Clusters of Light is a story for all nations and times, says composer

For Khalid Al Sheikh, composing the music for Clusters of Light was a spiritual journey.

The Bahraini composer Khalid Al Sheikh. Pawan Singh / The National / March 2014
Powered by automated translation

“It has been very different from what I’ve done in the past,” says the Bahraini composer Khalid Al Sheikh, who has enjoyed a 30-year career in music.

Al Sheikh has given music to the words of the Saudi poet Dr Abdul Rahman Ashmawi for the Clusters of Lights production and was clear about the sounds he had to incorporate for the stage epic.

“Mohammed is inside us, in our spirit,” says Al Sheikh. “The idea was to translate that and bring him from 1,400 years ago to the present, to 2014.”

Al Sheikh, known for his genre-mixing style, worked with the German composer Christian Steinhauser to marry traditional Arab tunes with modern rhythms.

More than 70 artists from the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg completed recordings for the show. The Emirati singer Hussain Al Jasmi, the Tunisian tenor Lotfi Bouchnak and Ali El Hajjar from Egypt have given their voices to the score. The Palestinian singer and winner of Arab Idol Mohammed Assaf has also participated in the production.

Al Sheikh says he decided to sign on three different generations of singers to cover a large musical spectrum. “We have local and international tunes. We depend on the orchestra to bring that classical richness, the huge sounds to show momentum, battle and triumphs. Local percussions have been used in the orchestra to give it a new flavour.”

Steinhauser says artists from the United States, Berlin and Sydney brought their unique styles to the music. “We stayed classical in the instrumentation, like using the oud, but we allowed them to make it modern,” he says. “You’ll hear music that you wouldn’t normally hear from that instrument.”

Al Sheikh says he wants the music to contribute to a renewed understanding of faith.

“People are fighting each other everywhere. We want to say, come on, stop all this killing. Do not relate this violence to the story of the religion of Mohammed. He stood for peace and justice.

“That is why our show has people of all nationalities participating. It is a lesson about how to live ­together.”