The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Baker's Dozen

Ancient Rhythms, Global Rhythms: Pete Wareham's Favourite Records
Adam Quarshie , April 1st, 2020 09:28

Via his ensemble Melt Yourself Down, saxophonist Pete Wareham reimagines the rhythms and melodies of Nubia. Adam Quarshie caught up with him to discuss some of his influences, from the music of Egypt and Sudan to the music of East London.


Mahmoud Fadl – 'Shofna Gamar'
Basically, after that Ali Hussan Kuban revelation, I started searching high and low for as much of this music as I could possibly find. And then I started looking further. I started googling musicians in the Nile. For me, I found that it was only music from Nubia that had a certain thing about it. Arabic music, from further north, I love it and it's beautiful. I listen to a lot of that but it's more refined than Nubian music. That's not to say that Nubian music isn't sophisticated, but there's something a bit more direct about the Nubian stuff. A bit more punk-rock. I was looking for this music, and I found Mahmoud Fadl. There were these albums called Drummers of the Nile. It's slightly instructional in that they name a rhythm and then they play the rhythm. It's quite a journey through that whole type of music.

This track 'Shofna Gamar', it's a pentatonic melody. Jimi Hendrix, the blues, R&B - a lot of stuff comes from pentatonic scales and it feels to me that these Nubian rhythms are the roots of our rhythmic appreciation. One of the big things in Melt Yourself Down was, if I take these ancient rhythms and just change the aesthetic of them so they sound modern, would it feel like modern music? It does. So I came to the conclusion that there's something in these rhythms that we really respond to and I think the same with pentatonic scales, I've always been really drawn to them. So 'Shofna Gamar' is an amazing way of making pentatonic scales feel really fresh, so joyful.