Majeed Marhoon ‘Symphonies of the Self’ Project

‘Symphonies of the Self’ is a unique music production framed to observe and preserve the works of the influential late Bahraini composer, political activist Majeed Marhoon.

‘Symphonies of the Self’ in 2016 in Bahrain been a collaboration with the Bahrain Authority for Culture & Antiquities, Red Bull Middle East and as part of the Spring of Culture 2016, the project was showcased over two consecutive evenings in the form of a concert on April 8th and April 9th, 2016 in the Bahrain Cultural Hall.

The performance featured the national Bahrain Orchestra, several influential long term musical collaborators of Marhoon like vocalist Salman Zaiman, conductor Khalifa Zaiman, the european duo Bugge Wesseltoft & Henrik Schwarz as international ambassadors, as further performances by the initiator of the project, electronic music performer Hasan Hujari and contributions from the local music scene.

‘Born into a fate of despair and destitution, Majeed Marhoon (1945-2010) walked the ground with music in his mind, so that he always seemed to be dancing. It was through his passionate dedication to music, that he taught himself music composition, music history, and how to play instruments likes the harmonica, flute, saxophone, guitar, trumpet and more. Not only did he dance to music playing solely in his heart, but as he could afford very little, Marhoon also composed symphonies without a single instrument in his possession. And though he didn’t dance too far from his homeland, the relentless fluttering of his wings sounded symphonies that traveled the world. What he left behind was a wealth of musical creations, inspired by a variety of genres and schools, inclusive of Classical, African, Latin, and more. Marhoon received international recognition and empathy even early in his career from the likes of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and the German Radio Symphony Orchestra, who played his symphonies and honoured his melodic sentiments.

‘Symphonies of the Self’  is the brain and heart child of Bahraini oud player and composer, Hasan Hujairi, ‘Symphonies of the Self’ is more than a story of a musician, but rather an epic journey underground to uncover Majeed Marhoon’s long forgotten legacy. Meanwhile, it seems as though the air has been in a buzz, and the life energy of this eden island Bahrain is vibrating an echo of his name, “Majeed Marhoon”; this caged bird is perhaps for the first time, finally flying.

Short Documentary – Symphonies of the Self –

Above: Initiator Hasan Hujairi

Above: Bahrain Orchestra opening the night

Above: Vokalist Salman Zaiman with Henrik Schwarz, Bugge Wesseltoft
Below: Salman Zaiman in earlier days

Below: Majeeds collaborators and state officials in rhythm section

Marhoon’s family and friends retell his story through the tv documentary, including founder of Ajrass Band Mr. Salman Zaiman who was present in the flights and falls of Marhoon’s life & Mr. Khalifa Zaiman, Conductor of the Bahrain Orchestra and a personal friend of Majeed. The documentary, ‘Symphonies of the Self’, will premiered at Malja Bahrain, narrating to audiences the process of the musical collaborations, as inspired by the nostalgia of Marhoon’s life and journey as a musician and composer. The documentary is directed by award-winning Bahraini director Saleh Nass.

Below, the final song My Hapiness performed at the Red Bull Music Academy Presents: Symphonies of the Self concert in Bahrain, April 11, 2016, composed by the late Majeed Marhoon.

The artists performing the finale song: The Bahrain Orchestra, Hasan Hujari, Henrik Schwarz, Bugge Wesseltoft, Ahmed Al Ghanem

Majeed Marhoon original orchestra music

Biography Marjeed Marhoon

Majeed Marhoon (1945–2010) was a Bahraini saxophonist, and a former leftist political activist with the National Liberation Front of Bahrain.

In 1966, Majeed would execute a heroic operation against the militants of British colonization, of which his role would remain a secret until 1969. He was then led to a mock trial which only lasted for half an hour, where the prior issued sentence was revealed. He was given a life sentence.

Marhoon spent 22 years in prison in Bahrain between 1968 and 1990, accused of planting a bomb in the car of a British intelligence officer of 21 March 1966. Seventeen of his years in captivity were spent at the Jidda Island prison, four of those years in solitary confinement.

In 1973, Majeed’s attempts to convince the prison warden to get some music books in order for him to study during his free time succeeded. As soon as he had those books in his possession he began studying seriously and intensively making the best out of the isolated atmosphere he was in, taking inspiration from his musical experiments, going back to everything he had learnt with great concentration. He recomposed “Memories” on the note. Even though “Memories” wasn’t his first experience in composition but it was a turning point in his career as a musician, he then composed “Haneen”. And after reading ‘The Hunchback of Notre dame’ came the piece “Esmeralda” expressing the great influence the works of Victor Hugo had on him, especially since his romantic musical directions were going in parallel to those of the novel.

He was also very influenced by the music of Hayden and Mozart; but most of all: Beethoven. Majeed found his soul as a music composer in Beethoven; he says Beethoven was just like him a deaf self-taught musician who also had revolutionary ideas; opposed the authority of the Lords and despised ingratiation.

He was very interested in the works of Al-Rahbani Brothers. He performed their music and benefited from it a lot in many of his pieces including his piece “The Island of Dreams” which embodies the dreams, hopes aspirations and pain of many of the prisoners including himself.

Specialized musicians from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music studied some of his work and ranked him at the level of high professionals. From then on, the world’s recognition of Majeed as a freedom fighter and as an artist continued.

In the 80’s during one of the largest campaigns to demand his freedom, two of Majeed’s compositions – “Memories” and “Nostalgia” – were played by the German Radio Symphony Orchestra to be heard by the progressive world and bring its attention to his talent and suffering.

In 1985 at the World Festival of Youth and Students in Moscow, thousands of protesting cards were signed by the representatives of the Democratic Youth Against Colonization Movement from all over the world demanding his immediate release. Majeed wrote at that moment: “For the first time in my life, I’ve tasted the sweetness of the great victory!”

On 26 April 1990, Majeed completed his life sentence to finally breathe the air of freedom. From his first day out of prison, Majeed got affiliated to Ajras Musical Band as a composer and a musician. Among his works with Ajras was the song “Habeebati” (My Darling) which was performed at the 3rd Ajras concert; and also the composition, “An invitation to affection”.

He was able during that time to obtain a small tape player and some cassettes on which he recorded some music works like Tchaikovsky and Beethoven which quenched some of his thirst and passion for music and helped him move on in his project. He composed some valuable pieces like The Piano Sonata and The First String Quartet; he also worked on completing his second symphony in which he avoided making the same mistakes of his first.