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Oud Odyssey At Indo-Bahrain Festival

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By Raji Unnikrishnan

A Bahraini musician who is poised to take centre stage at a significant cultural event believes that it is his responsibility to showcase his country’s music at its best to a multinational audience.

Faisal Al Kooheji, a name that resonates with the rich musical heritage of the kingdom, is the only Bahraini artist performing at the third edition of the Indo Bahrain Dance and Music Festival, organsied by the Bahrain Keraleeya Samajam (BKS).

Faisal is set to perform on the fourth day of the festival, May 6, Monday, at the BKS diamond jubilee hall in Segayya from 7.30pm onwards. Known for his mastery of the Oud and his captivating vocals, Faisal will grace the stage alongside the renowned percussionist Sami Al Malood.

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“It is an honour to represent my country and to be part of the festival beside the great artists who came from India,” Faisal told Bahrain This Week in an exclusive interview.
“At the same time, I feel a sense of responsibility towards my country’s music and to represent it in the best possible way.”

Faisal’s approach to music is a testament to the power of cultural exchange. He believes in blending music by integrating his Oud with instruments from various cultures or by interpreting tunes from different traditions on his instrument.
“I hope people enjoy listening to the music and learn something about the traditional music in Bahrain, which is influenced by other cultures,” he expressed.

The magic of music, according to Faisal, lies in its ability to transcend language barriers and unite diverse cultures. He shared his excitement about performing an Indian song at the festival, an experiment that he hopes will leave a lasting impression on the audience.

Reflecting on his artistic journey, Faisal credits Bahraini director Abdullah Al Saadawi for influencing his music and outlook on life. The collaboration during the 2007 theatrical show “Matryoshka” marked a significant turning point for him.

As he prepares for his performance, Faisal feels a deep sense of duty to showcase his traditional music.

“I am not alone,” he remarked.
“Sami Al Malood will be beside me to play all the beautiful styles used in my country and in the region, and we hope it will be a successful night in this beautiful festival.”

Offstage, Faisal, from Riffa, leads a fulfilling life as an air traffic controller, a husband to Afnan, and a father to Nayef and Fay. His love for music and aviation coexist harmoniously, and fans can experience the melodies named after his loved ones on international digital music platforms.

The festival was opened by Indian Ambassador Vinod K Jacob alongside Government Hospitals chief executive Dr Maryam Al Jalahma and BKS officials on May 3. The first day featured an all-female Indian classical ban led by artist Kaushiki Chakraborty, while the second day saw a Carnatic percussion and bharatnatyam ensemble by mridangam virtuoso Umayalpuram Sivaraman and team. The third day of the festival saw a musical stage show, Agni 3, by Soorya Krishnamoorthy. Other artists to perform are renowned Indian singers Vijay Yesudas, P Unnikrishnan, Uthara Unnikrishnan; dancers Anita, Gauri, Priyadarshini Govind, and Vidya Subrahmanian; and renowned violinist Dr L  Subrahmaniam.

The festival, the brainchild of BKS president P V Radhakrishna Pillai, is curated by Soorya Krishnamoorthy and held in coordination with the Indian Embassy with the support of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (BACA).

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