Tell us about this Sharjah concert.
The concert is going to be a fusion of original oriental music with western instruments such as saxophone, keyboards and drums.
So it’s going to be a little bit jazzy?
It’s not about jazz, really – it’s not about making fusion for the sake of fusion. We’re using the instruments to play totally oriental music. The oriental style requires oriental instrumentation, but the instruments provide a western colour. It’s going to be different from all my other appearances in the region, which are going to be strictly oriental. This is more cosmopolitan.
How do you compose your pieces?
The compositions are made of both musical and lyrical aspects, and the words I sing are reflections of the life that I and people in Lebanon live. Lebanese society is a mixture of many different influences and people, and so there are many social implications. The music reflects the same complexities using many instruments from other countries. The songs aren’t political, they are social and also cover personal relations. And they’re a little humorous too. They’re light and free.
Why do you make a point of it not being political? Have you had problems with that before?
Not really, but we like to emphasise this because social issues are more universal, while political issues tend to be more heavy and harder to appreciate if you’re not part of Lebanese society.
People have referred to you as the greatest oud player in the world. Do you agree?
I’m glad some people say this, but it’s honestly more than I deserve. There are many great oud players in the world, like Munir Bashir and Nassir Shamma. To name them all would take too long and I would forget some, but there are many. I like to think of myself as being part of this group rather than ‘the best’ – that is a very strong proposition.
In 1995, you published a new method of playing the oud – what did it involve?
It was basically about methodology of the way we use our left and right hands when playing. There are many schools of thought – the Iraqi method, the Turkish method, the Egyptian method and so on – and my thesis took into consideration the strong points of each one and put them together into one school of thought. I still consider it a work in progress, however, and not by any means the ultimate method of playing. I’m always questioning my methods to improve them and the more I practice the more I mature. I am planning on releasing my new methods on DVD. My methods are always developing, but the oud will always be here.
The Charbel Rouhana Sextet play American University of Sharjah on May 6.