Describing Karim Douaidy’s music is not very easy. His soundscape ranges between Jazz, Progressive Rock, Classical Arabic and in between many other variations and expositions. Born in France, Lebanese musician Karim Douaidy tries to explain his music as a kind of a hybrid style between various genres.
How it all began
At first, there was the guitar. He started playing the guitar when he was seven years old. The genres that he was introduced to through this instrument was Flamenco and Classical music. While he was growing up, he started listening first to Indian and Pakistani music. The voice of Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn (1948-1997) impressed him profoundly because he had such a control of his incredible voice. It is said, that he was one of the greatest singers alive because he could control his voice so intensely for a very long time.
His mom introduced him to another indian singer Ravi Shankar while he is not religious himself, he was inspired by these musicians at the beginning of his musicial career. This was the starting point of his interest in music and later on he delved further into Arabic music and singers such as Umm Kulthum or Marcel Khalife. Khalife fuses traditional arabic music with western instruments such the piano. Part of his lyrics are based on Palestinan poet Mahmoud Darwish.
In contrast Karim Douadiy’s music works without a voice, the instruments and the sound surrounding them speaks for themselves, there is no need for a voice to emphasize the emotion that the instruments embody, they do it themselve.
Becoming Progressively serious
In Beirut, a new phase of his musical journey started. He established with his closest friends a progressive rock band called Mute but they were anything else than mute. Probably one of the first bands of their kind in Lebanon they played progressive rock inspired by Middle Eastern Influences. Their lyrics were in English although some songs were written in Arabic but they never saw the day of light. Douaidy remembers:
“This was a very important stage of my life, it consolidated my relations to music and while I was the main writer it made me realize the potential I could have in creative writing music in a more serious way.”
At that time this community where Douaidy found himself in, while he was playing with Mute was very small, and many bands in the alternate scene used to sing more in English than in Arabic before bands such as Mashrou3 Leila and The Great Departed came to the scene. While he would not miss the time with his band Mute he said that: “If I would do it again, I would write the lyrics in Arabic.” Sadly there are no records of the band available online and are only hidden away in the vast archives of Douaidy’s records. While Mute did not lasted very long, it was the first time that he recognized that music was his passion and this would mark the point were music started taking slowly over. It seemed that there could be a potential, viable career in doing music, and while it is difficult to earn a living with music everywhere especially with the kind of serious complex music, it became obvious that Douaidy chose music as his profession.
Reflecting on Compositions
Every musician and composer has its own set of ideas on how to create and structure their music. For Douaidy there are two parts on how he approaches creating music. One side is his work related to commercials and movies.
One of his scores are for Toufic Khreich’s short film Troubled Waters. It tells the story of a man who comes back to Beirut after 27 years to meet his father while he is haunted by his childhood memories. The piano is the first instrument in his score for the short film with a very complex compositions that reflects the story of Iskandar and his troubled childhood memories adding slowly other instruments to the narrative. It is a very calm, subtle score that slowly builds up to a climax.
While working for scores and TV commercials, Douaidy adds that his creative writing “satisfy a different set of requirments that are connected to other people sensibilities.” Douaidy of course needs to address the needs of the people he is working with. The other side of is own creative writing is only related to his creative craving. Here he is able to phantasize about sounds and structures the way he wants to do it.
In reflecting on composing music, he usually first picks up the guitar and starts playing on it. “Everything usually starts on my guitar. I write a simple sequence of notes or play chords and then the whole thing stretches out.” The song Antithesis represents probably the best on how Douaidy’s music sounds like. It consists of a sound derived from Jazz, classical music and a complex soundscape that reveals it self during the course of the song.
Even when he plays live, he uses some basic gear. “Usually, I only perform with a classical guitar, and a loop pedal and try to lavering up the song live with an interactive way.” This is were his foundation in playing flamenco and classical music comes back and influences his music.
This is why Douaidy’s music is so hard to describe in a few words, his rich soundscape enbodies different genres and styles which does not really allow to define his music into one category. He tries to explain it in this way: “I do everything, orchestral music, electronic, rock with a lot of influences such as Jazz.” while he describes it as a “hybrid style with a lot of different influences.”
Life will take me to many different places for work and life in the hope of doing a lot of projects with artists from various countries.
While he does not want to give up playing music, and creating his own music, one of his main projects are to own a production company. He has a master degree in Music Technology and 3D Audio, which influenced his own music. The company he wants to build will offer different kinds of solutions in music production while it will concentrate on producing 3D music. “I think this kind of music producing is gonna be huge. It will take over the conventional way of doing music and producing audio in general”. He is in talks in doing scores for multiple feature movies and documentaries and in producing an album with an artist in Lebanon. He feels very lucky in what he does because he gets to know very different aspects of his work, and that is what makes his work so flexible.
For his own compositions, he wants to focus on writing new material and a new EP in the near future. This EP is gonna be special in the creative process because he wants to blend arabic microtonal music (Maqam) with traditional western scales. He does not want to call it fusion but rather wants to explore a hybrid style at the core level of the modes and scales. This very organic work represents a big challenge because it aspire to bridge those two worlds by creating links in the melodic expression of the music rather than overlapping arrangements.
Concerning his own creative side, he wants to stay independent and do whatever he wants creatively and share it for free as long as possible.