Saying classical music makes one feel on a higher plane, a visiting Moroccan pianist contends that “there hasn’t been a terrorist or someone committing a crime after coming from a classical music concert”. “One thing I can say: That there hasn’t been a terrorist or someone committing a crime after coming from a classical music concert. You can’t say the same about pop concerts. Classical (music) elevates the soul. You feel richer. You feel in the higher sphere. Pop can sometimes bring out the violent elements of one’s personality,” said Marouan Benabdallah, a Moroccan musician who is a big name in his country and who recently performed in India. “Classical music is universal. It doesn’t belong to one nation or one culture.” Benabdallah was four years old when he started playing the piano which, according to a research, demands more skill than any other instrument. The 35-year-old feels that the instrument is complex to an extent that a complete orchestra can be played on it.
“When you start learning to play the piano, it is not that difficult and results come quickly. It becomes more and more complex with time and you realise that you can play the whole orchestra on it,” the musician told IANS in an interview after his concert here at the India Islamic Cultural Centre. “My mother is a music teacher. She used to give lessons at home… students were there, the piano was there in front of me all the time,” he said, adding: “It was absolutely natural for me to start playing it.”
Understanding the nuances of the instrument, he said, takes a lifetime. “You can reach a certain point. Once you reach there, there is always a higher point in terms of the sensibility of music and the instrument you play. Today when I look back, I feel I have improved a lot. There are people, I know, who haven’t,” he laughed. “It is like an ongoing journey that will end only after death.” At his Delhi performance, the musician brought to the capital works by classical composers from the Arab world — from war-torn Syria to Lebanon, from Algeria, Morocco’s political rival in north Africa, to Egypt and, of course, his native Morocco.
One of his curious experiences while performing in India, which he has visited a fair number of times, was that the audience starts trickling in late and the printed time is not necessarily the time he gets to start his show because, like in Chandigarh once, only one couple was in the audience when he came on stage. Talking of classical piano compositions, he said they were different from other forms of music. “You cannot listen to it while playing football, or in the gym. It is not the music that masses demand — the music that doesn’t need much focus.”
Benabdallah described the classical music genre as universal and richer than other genres. “People say classical music is dying. I feel it will always survive. It was composed by humans, to be performed by humans, to be listened to by humans. The number of people could be less, but they will always need it.” He said the genre needs more support. “Music companies are not looking at it. It is surviving on its own without any support. “It needs patrons, music lovers, and art lovers and not (music) companies looking at their finances.”