Who are Aalaat?

With the upcoming band launch and performance at Malja tomorrow, there’s a lot of mystery around Aalaat, where they come from and what kind of music they play. As soon as they walked into the space, each member with his own distinctive sense of personal style and mannerism, I immediately knew that there’d be an eclectic style brewing in their music.

The second thing I noticed about the men as we started to gather around in a haphazard circle on the stage is the chemistry the group shares; something that went beyond inside jokes and personal references. This is the kind of chemistry that’s essential, something that gives a group of musicians a charisma that immediately sets them apart from bands that lack such natural dynamics. It’s like a glow that you can’t quite put your finger on.

Omar Quraishi stands out when the band speaks, because the confidence and unfaltering volume in his voice makes it obvious that he’s had a long experience with leadership, which he clarified by noting that he retired from a top management position to focus purely on music. During our talk, the stage was often shared to all band members, who started to recount the story of Aalaat. Sayed Bahban was performing solo at one of Boho Baha’s casual parties when Omar saw in him a collaborative potential. Sayed’s musical roots nest in basque and Spanish music, whereas Omar spent a long time studying the North Indian Tabla, so it was already starting to feel like a marriage of musical nations. They later met through friends, and began to play together. In order to perform, they sought the help of Maxeem Meraki, whom they refer to as “the child prodigy” amongst a family of artists. Maxeem brought the bouzouki into the band, a Greek string musical instrument that added in another layer of depth to the type of sounds that the group can accomplish. “I rely on intuition,” remarks Omar, “and when I met Maxeem, I knew he was really pure, not knowing much about his actual music-playing at the time. When we sat together, all three of us struck a chord and we formed Trio Aalaat.” A week after they’d met, Khalil Rasool (Boho Baha) gave them and invited them to perform at one of their events. That’s when they officially formed Trio Aalaat and hurriedly spent a week composing original music to perform together. Omar notes that “that’s when we found our beautiful synergy. We can compose!”

There is no doubt that the band members share a tremendous amount of respect for one another, and in having such respect and understanding, balance each other out into a well-rounded presence, encouraging each other to talk about their accomplishments and their gifts. Sayed has a habit of traveling the world to study world-music instruments, reminiscent of one George Harrison, and Omar was the one to highlight just how hard Sayed studies and what amazing accomplishments he’d had. After the band performed as Trio Aalaat and created several compositions, they knew they needed a bassist, someone who was attuned to their energy and understood the direction(s) they were taking. This is where Salah Alawi comes in, whom Omar describes as a man who’s in a constant state of “oozing” creativity. “He’s always grooving! He always comes up with fast and amazing grooves, which inspires me as a percussionist to do a lot more, and it inspires these two geniuses (Sayed and Maxeem). A lot of the compositions just come alive, and it’s not possible without these three musicians right here.”

What connects the band members together is their passion for cultural folklore and their ambitions to fuse it with contemporary touches. The core of the band comes from their curiosity, their love for experimentation, and their hunger to learn. Throughout our talk, I’ve noted time and time again that they’ve often emphasized that they are students of music, and there’s so much left to learn. They love that there’s so much left to learn. Aalaat have a long journey ahead of them, and they’re ready to give it everything they’ve got. Personally, I can’t wait to watch and listen to their journey towards the ultimate achievement; music. 

- Noor Nooruddin

Photo: Ali Haji

March 13, 2015

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