Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Ravishing sounds of the Oud in Mint Café

Jacqui Agate writes:

As hordes of people took refuge from the snow to enjoy an authentic Arabian night in Mint Café, the first thing they were greeted with was a colourful array of Lebanese food.  The venue was absolutely full to the brim, with the attendees spread across two rooms. 

With walls adorned with pictures and an assortment of retro items available for purchase, the venue itself provided plenty to look at. The atmosphere was lively as we waited in anticipation of authentic music and beautiful Arabic poetry. Needless to say the entertainment did not disappoint.


Mint owner Marcos with oud-player Yasser Audhali
The master Yasser Audhali entered to a ripple of excitement and, after introducing himself, began to play the Oud. The room was filled with enchanting melodies accompanied by passionate vocals and two drummers, one of which was the owner of Mint, Marcos. Hand-made and decorated with intricate Egyptian designs the Oud is a treat to look at as well as to listen to. The group was clearly captured by the authentic melodies, with much foot-tapping, head-bobbing and eye-closing adding to the spirited, yet intimate, atmosphere within the room.

An added delight was Marcos explanation of the history of the Oud. The legend goes that it was invented by Lamech, the sixth grandson of Adam. Grieving for the death of his son he hung the body upon a tree. The shape of the Oud was inspired by the shape of his son’s bleached skeleton.

The oud (عود)and the lute both descend from a common ancestor 
Moreover, the beautiful music was punctuated by some of the Arabic love poems written by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, read by Richard Wilcocks in English.  The first, When I Love You, was an incredibly romantic poem crammed with curious, thought-provoking similes and metaphors such as ‘hours breathe like puppies’ and ‘caravans ride from your breasts carrying Indian herbs.’ The second was Little Things. This sensual poem sees Qabbani take on the voice of a woman,  with the point being to stand up for the rights of women by communicating such things as a female might want to, but not be able to, express.  Finally, we heard the emotive poem Beirut Mistress of the World addressed to a city devastated by the Lebanese civil war:

We now realise that your roots are deep inside us,
We now realise what offence we've perpetrated;
Rise from under the rubble
Like an almond flower in April!

Packed full of rhetorical language and organic imagery this poem was another real treat. The evening ended with a short Q and A session which allowed everyone to gain further insight into the deeper meanings of the poems and the music. All in all, it was an inspiring night with an authentic feel, which truly left my mind stimulated and my spirit relaxed.

1 comment:

  1. How I wish I could have heard those wonderful poems read in English. I felt so sad when I read the beautiful words quoted about Beirut and wondered what the poet would have written about the terrible situation of Syria today and the city of Damascus-apparently the oldest continuosly inhabited city in the whole world. I have read that that city was a powerful source of knowledge and inspiration to him and that he requested to be buried there.
    When daily we read reports of 'air strikes, deadly blasts, war planes bomb Damascus', and see children hiding in ancient burial tombs anxiously awaiting the return of a food seeking mother, how poignant are the words of Qabbani-
    'Love in the Arab world is like a prisoner. I want to free the Arab soul, sense and body with my poetry'.

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