Home New York Report Tunisian Bassist and Composer Marwan Allam to release “Bab Bhar” on July 12

Tunisian Bassist and Composer Marwan Allam to release “Bab Bhar” on July 12

BAB BAHR is the gate that connects the old and new city of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia. Behind every door in the Medina are stories waiting to be discovered. The heritage is rich due to the many cultures that have passed through North Africa, including the Berber, Arab, Roman, Turkish, and Andalusian civilizations. Growing up with this background made Allam dream about traveling the world and finding new inspirations and influences to grow artistically. His search eventually led him to New York City, where he realized his vision of blending Arabic North African music heritage with jazz harmony and Afro-American music. Bab Bahr is Mallam’s debut album as a bandleader and composer, blending his musical experiences and research from around the world throughout the years.
Bab Bahr introduces new ideas for compositions involving Arabic rhythms, melodies, Maqams, and modern jazz and swing traditions. He adapts and combines different rhythms and meters into modern jazz harmony without losing the meaning and authenticity of the musical phrases, which leads to the development of a new musical language and sound by finding different grooves.
I am introducing some traditional Tunisian rhythmic patterns such as “Btayihi, Chaabi, Bounawara, Moudawar Hawzi…” and Sammai and Buleria and translating them on the drums,” says Marwan. 
Marwan is also exploring new approaches to playing the double bass, influenced by the “Gombri” instrument from Stambali music in Tunisia. Mallam detunes the instrument to try new sounds, similar to the sub-Saharan tradition, to achieve lines similar to the Gombri.
Marwan showcases the sound of the double bass by performing takasim on Maqams, such as Bayt, Rast, or Sica, as a solo instrument. Additionally, he is considering using the tenor saxophone to emulate the human voice and explore African pentatonic scales, Andalusian Maqams, and the syncopations and accents that characterize Tunisian music. He is also exploring traditional Arabic musical forms such as “Muwashah, Nouba, Samai…” and creating different arrangements incorporating new melodies and rhythms to add diversity to the music.
Bab Bhar is a unique music project that combines the sounds and colors of two completely different cultures while featuring the upright bass as a solo and accompanying instrument. This idea has captured the attention of many great musicians on the New York jazz scene, leading Marwan to new collaborations and inspiring me to put this project together.
Recording with a jazz quartet is one of the most significant and effective ways to deliver any musical message or idea. For this project, Marwan will perform and record in New York City with Chris McCarthy on piano, Samvel Sarkisyan on drums, Yacine Boulares on tenor and soprano saxophones, and myself on double bass.
About Marwan Allam
Performer Bassist Composer lives in NYC and was born and raised in Tunisia. His musical journey began at fourteen, playing the guitar for a few years, and this was enough for him to become – a young, talented artist who drew his dream and cleared his path to professionalism.
After being nationally highly acclaimed as a musician, Marwan moved to Europe in 2009 to join the Prince Claus Conservatory in the Netherlands. He joined several projects and big bands and performed at festivals such as Hanover and Groningen, Umbria, and Cairo Jazz in Egypt.
In early 2018, Marwan moved from Tunisia to New York City to make his ultimate career dream come true: to start working and collaborating with top-notch artists and musicians worldwide.
Marwan has performed with several award-winning artists, such as the pianists Marc Cary and Tarek Yammani, guitarist Freddie Bryant, Brazilian vocalist Liz Rosa, Saxophonist Jay Rattman, and Jure Pukl, and at some of the most iconic jazz clubs and venues around NYC, such as Smoke, Mezzrow, Zinc Bar, the Django, and Smalls.
A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Editor-in-Chief Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject. His writing appears on Latin Jazz Network; Chamber Music America magazine and numerous other publications.


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