Tareq Al Nasser: Composing Universal Sound to Dissolve Boundaries
AMMAN — An established authority who has obtained a renowned reputation in music, prominent composer and arranger Tareq Al Nasser, is still best known for his cross-cultural compositions.
Nasser s compositions are a mix of East and West, past and present, antiquity and modernity. His compositions, as he described them, have but one direct aim — dissolving the boundaries of cultural experiences.
For some people, Nasser s compositions reflect the bizarre and charming Orient. "The addition of traditional instruments such as the tabla and the oud create a deeply rooted sense of nostalgia, and for others still new to Arabic culture, the music elicits a dream of a dance in the desert," Nasser said
In a career spanning over nearly three decades, Nasser has composed and arranged the musical soundtracks for more than 30 TV series, films and documentaries. He has performed his compositions for thousands of people, on stages all around the Arab world, Europe and America.
His passion for music, however, began on a smaller, more humble stage.
Growing up in the northern city of Irbid, Nasser recalls being involved with the school theatre and the first instrument he ever learned.
“My real start with music was with the accordion. We used to play the anthem every morning at school... That was where everything began.”
During a recent interview with The Jordan Times, Nasser said that a keyboard his father brought him when he was young was the outlet of his inspiration, as he became entranced by the soundtracks from the films and series of his childhood.
Throughout the 80s and early 90s, in the beginning of his musical career, Nasser focused on Arabic music, but noted the distinct divide between classical Western music and the traditional music of the Near East.
"[At that time], most musicians wanted only to play traditional music, and very few were interested in the music of the West," he said.
However, there were some, like Nasser, who craved something new and unrestricted. “We were trying to make a unified sound, a universal sound, where we could use any instrument we wanted,” Nasser recalled.
In 2002, Nasser started the Rum Group, whose music embodied a blending of cultures. In songs such as “Ya Rouh" (in English “My Soul”), the immediate impression is overtly Arabic, but the addition of piano, saxophone and clarinet intermingle with traditional Arabic instruments in a way that would make you believe they were always meant to be played together.
"Ya Rouh" was the musical soundtrack of the famous Syria TV series, "Nihayat Rajol Shojaa", (the end of a brave man, in English) in 1994.
When asked how long these intricate compositions — sometimes involving up to 15 different instruments — take to create; he explained, with the casual grace of someone blissfully unaware of how uniquely talented they are that writing the music takes maybe one week, two at the most.
“Once you become inspired, it’s better to finish as soon as possible. You never know if the mood will change,” he said.
Nasser is currently in the midst of a string of performances in Amman, which began on Christmas Day at the Haya Cultural Centre and will continue until today.
Though he has performed all over the world, Nasser said that coming home to perform holds special significance. And not just because of his Jordanian heritage, but because the music he plays creates feelings of nostalgia for the people listening here.
“I want to give them a chance to remember a good memory... an experience,” the composer said.