Dulab Altaj

Improvisation in a musical rondo format played by 12 musicians at 12 different places in Berlin

As in every metropolis in the world, Berlin houses many musicians with different migrant backgrounds and are enriched with diverse musical traditions which they continue to practice in their current local communities. In other words: in Berlin Syrian Musicians play Syrian music for a public of Syrian origin, Iranians for the Iranians, Turks for the Turks and Chinese for the Chinese. Sometimes overlapping occurs and we either have a mixed audience or the musicians on stage are mixed. But the Syrian, Iranian or Chinese is just a guest and joins the idiom of th others - playing for example Jazz, the Syrian mixes in a Syrian coloring - his own musical tradition yet the tone of his musical expression is left out.

Composer Sandeep Bhagwati and concert manager Elke Moltrecht have tried to change this since 2013. They are convinced, considering the social reality of our cities today, that by ventilating Eurocentric opinions a new kind of music could be realized.
Playing together no musician should deny or renounce his own origin nor overpower others. The question is: how can one invent music with these many different idioms, based on flexibility towards the other, responsiveness and originating from their own language? They gathered a swarm of prominent musicians living in Berlin (in each case in their own genre), immigrants from China, Europe, India, Korea, Bulgaria, Syria, Australia, and the USA. They all belong to varied scenes like Jazz, Folk, Techno, Blues and also from European based concert forms like Barock and New Music.
Concerts were given in various formations in the Berliner Radialsystem, in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, in the Martin Gropius Bau - where research was done on geographical, historical, etnic and social sturctures and together giving birth to a new kind of music fitting for a new global reality. In this context and during this continuing process a concept for a film and a video-concert installation was conceived at the end of 2019 with the name: Dulab-al-Taj.

Next to Elke Moltrecht and Sandeep Bhatwati, Australian composer Cathy Milliken, Bulgarian Music ethnoligists Deniza Popova, Syrian oud-player Farhan Sabbagh and documentary filmer Uli Aumüller cooperated.

We initially start with 12 musicians from abroad who have settled in Berlin. They should designate a place that means home to them today. Either Berlin as a whole as their new homeland or a specific spot which reminds them of the country they left. At these specific places every musician, by themselves, plays some improvisations on a given musical theme composed by Farhan Sabbagh on his oud.

Statements of the musicians to their choice: Sören Birke Klaus Janek Cathy Milliken Deniza Popova Farhan Sabagh Gregor Schulenburg Ravi Srinivasan Andi Teichmann Hannes Teichmann Wu Wei Yoo Hong Lucy Zhao

Dulab score

The improvisations are recorded in different ways - as accompaniment to the improvisations of the previous musician, as counterpart, or echo - and finishes with an improvised solo. The improvisations go back and forth (like 'Chinese Whispers' or 'Telephone') from musician to musician, every time newly interpreted and passed on. In the studio these soli are mixed with the recordings of the others and complemented with copies of the original melody so musical amateurs also understand the compositional structure of a Dulab.

What is a Dulab

The dulab (the wheel, the round - but also: the song) is a classical Arab variation of the European rondo form. The musicians begin by playing a relatively short melody together, which functions as a refrain, and then make place for a longer solo. Contrary to the rondo the refrain is not just repeated and embellished but always fancifully varied. The solo wanders around through the ensemble and every solo player comments on the previous one. The attraction of the Dulab in this constellation is that the melody and rhythm of the refrain is reflected and filtered by the difference in expression of the musicians.

The result is spacious air between the collective musical basis and the Dulab melody and rlating solos. The original arabic way of making music is now projected into a mixture of live analogue music and digital adaptation and the audience experiences and hears an abundance of different acoustic and visual homelands that are, while listening, understandably connected to each other. Arabian music did not just happen, nor did European, Indian or Chinese music and nor did "worldmusic". Music happens because of all the above examples.

In addition, every musician is invited in a short interview to describe why he or she picked this specific place in Berlin: This could be their own practice room, a concert hall in which they like to perform, a parc, a cafe, a bookshop or driving in a Mercedes Benz on the Freeway.

Uli Aumüller

He was educated as a sound technician (Psychological defense of West-Germany) and studied Biology and Modern German Literature (Master's thesis: poet of the Silesian high Barock D.v. Lohenstein). Worked in theatres (Munich, Landshut, Mühlheim an der Ruhr, Bruchsal). And then he made radio plays. Ever since relocating to Berlin in beginning of the nineties he became an independent author and director of radio features about temporary music (including more than 250 productions of broadcasts lasting more than 30 minutes for DS-Kultur, Deutschlandfunk Deutschlandradio Berlin, BR, HR, MDR, WDR, SDR, SFB, SR), since 1993 also for television.

Sandeep Bhagwati (musical leader, Komprovisationes, Ensemble leader Bordune, Kompositions-Compiler, Director)

Sandeep Bhagwati is a composer, artist, curator and author. Born in Mumbai, the son of a German mother and an Indian father, grew up in Germany from the age of 5. He studied at the Mozarteum Salzburg, the Musikhochschule München and at the IRCAM/Centre George Pompidou in Paris. He composes contemporary music and works on ways to develop trans-traditional musical, explores new ways to perform by using electronic media and works in the multimedia performance- and installation range. He publishes texts about the current situation of the arts and writes for radio. Theoretical as well as artistic analyses concerning music culture in Asia are the focus of his work. He was professor of composition at the Musikhochschule Karlsruhe and since 2006 he occupies the Canadian Research Chair in inter-X Art Practice and Theory at the faculty of Fine Arts on the Concordia University, Montréal, Québec, Canada.

Sören Birke (mouth organs)

Sören Birke is a culture and theatre scholar,
culture manager, manager and co-owner of the
'Consense Gesellschaft zur Förderung von Kultur mbH in der Kulturbrauerei Berlin' and he is a musician. In 1982 he self-educated to play the blues on a mouth organ, learned to play the violoncello, Jew's harp and Duduk. Since 1983 he tours through Germany, USA, Australia, Poland and Armenia as live musician at relevant festivals featuring well-known musicians. He worked and performed with Gerd Conradt, Spiridon Schischigin, Dirk Michaelis, the 17 Hippies , Magda Piskorczy, Hu-Lu-Si, Lutz Glandien oder Robin Hemingway. He published books and cd's and is co-initiator of the Kampagne Musik 2020 Berlin and the Music Board Berlin.

Klaus Janek (Bass, Electronics)

Klaus Janek studied classic contra-bass with Maurizio Muraro and visited workshops of a.o. Dave Holland, Peter Kowald, Jaribu Shahid. He worked in the field of experimental music and researched the acoustic and processed sound of the contra-bas. Klaus Janek enlarged the musical vocabulary of the instrument both in creation and perception. He composed music for dance theatre, television, a house-opera and sound design for the Meta Design AG in Berlin. Concert- and festival invitations took him to European countries, the USA, Russia, Israel, Canada, China, Malaysia and Japan.

Kang Ji-eun (Haegeum)

The Haegeum player Kang Ji-eun plays music that merges tradition and modern. She is a traditional Korean musician with a lot of depth, who finished the education for National Immaterial Cultural Property nr. 1, the royal ritual music Jongmyo Jeryeak. As Haegeum soloist she played concerts with KBS-Symphony orchestra, Ensemble TIMF and with the Busan National Gugak Centre and has performed at popular festivals in countries like Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Japan. Besides being artistic leader of the Seoul Performing Arts Festival and the Arts Council Korea Selected New Work, her work was selected and produced.

Cathy Milliken (oboe/duduks, recitation)

Cathy Milliken studied oboe and piano in her native country Australia. She was a founding member of the Ensemble Modern till 2007 and worked closely together with artists like György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Fred Frith and Frank Zappa. She started the composers' group HCD-Productions together with Dietmar Wiesner und Hermann Kretzschmar. Since 1990 she composes Music theatre-, instrumental- and chamber music, radio plays, Installations, theater- and film music. She is commissioned by notable international festivals, orchestras and ensembles and received several prices. Participating compositions and project form the central part of her work. From 2005 till 2012 she managed the Education Department of the Berliner Philharmoniker and had performances of her own work while there. From 2018 till 2020 she was associated composer with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Currently she is working on a doctors degree on Collaborative Composing at the Griffith University Queensland, Australia. She lives in Berlin.

Elke Moltrecht (Management, Ensemble leader)

Elke Moltrecht studied musicology at the Humboldt university Berlin, was employed by publishing houses Breitkopf & Härtel, Hofmeister and Deutsche Verlag für Musik, and worked in the Bosehaus/Bachmuseum in Leipzig and is co-founder of the Heinrich-Schütz-Haus Bad Köstritz. Elke Moltrecht worked at the Music Department at Podewil-Centre for Contemporary Arts and she directed the Ballhaus Naunynstrasse, is curator of the project "visualizing music" of the Humboldt Lab Dahlem and she managed the Network Modern Music 21 Niedersachsen and is director at the Academy of the Arts of the World in Cologne. She focusses on traditional musical practice and research, concert forms and cosmopolitan curating. She established international and cross-skilled festivals and programs where she connects musical themes in an unusual context, published about in trade journals and is a member of authoritative national and international juries and boards. At the moment she is curator, producer and consultant in Berlin.

Deniza Popova (bulgarian singing)

Deniza Popova sings what she senses! She was born in Bulgaria and grew up in the north of Germany. She studied singing at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler followed by musicology. music ethnology and Bulgarian studies at the Humboldt-Universität and Freie Universität Berlin. Her master was on authenticity, media possibilities and identity of "authentic Bulgarian music". For 15 years she worked with the Russian-Ukrainian Ensemble Polýnushka. In Bulgarian churches she practiced the old tradition of Byzantian church music. She involved herself in communicative musical events and innovative paths. She both teaches academically and artistically at universities; colleges and she practice music pedagogic all over Germany and Bulgaria.

Farhan Sabbagh (Ud, Riqq)

Farhan Sabbagh, born in Syria, is one of the few persons alive today who is an Oud-virtuoso. He is also composer and a master in Arabian percussion. First with his father and uncle and later, in Damascus and Cairo, he studied Music and Composition. In 1981 he was invited by the International Institute for Traditional Music (UNO) to present Arabian music in Europe. From then onward he lives in Berlin and worked on many projects with international musicians and founded several ensembles. Professional musicians specially come to him for further schooling. He looks back on many concerts worldwide and many international LPs and CDs.

Gregor Schulenburg (Flute, Duduk, Shakuhachi)

Gregor Schulenburg is interpreter, performer and community musician: transverse flutes. Duduk and kyotaku (Japanese bamboo flute) He studied at the Koninklijk Conservatorium Den Haag; and is scholarship holder of the international Ensemble Modern Academy. He is co-founder of the music collective MAM, developer of present day music and guest musician of the Ensembles Modern. He is on the road to Festivals and other stages, married and father of two sons. Beside his work as interpreter/performer he works in Bereich Community Music and is since 2019 trainer with the peace organization "musicians without borders". Since 2015 he is artistic Leader for Ethnocamps of Jeunesses Musicales (Ethno Germany, Ethno India) and between 2017 and 2019 he was project leader and teacher of advanced education to becoming ETHNOLeader in Stuttgart and Mannheim.

Ravi Srinivasan (Tabla, percussion, Khayal-singing, whistling)

Ravi Srinivasan, born in Singapore, plays Tabla, Tabla Tarang and percussion and also sings and whistles. He grew up in an Anglo-Indian family in Malaysia and learned to play classical western music on the violin. He first played in orchestras in Malaysia and England and later became interested in Jazz, began to compose and studied with Kamalesh Maitra in Berlin. His stage presence and sensibility plus his broad musical horizon make him an exceptionally versatile and creative musician. Ravi Srinivasan made guest performances in USA, Russia and Malaysia and performed at significant festivals in Europe and India. He plays in various Jazz-, folk- and world music formations, a.o. Abrasaz, Midnight Court, Hypno Theatre, Dotschy Reinhardt, Soname Yangchen and the Injun Biscuit Factory, accompanied indian Kathak-Tanz and Raga-Musik and also worked in Musiktheater productions.

Wu Wei (Sheng, Erhu)

The Sheng-virtuoso Wu Wei developed the old instrument into an innovative force in the contemporary music. He was soloist with world renowned orchestras, ensembles and directors and in prominent international festivals. He premiered more than 400 works, including 20 concerts for Sheng and orchestra. Wu Wei composes for the Sheng and receives commissions for compositions. He studied at the college of music in Shanghai and the college of music Hanns Eisler Berlin and was professor at the academy of music in Shanghai. He is award winner of a.o. the German music competition Musica Vitale, the German Global Root Prize and received the German Gramophone review award. Wu Wei produced many CDs and DVDs.

The Teichmann brothers (gramophone, sound objects, Live-Electronics)

With much enthusiasm the Teichmann brothers understand how to create auditory themes into which musicians of different cultures can meet and create new music. Hannes and Andi Teichmann were already musically shaped during their childhood inside the private jazz club of their parents near Regensburg, that offered a stage to Indian and African musicians. After their own child punk band Totalschaden the sprouting electronic club-culture in Berlin during the 1990s became their fascination: Techno clubs and Raves like Orte, where traditional standards were not valid anymore and anything was possible and on the dance floors east- and west Berliners met on equal footing. They remembered this live Utopia when both brothers invite a group of selected musicians to join them in temporary sound camps in Kenia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Pakistan or India to explore unconventional interfaces in contemporary, experimental of traditional music. As live musicians they look for organic and live interfaces in analogue electronics and acoustics. Their cooperation goes from Ensemble Modern to Joachim Irmler (Faust). Their label Noland covers their road from underground to interground. They received the Culture support prize from their hometown Regensburg. They helped organize projects like Fieldlines, Ten Cities, BLNRB, Soundcamp South Asia, Mondmachine, Karachi Files.

Yoo Hong (Daegeum, Changgu)

Yoo Hong, soloist, expanded his musical activities towards Eurpe and Asia. His performances show exceptional musicality and charisma and include traditional Korean music, contemporary music and improvisation. He is invited by many leading international music festivals, a.o. Festival Klangspuren (Austria), the World Minimal Music Festival (Holland), the China Shanghai International Arts Festival (China) and the Tongyeong International Music Festival (South Korea). Lately he works as an artist for the WhatWhy Art, a creative Art productions-and-ensemble with a focus on the creation of new contemporary Korean art.

Zhao Lucy (pipa, guqi , duduk, mouthorgan, electronics)

Zhao Lucy was born in Peking and plays the Chinese necked bowl lute fretboard zither gupin. On the occasion of the opening of the Olympic Games in 2008 in Peking she was part of the Pipa Orchestra. Zhao Lucy studied music performance (bachelor) at the China Conservatory and was part of orchestra tours in the USA, South Korea and many Chinese towns. Her concert finale was in the summer of 2015 in the Peking Opera Theatre Zhengyici. Since 2016 she lives in Europe and is active working in several ensembles and orchestras as for example KlangForum Heidelberg and Ensemble XX. Century and performed in sessions of free improvisation. As soloist she gave concerts in a.o. Alten Rathaus and in the Mozarthaus in Vienna.

Cast & Crew

Uli Aumüller
Associate producer
Elke Moltrecht
Original Score
Cathy Milliken