Diving for Pearls - British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed
British-Bahraini trumpeter Yazz Ahmed
In her own band projects, she makes reference to the heritage of her Arab forefathers. "People in Europe don’t know much about Bahraini culture," she says. "Bahrain has a tradition of pearl fishing. When the divers were away from home and out on the open sea, they would sing of their longing to be back home. This was also a way to motivate each other to work harder. Their songs would be about returning home rich or, just as equally, with empty hands. Bahrain also has traditional songs, women’s drum groups for weddings, and other songs for festivities. The music is very percussive, rhythmical, and the singing sounds like an incantation."
Yazz Ahmed is one of the most exciting personalities on the lively London jazz scene. Her complex musical suites combine the traditions of her Bahraini roots and jazz improvisation.
"When I was little, I had no idea how few girls played the trumpet," says Yazz Ahmed, who was introduced to the instrument by her grandfather, jazz trumpeter Terry Brown. "It was difficult to find any role models. Today, of course, there are quite a few female colleagues and no longer any such stereotypes. Our male fellow musicians have got used to us. It doesn’t feel strange anymore to be ‘the girl with the trumpet’!"
Nevertheless, there is a great deal that is unusual and surprising about this woman. Ahmed grew up in the Gulf state of Bahrain. When she was nine, she moved to Great Britain, where she began her musical training. Since the release of her debut album in 2011, the London jazz scene is one exciting facet richer, as Ahmed crosses genre boundaries.
She has proven herself as a guest artist with world beat pioneers Transglobal Underground and with the indie rock stars Radiohead and Joan As A Policewoman, as well as surprising classical listeners with her arrangement of Gustav Holst’s "The Planets".
(I, Kari, enjoyed this because of the pearl diving song and also because as a school girl I played second chair cornet.)