Bahrain has the talent, but in terms of a music scene, the country doesn’t have anything that comes close. We catch up with Hussain Al-Nasser and Jalal Jaffer from the metal group, Abyss, to talk music, making it, and morals
Time Out Bahrain staff
How did Abyss start – where did the name come from? HA: I started Abyss before knowing Jalal. I used to be in a band and one thing I realised from that was that I wanted to do my own music. I didn’t just want to follow the band’s music and their decisions. The songs I do are derived from emotions and feelings, hence the name – an emotional abyss. One day I was talking to a friend of mine and she told me about Jalal who was more into classical music, and I realised he could be useful for me.
How would you describe your music? HA: When I started I was playing experimental metal – one song is completely different from the next. But what I’m doing with Jalal at the moment is symphonic metal. We are having this fusion between metal and the orchestra. Nowadays when you listen to a band that just has a guitar and drums, you feel like there is something plain about the music, there isn’t anything filling in the gaps in the rest of the music. So the orchestra is doing that job, it is filling every gap in the music and makes it more interesting to listen to.
Jalal, you are more into the classical side of things. How did you start? JJ: I started with my cousin, we were producing pieces for R&B and hip hop, and I had the patience for classical music but I didn’t have the knowledge for it, so it took me years to start. I composed my first symphony in 2008. It has not been played publicly yet, but I hope it will very soon.
A lot of your music relies on collaboration with other artists. Where do you find other artists? HA: One of the things we are doing is supporting local talent. There are a lot of people with a lot of potential in Bahrain, we just need to grab those people and give them the opportunity to do it. Our music features people from Kuwait, the Philippines, Poland as well as Bahraini talent.
You recently release your first single, ‘Rectify’. Where is it available? JJ: It is a digital release. The main idea behind releasing the single is for people to know what to expect from the album. It is available on Facebook, (visit the page Abysss Fan Page) where it is free to download.
What’s the plan for the future? How do you plan to hit the big time? HA: We are going to use that track to go record label hunting. We are hoping that we’re going to get signed by Roadrunner, as they have a lot of famous metal bands.
And if you don’t get signed? HA: Well, the next album is going to be more ethnic and folksy, with a symphonic background. We are not going to stop producing albums, even if we don’t get a record deal.
Is there much opposition to your music in Bahrain? HA: We are limited in Bahrain because whenever we try to set up a metal concert, people claim that this music is a satanic ritual. There are a lot of good bands here, but they don’t have the opportunity to perform. One of the main reasons is that between 2000 and 2004 everyone was into music, everyone had a band, and they were performing everywhere. But then the media started to claim that this music was a satanic ritual and people started to back off and give it up. They felt there was no future for it in Bahrain. A lot of people don’t agree that music is a satanic ritual, but people into metal do have a dress code, which tends to be black, but this doesn’t mean it is satanic.
Recently, one Bahraini MP said all musicians are ‘empty and hollow’. Are you empty and hollow? HA: No, we’re not. In the Gulf people are more accepting of music if it is Arabic music. If it is not in Arabic, then it is not music for them. But people don’t realise what music is. The society is conservative, and people like to stick to their traditional ways. Frankly, I feel that we are going backwards in terms of the attitudes here.
If you do make it big, would you stay here in Bahrain? HA: No, there is no future for music in Bahrain. Dubai is starting to get a great scene. There is a band in Dubai called Nerve Cell, and their genre is death metal. Dubai is really progressive, and the concerts they have there are big.
What advice would you give to other bands trying to make it? HA: If people are really serious about music then they need to educate themselves in music theory. The main basis of being creative in music is the theory – you need to know the rules before you can break them.
What kind of success are you dreaming of? HA: We would like to be like Metallica. The new single from Abyss can be downloaded free from their Facebook page: Abyss Fan Page.