross-cultural reflections woven into the creation of
Hour: Can you talk about how your time in Egypt, in Cairo, one of the great
cities of the world, influenced the themes and music on your latest album?
Sam Shalabi: Thematically the album was informed by an effort to see how North
America looked from the Middle East or Egypt, both from my own perspective but
[also from those] of Egyptians in Cairo - trying to develop a sense or an
understanding about Cairo's thoughts on a place like North America politically,
culturally and socially. These themes or questions really inform the new album.
In a bizarre way, part of the reason I wanted to leave Montreal, or why I
travelled to Cairo, was because it was clear that certain things were
finishing, psychologically or emotionally or creatively, here in Montreal.
Things were at a standstill.
Also, upon arriving in Cairo, I had this feeling of things finishing - or in
decline - in North America ever since 2001. In North America there was a mad
scramble to stop this decline, this sense of ending, by the powers that be. I
travelled to Egypt with this feeling, wanting to see if there was validity to
it and if people in Egypt felt the same thing.
Hour: How did North America or Montreal look from Cairo, one of the important
capitals of the Arab world? How did this vision influence the pieces of music
that you ended up composing?
Shalabi: My first point of contact in Egypt was this fellow Abdu, who I was
very lucky to meet because he is an activist, a secular activist, but is very,
very Egyptian, a proud Egyptian who does a great amount political work in
[In fact, the first people] I met in Egypt were social activists, which was an
excellent way to become oriented in Cairo. In terms of developing a sense of
the political landscape of Egypt, they were probably the best guides, as they
were very open and thoughtful people, while also passionate about the work that
they were doing to change Egyptian society.
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