HAYTHAM SAFIA – Israeli-Arab (Oud)
Safia’s music colorfully sources itself from his rich cultural past: he was born into a Muslim community in the Christian Village of Kafr Kasif in Israel’s Northern Galilee, an area strongly influenced by its neighboring Druise community. A versatile and adventurous musician, Safia graduated from the Academy of Music and Dance in Jerusalem in 2002. He turned to Europe, in particular, The Netherlands, for cross-cultural challenges, which included successful collaborations with the multinational band No Blues.
Safia has released three CDs, including Promises (2007) created with three fellow multi-disciplinary artists to produce a stunning album full of emotion ranging from contemplative to exuberant, and jarring to playful instrumentation. Safia has also worked with two classically-trained musicians from Amsterdam (Cellist Eva van de Poll and Oboe player Hanneke Ramselan) as well as the gifted Iranian percussionist, Afra Mussawisada, to produce a mellifluous and riveting collaboration. His previous release, Blossom, unites nine artists from nine different nations in a cross-cultural exchange.
Safia’s oud-playing is known for both its precision and experimentation, particularly with Ramselan’s oboe, in songs like Moments of Relief, or the percussion duet Path to the Roots. Influenced by the gentle instrumental exchange of Tunisian Anouar Brahim’s, his unique combination of classical Western and Eastern instrumentation blends beautifully in a playful musically- styled “conversation,” Answering Nature’s Call.
Haytham Safia has long established himself as a talented composer with a well-full of innovative ideas. Voice of the Desert on the Promises release stands out for its power and harmony, exemplifying his gift for composition. His latest quartet, an example of his foray into novel cross-cultural music, incorporates Oriental rhythms while respecting classical Western components. He contrasts that with Having Fun, a racy jazz-inflected jaunt.
Three years following his debut in the Netherlands, Safia created a well-admired solo album, OUD, which offers traditional Arab oud phrasing alongside magical Maqams, his unique trademark which re-interprets much of the traditional melodic oud repertoire. His oud improvisatory passages (Taqasim,) exquisitely produced, are further embellished with his meditative signature. His revelatory Nahawand track immerses audiences in a brilliant transcendent state. With his very own quartet, he released, Fresh Moods his newest CD in April 2015.
With a true contemporary and progressive approach to the oud, Safia playfully manipulates recurring themes, underscoring traditional opening and ending phrasing.