Instruments for Change
by Laura Perez
For ‘Instruments for Change’, musicians from Syria, Turkey and Senegal were invited to the studio to record a variety of traditional instruments. The recordings gave life to an online sample pack that DJs, producers and musicians can now download for their own music. All proceeds go to Sounds of Change to help them provide musical training in conflict-affected areas.
‘Instruments for Change’ is also part of ‘Music x Mind’ by MassiveMusic, an initiative to offer insights on how music can benefit our mind, body and soul.
Sunday morning. The corridors of the office are filled with voices I’ve never heard of. Sounds of unfamiliar instruments play in the background.
Here we are, I think to myself. The ‘Instruments for Change’ project is finally taking shape. Musicians from all over the world are here today to play traditional instruments from their home country in our MassiveMusic recording studio.
An exploration of new sounds, rhythms, tones and scales that are part of Middle Eastern musical heritage. A bridge to connect two worlds that, in many cases, still tend to ignore each other.
The aim is to give life to a virtual software instrument (VST) and an online sample pack that DJ, musicians, producers and musicians can purchase to give an Eastern touch to their music. And, if that wasn’t enough, all proceeds from the ‘Instruments for Change’ downloads will go to Sounds of Change, to help them empower communities in need by providing musical training in conflict-affected areas.
Shaza, Mame, Nawras, Sinan and Modar
These are the names of the amazing musicians who came to visit us at the studio. One by one they sit at the other side of the glass to record endless combinations of sound. Their melodies transport me to their home countries in no time: Syria, Turkey, Senegal – and it doesn’t matter if I’ve never been there.
I’m taking picture after picture: the clicking of the shutter rhythmically fuses with the exotic music coming from the speakers. My feet follow the sound despite the fact I’ve never heard of these instruments before. I can’t help it. I find myself adding a little percussion to the melodies I’m surrounded with.
Music changes the world because it changes people
Music speaks when words fall short. Cliché? Maybe. Yet clichés are there for a reason. If there’s something that ‘Instruments for Change’ has taught me is that, when music is there, there’s no language barrier. Music is capable of tearing down any wall – especially when the speakers are loud enough.
Thanks to this project, I had the pleasure to meet five incredible artists who showed me there is nothing more important than remembering where we come from, embracing our own roots and celebrating them. And what better way to do so than through music?
Now playing: the daf, the riq and the oud
First in the studio is Modar, from Syria. He plays the daf and the riq, two Arabic percussions. I see that frown upon your face but don’t worry, I didn’t know what they were until a few weeks ago either.
The daf looks like a tambourine but cooler; this one has Modar’s name written on it in Arabic, which makes it even more interesting. Then there’s the riq, a frame drum with an animal membrane; and believe me, as gross as it may sound, it looked astonishingly beautiful with rays of light running through it.
Modar puts both the daf and the riq on his lap and play them as if they were part of his own body. He’s so impeccable that it all seems so easy for him. Different rhythms and tempos resonate in the studio.
Nawras, also from Syria, brought his baby to the MassiveMusic headquarters: the oud. Pronounced as ‘ood’ – [uːd] for the phonetics nerds, it comes from the Arabic word for ‘wood’.
It’s in the middle of his photoshoot that Nawras tells me about the history of this beautiful instrument that enchanted me just by looking at it.
The oud is a short-neck-stringed instrument that sounds like glory when played. Believe me when I say it made the entire office resonate with Middle Eastern vibes, something these walls and myself have never heard of before. The one he holds comes from none other than the wood of a 200-year-old piano.
Now playing: the ney and the qanun
Next up is Sinan, from Turkey. A few minutes in the conversation and we’re already talking about our visions of the world. Sinan plays the ney, an end-blown flute, one of the oldest instruments of all times, with a history of more than 5.000 years.
As soon as he starts playing it, I can see the passion and love he has for it. The melodies coming out of the ney flow so organically as if it was wind. No, not the kind of wind you’d encounter in Amsterdam, definitely a more gentle one.
Then it’s Shaza’s turn. She’s from Syria, and you probably won’t believe me when I tell you she’s only 14 years old. Five years ago she relocated to the Netherlands and learned to speak as a native. She has performed multiple times at the Amsterdam Concert Hall as well as for Maxima, Queen of the Netherlands. No biggie. Yet, she remains so humble and down to earth.
Shaza plays de qanun, pronounced ‘qanoon’, a descendent of the old Egyptian harp. I bet you’ve seen it at least once in a movie or a documentary. Well, I had the pleasure to experience it live, just a few centimetres away from my ears and my lens. So special to see what a burning passion for music a young girl can have.
Last but not least: vocals from Senegal
Mame, from Senegal, has the task of wrapping up the day with a recording of his vocals, filled with encouraging messages of love, hope and change.
His lyrics and melodies come straight from his heart. No filter needed. I can feel his energy in the room just by listening to his voice.
A sample pack for your musical creations
So now that we’ve collected hundreds of samples and loops, what do we do with them? Before making them available on instrumentsforchange.nl, we asked a few Massivians and friends to give it a try and use them for their own music.
The way people from different backgrounds took these sounds to create something completely different from one other left us speechless. We were so excited that we even showcased fragments of these productions at the launch event during ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event) 2019.
Since 2021, you can now jam and play with the Instruments for Change sounds, using the sequencer on soundsofchange.org.
Activate the sounds by clicking the ‘Start Sound’ button
- Click on the grey blocks to activate and play a sample
- Click again to deactivate a sample
- Create your own, unique combination of samples or let the randomize option choose for you
- You can choose between two sample packs:
1. Ney/Qanun, 2. Duduk/Clarinet
Watch this space and our social media accounts for more ‘Instruments for Change’ recording sessions, events and initiatives.
How can you help?
Here’s what you can do to support ‘Instruments for Change’:
- Head to instrumentsforchange.nl to purchase* the sample pack
- Use the samples and loops for your own music
- Upload your track to any streaming and/or social media platform
- Tag us and use the #instrumentsforchange hashtag for a re-post
Help us spread the word with the world.
Let’s make a difference, one beat at a time.
*All proceeds go directly to Sounds of Change to help them empower communities in need by providing musical training in conflict-affected areas.
From left to right:
Lucas Dols (Sounds of Change)
Marijn Roozemond (MassiveMusic)
Lex van Aken (Deep House Amsterdam)
Since we launched the Instruments for Change initiative, a few artists started releasing their IfC creations; tracks they created with the sample pack we provided. Support them by following, saving and listening on Spotify.