Mustafa Said’s Asil Ensemble to release a new album with a concert at Beirut’s Al Madina Theatre on 12 May 2016

06-asil-ensemble-photo-by-rima-marounAsil Ensemble: Tawahhud (Autism) album release concert
Al Madina Theatre, Beirut
Thursday 12 May, 8pm

Composed by Mustafa Said and performed by Asil Ensemble for Contemporary Classical Arabic Music, Tawahhud (Autism) will be released on Thursday 12 May with a concert at Al Madina Theatre in Beirut. Recorded in one take, Tawahhud is a 48 minute long piece featuring 12 musicians with 15 instruments.


As a modern contemporary work executed with the tools of Arabic music, Tawahhud is divided into five connected movements in which the musicians often veer out of Maqams into free improvised styles whilst preserving the Modal system.

In sharp contrast with the classical Takht formation and the control and heterophonic harmony it facilitates, the work is performed with 15 instruments including oud, bass oud, soprano oud, violin, viola, cello, qanun, santur, tanbur, buzuq, ney, reqq, darabuka, dumbak, dumbak Zurhane, in addition to a bell cymbal and various sticks and tuning forks.

With the 12 musicians performing as soloists, this heterophonic harmony nevertheless emerges with a rich tonal texture running through the work. Whether free or rhythmic, melodic or non-melodic, lush or minimal, the distinct extempore character of Arabic music is frequently there, accompanied by rhythmic structures that fuse a variety of familiar Arabic rhythms.

Inspired by notions of isolation and lonesomeness as a consequence of resisting mainstream thought and discourse; as expressed in an article written by prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah from his prison cell. The article moved Mustafa Said to delve into one’s self and psyche to create new music that forges the individual from the collective, the irregular from the disciplined and the frenzied from the wholesome.

autism|web-02With the realization that for over a hundred years Arabic music evolved mostly by importing forms from other musical systems and traditions, Asil Ensemble was founded by Mustafa Said in 2003 to perform new Arabic music on the principle of internal development that builds on classical Arabic forms. Asil features Mohamad Antar, Abed Kobeissy, Mustafa Said, Khalil al Baba, Ali el Hout, Ghassan Sahhab, Joss Turnbull, Imad Hashisho, Farah Kaddour, Bilal Bitar, Reda Bitar and Firas Andary. In 2008 they released their first album, “Ruba’eyyat ElKhayyam” followed by a self titled album, “Asil” in 2009 and “Burda” in 2015.

A musician and musicologist born in Cairo in 1983, Said is the Director of the Arab Music Archiving and Research (AMAR) foundation, based in Lebanon. Between 2006 and 20014 he taught at the High Institute of Music at the Antonine University in Lebanon and at the Arab Oud House in Cairo between 2004 and 2006.

With support from Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy), Tawahhud was produced by the AMAR foundation where it was recorded in November 2015 (Lebanon). Recording and sound engineering by Fadi Tabbal and mastering by Robert Jaroslawski. Cover artwork was designed by Karim Farah.

Tawahhud (Autism) album booklet

For review copies, interviews requests and more information contact

photo by Rima Maroun