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An Interview with Alexandru Simu, Member of the ARIFA Group

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 , ora 9.58
ARIFA consists of four musicians, representing different cultural environments: Alex Simu (Romania) - saxophone, clarinet and Live Laptop, Mehmet Polat (Turkey) - oud, Franz von Chossy (Germany) - piano and Sjahin During (Turkey/the Netherlands) - Afro Anatolian Percussion. ARIFA blends traditional music from the Middle East and the Balkans with jazz and archetypes belonging to Western Europe. The secret of the group is the interesting alchemy created between the four instrumentalists coming from Romania, Turkey, the Netherlands and Germany. In 2012 ARIFA launched the album ANATOLIAN ALCHEMY which enjoyed great success.

On 21st and 22nd November ARIFA is in Paris and Marseille to give two concerts.

Mr. Alexandru Simu, in only a few days from now you'll be in Paris to promote a very special kind of music. You are the initiator of the project called 'Arifa'. When was this project born?

Arifa was born in 2010 and it had an organic evolution. Starting with 2005, Sjahin During and I were part of the group Tarana, the predecessor of Arifa, where we experimented with a lot of ideas and tried them on with different audiences. In 2010 we came to the conclusion that we have to rethink the way we make music and that's how Arifa was born. We use the architecture of jazz music and improvisation concepts based on Oriental gamut, makan and Sufi music as sources of inspiration, but at the same time we also keep Western-European harmonies.

The combination of timbres in this group is very interesting. Could you, please, tell us more about it?

We have the oud - the Turkish lute or kobza, which is very unusual. Mehmet Polat from Istanbul created an oud with 13 strings which has the ambitus of a double bass. We have the percussion; the percussion set is made up of sundry instruments from all corners of the world, the Iranian daf, the Turkish cymbal and other various smaller or bigger drums with a single membrane. We have the traditional Western-European piano and the clarinet which is, again, very special. Last year, in 2012, we developed a type of clarinet which is still unique in the world - the tenor clarinet; it is a clarinet which has become a new family member and is situated between the alto clarinet and the bass clarinet. Surprisingly, it has never before existed! By combining these textures, these instruments that half belong to the Western and half to the Oriental music, we try to create these unique textures.

Mr. Alexandru Simu, you are now in Turkey. What is the purpose of this visit?

The purpose of the Turkish tour is extremely special. We have worked for almost three years to make this tour happen. We call it 'The road trip'. We have always wanted to reach the South of Turkey, in order to connect even more to the Sufi music and to have the chance of getting in contact with the local musicians and of discovering as much of the traditions of this country as possible. To this aim, four days ago we embarked on a tour starting with Istanbul and continuing with Ankara, we reached Cappadocia and from here we'll be heading for Mardin, Urfa and Gaziantep, until we reach as far as Diyarbakir - the capital of Kurdistan. During the whole tour we film, document and get in touch with local music, so as to reach the most profound knowledge.

On 21
st and 22nd November you'll be in France. What's the occasion?

Every year all the cultural institutes in Paris join their efforts and organize the Jazzycolors Festival, where each cultural institute promotes and invites a group, representative of the culture and of what is specific to their country. In our case, it is the joint initiative of the Romanian Cultural Institute and of the Dutch Cultural Institute and we'll give two concerts.

Irina Hasnaș
Translated by Mihaela Olinescu and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, The University of Bucharest