It was an unusual scene. Some of the most popular musicians, DJ and audio artists mingled with amateur musicians doing a rhythm exercise.
The stomping of foot and sound of clapping hands were punctuated only by the sound of kass kass, a versatile rattle that originated in West Africa, used as a form of percussive expression, played by French musician Johann Berby who led the exercise.
At his prompting the rhythm changes again. Berby along with Theo Croix is conducting a sound workshop in conjunction with Alliance Française and Island Music.
Once the exercise is over all the participants sit back for what seems like music lesson interposed with life lessons.
“If you feel the rhythm its easy to play, you are the instrument,” says Berby. Strumming his guitar to emphasis his point, Johann says one can speak with ones instrument “music is a mirror of what you are, you can even impart good energy to a sick person by playing for him.”
Before calling on a participant to play the drum, while Croix played violin and he took up the bass guitar, he says “Play for everyone, share your music and knowledge.”
Making better sound
It is Berby’s concept of sharing musical knowledge that proved to be a catalyst for the first ever-sound workshop to be held in the Maldives.
The workshop of three days started on September 19 with 80 participants, and is aimed at improving the sound quality of music in Maldives.
“After performing in Maldives last year with the famous Cameroonian singer Blick Blassy, Berby proposed to us to hold a sound workshop here,” says Pauline, the directrice of Alliance Française Male’ (AFM).
Berby a talented bassist who tours with different musicians, followed up on his offer by sending a proposal, and offering to do the workshop for free. Seeing there was a need for such a workshop AFM organized it.
“Lets just say getting the sound right was difficult,” says Berby of his live performance with Blick Blassy last year in Artificial Beach. According to him good musicians can make the music sound better if the sound base is good.
A sentiment echoed by Island Music. “We had been thinking for a long time of holding a sound workshop, and this initiative by Johann and AFM came at the right time for us,” says Azmi Jaleel, Chief Operating Officer of Island Music (IM).
As a company that also has a sound reinforcement arm in addition to being distributors of music instruments in Maldives, IM had faced difficulties with live shows.
“It is difficult doing sound for a live show, when musicians also lack basic knowledge about it. We also have learnt lot of things from the workshop as has the musicians which will definitely improve this industry.”
Lack of guidance
Fathimath Fezleen, owner, singer and bassist of Detune band, says the workshop “had filled a void in the industry.”
The band, a regular performer at upmarket resorts, lacked a guiding figure on sound says Fezleen. “We don’t know the right path in making sounds as we don’t have someone telling us. This workshop has given us crucial knowledge.”
Recognising the need for such a workshop, Detune part-sponsored the workshop along with Lintel, Bandos, Mookai, Bowers & Wilkings and Beamon.
Both Fezleen and Jaleel pointed out that the workshop also allowed musicians to mingle on an even platform.
“It’s a very diverse group here, apart from musicians we also have people from TV and radio stations, and also individual producers and enthusiasts of music,” says Jaleel.
One such individual is rising hip-hop music producer Mohamed Yasif (Yes E). Despite having produced two local hit video songs, ‘Parteys’ and the catchy number ‘Reethi Kudhin,’ Yasif acutely feels the need to learn more.
“I learn via Internet, buy music courses off it and follow them.” However he laments that these courses allow for very little practical knowhow.
“We, the new producers on the scene, have no one to turn to for questions.” Yasif says even if he pays studios to record, he still faces difficulties. “We have to do our own mixing and such, hence need more knowledge.”
Yasif says this workshop would make him a better producer and his next production will rectify the mistakes he made in the past. “Even if our songs are a big hit here, if you hold up against international music scene it will fall short, as we lack technical know-how.”
In the absence of good music schools, workshops like this are a lifesaver according to Yasif.
Unique and better
Croix, a violinist and sound engineer says he found the participants very receptive. “There were lots of questions they most probably had no one to ask before.”
The workshop had both physical and theory lessons, and included aspects on how to make sound better in live shows and in studios.
Berby is all praises for Maldivian music veteran Faidh, who was the focal point in organizing the workshop. “We asked Faidh to teach in the workshop with us, but he declined.”
Berby hopes to come back and conduct more workshops, amid plans to hold them in other Asian and African countries that do not have music schools.
“Next time I would like to do a workshop, on music of different continents.” He advises Maldivian musicians to dip into their culture and roots for inspiration, to make unique music.
Amid a debate between participants and Croix on how good MP3 songs could sound, Jaleel says IM also believes this is the start of many more workshops.
“Next we will do a more detailed workshop instead of a general one.”