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Bahrain Jazz Fest 2018’s pre-festival shows did more than just showcase local talent – it was the genesis of the conceptual collective that came to be known as This Might Be Jazz.
When Jude D’Souza, one of the organisers of the Bahrain Jazz Fest called Ronald Shera and asked him to form a band of local musicians, a ragtag team comprised of Ronald on keys, his brother Elton on saxophone, Salah Alawi on bass, Rey Phillips on drums and Hameed Al Saeed on guitar and vocals, came together with a couple of practices before their first show.
Rey said: “As soon as we had our first practice together, we knew we had something special.” Hameed piped in: “It was hot.”
Rey add: “We got on stage and killed it. As soon as we got off-stage, the organisers came up to us and told us that we will be playing the main stage next year. It was a huge honour.”
Since then, the quintet has performed in hotel venues across the country, each member bringing their own flair to the collective rhythm.
Each player has their own set of inspirations, with Hameed humming to many artists including the jazz maestro Miles Davis, Ronald and Elton paying homage to the Christian music they grew up with, Rey channelling the Beatles’ Ringo and Salah finding his inspiration locally in his amigo, Elton.
Ronald noted, “It’s quite an experience bringing together all these different inspirations into the band. Each of us has grown up on a different part of the musical spectrum and bringing it all together creates something magical.”
So far, the band has mostly performed covers and mashups, but with their own flair added to each song. I had the opportunity to listen to them perform a mashup of Superstition by Stevie Wonder and Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust.
Listening to them is like going through a seven-layer dip. Each player holds a different kind of richness and every note is like a nacho dipped in a unique combination of individual ingredients. The jazzy overtones are evident in Elton’s subtle sax touches to every song. Hameed brings a classic blues voice to his music with this band, though fans of the local scene may also recognise him from Cactus and Majaz.
Ronald brings a hint of the grandness of gospel with his nimble fingers dancing atop his ivories of choice. Rey brings the rock star to the rhythm, blending in an amalgam of cymbals and snare drums into an already smooth sound. Salah is acclaimed by his bandmates as the secret weapon of the crew and even though bass is not always the most distinct sound in a song, blending more into the wider soundscape, the bassist, who also performs with the Bahrain National Orchestra, shines both in his music and in his off-stage personality.
The group are planning to launch their first single at the Bahrain Jazz Fest 2019 on November 1 and were cagey about it even to a roving reviewer like myself. I, for one, can’t wait to hear it and I hope to see lots of GW readers there, jamming out to a collective born out of a concept yet destined for convolution.