What Jordan lacks… musically-speaking!

الخميس 19 تموز 2007

Written by Ruba Saqr

When I was invited by 7iber.com to blog my ideas away at this forum, I knew it was time to vent out a life time’s experience in the music scene in Jordan. In my opinion, what Jordan suffers from in this respect is lack of vision. Producers don’t know what to do with you, managers (well, there aren’t really a lot of them out there) don’t understand you, studios don’t know where they are going (it’s all about making money, with no long-term plan to ‘get somewhere’), and musicians are caught in this vicious cycle trying to find their way through broken glass and shrapnel.

Lack of work-ethics is the most prevailing issue facing the music scene in general.

With the growing number of private companies in Jordan, work ethics have been changing drastically in the business sector (thanks to entities such as Aramex and Nuqul who have been setting new standards for corporate governance and culture) leaving a somewhat big gap between the private sector and the governmant. Seeing that the private sector is young, dynamic and practical, it has managed to bring Jordan to a new level, showing instantly the shortcomings of the slow, bureaucratic public sector. Public-private partnerships became the answer to the transfer of mentalities and the change of paradigms.

However, we haven’t been that lucky in music.

Generally speaking you book a studio to record an X amount of hours and the sound man spends most of your time smoking, wasting time, sometimes going out for prayer time (without deducting that from his fees), doesn’t listen to you, and has a major problem with setting the right microphone for the right instrument. You go meet a producer; they want to change you, the way you look, the way you dress, your whole you, your lyrics, your music, and you end up getting stripped down from being a singer/songwriter to a puppet performer who is expected to sing badly-written “commercial” songs that try hopelessly against hope to imitate Egyptian and Lebanese songs. “This is the shortest short-cut to fame,” I was once told. Of course, who cares about originality, self-expression, and art? You walk out feeling frustrated, and then they send you a copy of the contract they would like to sign with you. One article in the contract says, if you fail to come to a recording session without having obtained written consent from the producer you should pay JD10,000 (I’m not good in currency converting but it’s about $14,000)! Another article says that you practically sell your soul to the producer: You can’t sing, act, contribute to any form of “art” without him taking a hefty percentage, and above all giving you permission to do what your heart tells you to do (he basically controls your passion!). Basically, not only are you turned into a puppet, but also an ownership to a producer who lacks vision; an opportunist, and a money-hungry miser who would like to squeeze the life out of you just because he will be covering the expenses of badly-recorded, badly-mixed songs that are simply copycats of something quick, empty and disturbingly “commercial.” You are a sensitive artist. What does this do to you when you are in your early twenties? It breaks something in you, but you keep on walking, and you keep on believing in what you are doing, knowing deep down in your heart that your vision will be met, and that life with all it’s diversity and beauty will offer you the paths that will lead you to your destiny.

I have – finally – come across someone punctual, ethical, intelligent, deep, knows what he is doing, fair, and above all, “different.” I’m recording my first album at his studio, because this man respects music, originality and the artist’s vision (in this case mine).

I have decided after years of trying to do my own thing, that it’s about time to safeguard the integrity of my musical project by sponsoring it myself. This way I know I own it fully, I do with it as I like without having to make compromises to someone who doesn’t know what you are doing and who can’t “see” what this is all about.

I approached Hanna Gharghour. They say “he’s expensive.” I say: “he’s good, and he’s got high standards, and he’s trust-worthy.” I think the usual approach is you get into a studio and pay for recording hours. The way I see it is you go into a studio and you pay for the honest and intelligent implementation of your vision, the unbending commitment to quality, the perfectionism, the good energy, vibes and understanding, the love for your work, the belief in what you are doing, and the dedication towards excellence. Without a solid ethical and artistic base, music production is nothing more than cut-and-paste. Without dedication, vision and harmony, music production is just another day. But here, I am enjoying every day, because it is not only the destination that is important but also the journey. And the journey that I have had making this album with Hanna, and the great musicians who have graced me with their contribution and presence on my album, is a beautiful one. The process of dream-realization is too real, sometimes there are moments of stress and unhappiness, but there’s also the great presence of Love that dots every moment of it. This Love is what carries the project, the people in it, and which brings it to completion.

I have been blessed, and for this I am grateful.

Ruba Saqr (19 July 2007)


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