|Rouba 3i + Tony Buck|
By Fotis Nikolakopoulos
Borderline Festival, now in its 9th year, is a commodity for Athens. Only a handful of people are willing and able to pay the expenses so that musicians, of any kind of adventurous music, can come to Greece and perform. It is a pity that for the past couple of years the festival seems to be turning its back to free jazz and free improv music in favor of building a more “contemporary” image for itself. Thankfully for the financial wealth of Onassis Cultural Center, prices are low, allowing many people to get to know artists and performers that in many other cases they would not.
This year saw Borderline collaborating with another important festival of Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Irtijal. Forging relationships is always the best thing to do when it comes to any kind of social behavior. It would be far more important, though, if these bonds would stand not only for and from the music. We live in an area shattered by wars (not only in Syria), baffled by the oppression against the Palestinian people. We are watching, thousand by thousands, refugees with no papers trying to flee war and oppression from all over this sea. I really would be much happier if all those were to be reminded (in any way) throughout the festival’s venues and actions. The only implication from this collaboration is that music brings people together and smashes borders. Thankfully it does.
The occasion of this collaboration is another fruitful proof of the above. Although it seems like an antithesis to talk about music from Lebanon while two thirds of the Rouba 3i (I’m not exactly sure about Sharif Sehnaoui) live outside Lebanon. Their trio with The Necks drummer, Tony Buck, was a gig to catch. As you can clearly see, their positioning on stage had the warmth of a friendly occasion. Seated very close to each other, the four musicians produced a unified sound with no solos. Their playing was cohesive interaction during the (must say we wanted more) forty minutes they performed.
Everybody’s approach was the one of collective improvisation. Christine Abdelnour’s sax lines and notes were long and sustained, keeping her instrument on the verge on inaudibility. The same cannot be said for Mazen Kerbaj’s trumpet, an instrument that is gradually becoming more and more percussive in his hands and mouth. Sharif Sehnaoui’s gentle approach to his acoustic guitar added flair to their, sometimes, low timbre and rugged audio results. Even though it’s contradictory to talk about individuals on this set, Buck’s playing was a joy to see and listen to. His use of almost everything in keeping the rhythm of this rhythmless (sic) performance, made me even more frustrated by not having caught The Necks live yet…
They achieved a continuous flow through their set and this is never easy. The quartet’s performance was palpable with small improvisational gestures. Everybody was eager, willing and able to leave room for the others, while, at the same time, their overall performance was always energetic. I was left with the impression that this fluidity of means and noises needed more time to breathe and most importantly to present its fruits.