In a Galaxy Not So Far Away... (Actually, right here in the Middle East)
Majaz is not your typical band. They are similar to the Guardians of the Galaxy, a motley crew, each bringing a different flavor to the musical stew they cook. The band members are a veritable ensemble of star talents: Jehad Al Halal dabbling in cello, percussion & vocals; Hameed Al Saeed with his guitar & vocals; Salah Alawi on the bass & vocals, and Abdulla Faisal drumming, doing percussion and, yes, vocals.
Their genesis can be traced back to 2013, in a quaint local venue in Bahrain. Ergo, a journey that started in a dim-lit room led them to shine under the vast expanse of the music galaxy. "Our musical journey took many turns, with compositions changing and evolving in many ways, morphing into different styles and genres, taking them through different musical phases throughout the years," shares Jehad. Their initial musical style leaned heavily into realms reminiscent of rock, metal, and progressive rock, all tinged with a Middle Eastern zest.
"Our musical journey took many turns...
Once they brought Hameed onboard in 2015, the band's music evolution reached warp speed. They began absorbing sounds as diverse as the bustling markets of India to the haunting echoes of the Nordic fjords. But, as with every buffet, the more options you have, the harder it gets to make a choice. Their expansive musical palette, though an asset, risked making their sound nebulous. Enter 'Oh Ya Mal' in 2018, and things started to click. "We first started dabbling with integrating traditional Bahraini music elements in our sound in 2018 with our single 'Oh Ya Mal'," shares Salah. The song incorporated the beats of Fijiri, traditional Bahraini pearl diving music, providing them with a distinct musical compass.
"We first started dabbling with integrating traditional Bahraini music elements in our sound in 2018 with our single 'Oh Ya Mal'," shares Salah.
Fast forward to 2020, and a new concept emerged – Afro-Khaleeji. You might be thinking, "Afro-what now?" Think of it as the Westeros of their music kingdom, blending the rhythms of Africa with Khaleeji melodies, making for a sound that's as intriguing as a Game of Thrones plot twist. The release of 'Heila Hei' marked the inauguration of their new sound. "Sound wise, our compositions started demanding more energetic instrumentation and higher dynamic ranges," says Abdullah, driving the band to adopt new configurations that cater to this new sonic frontier. The song is not just catchy but serves as a social commentary on our society's insatiable appetite for happiness. "It addresses modern society's obsession with achieving happiness and fulfillment amidst the bombarding and overwhelming pressure of the age of information with playful banter," shares frontman Jehad. The words 'Heila Hei' are nonsensical and were used colloquially by older Bahraini generations as a way to boost morale or motivation. The single was released on September 15th, 2023 along with a music video.
"Sound wise, our compositions started demanding more energetic instrumentation and higher dynamic ranges," says Abdullah,
In their journey of musical maturation, Majaz couldn't help but notice a glaring void. Their homeland's traditional music hadn't evolved or expanded like North Africa's Gnawa which seamlessly integrated into jazz, rock, and reggae. It hadn't experienced the dynamic evolution like Nordic folklore in Scandinavia, which spun from metal to pop. The '70s to '90s saw Bahraini musicians trying to elevate Khaleeji music, but societal pressures and cultural challenges often snuffed out these progressive sparks. Hameed points out a collective blindspot - many overlooked the rich tapestry of Khaleeji folklore. This oversight, perhaps influenced by the colonial hangover that Western is "better," only fanned their drive. Keen to bridge worlds, their tracks began blending African and Khaleeji rhythms, pioneering the refreshing genre of Afro-Khaleeji. It's not just a new sound; it's a tribute to interwoven cultural narratives. "We also realized, as we progressed as musicians, that so many of us overlooked how rich and abundant our musical heritage and traditional Khaleeji folklore music is," says Hameed, referring to the potential of its applications into modern, contemporary music, as well as how closely similar and intertwined African and Khlaleeji music is.
"We also realized, as we progressed as musicians, that so many of us overlooked how rich and abundant our musical heritage and traditional Khaleeji folklore music is," says Hameed,
Their story begs the question, what sets Majaz apart? Well, the blend of unique musical backgrounds and their will to break conventional bounds! And let's not forget personalities. Salah, the "funny guy," could probably give Kevin Hart a run for his money. Hameed is the stoic one; Jehad is the introspective type, while Abdullah is unpredictable - basically the wild card! "We treat each other as equals, we communicate effectively and with intent," shares Jahed and they always try to be aware of the fact that they are different people with their own individually unique ways!
"We treat each other as equals...
One of their secrets to harmony? Leaving egos at the door. They treat each other with mutual respect and celebrate their distinct individualities. They've faced the inevitable lows of the industry but have an undying passion that acts as their North Star, ensuring they never stray too far from their path. Their dream gig?
From Glastonbury to Royal Albert Hall, they've got their eyes on the prize. Splitting time between Bahrain and Saudi? It's a real rock and roll roller coaster. On the upswing, being in Saudi has connected them with industry bigwigs, opening doors to game-changing opportunities and letting them ride the wave of a music scene that's taking the globe by storm. On the downbeat, it can throw a wrench in band logistics. Imagine trying to coordinate rehearsals when members are scattered or delaying the jam session due to recording hiccups. But hey, no challenge too big for a band that's got more passion than a guitar solo in a power ballad. "It can definitely have its advantages, but it also certainly comes with its challenges as well," Abdullah chimes in. But their drive and dedication ensure they're always in tune!
In the cosmic symphony of the Middle Eastern music scene, Majaz carves out a sound as unique as Star-Lord's mixtape in Guardians of the Galaxy. Just as the Guardians unite disparate beings with a shared purpose, Majaz blends diverse influences to create an Afro-Khaleeji beat that's truly out of this world. The galaxy, it seems, has found its new rhythm.
REGIONAL is musivv’s segment featuring Arab artists in the Middle East. Features under this segment are eligible for a nomination under this category in the Musivv Awards’ annual recognition.