A MUSICIAN with Bahraini and British heritage is set to release her third album featuring music that celebrates female courage, determination and creativity.
Yasmeen Ahmed, also known as Yazz Ahmed, is a trumpet player and composer, whose music has been described as ‘psychedelic Arabic jazz, intoxicating and compelling’, reflecting her mixed heritage.
Her third solo album, Polyhymnia, scheduled to be released on October 11 on Ropeadope Records, follows Finding My Way Home in 2011 and La Saboteuse in 2017.
“Whilst searching for inspiration, I came across the character of Polyhymnia, the ancient Greek muse of music, poetry and dance – a goddess for the arts,” Ms Ahmed told the GDN.
“I liked the sound of the name. Polyhymnia sounds like ‘many hymns’ and a hymn is a song of praise, so I came up with the idea of writing a suite with movements dedicated to, or in praise of, outstanding women.
“I chose to write about women whose lives resonated with me in some personal way.”
Polyhymnia was originally composed for a performance on International Women’s Day in 2015 at the Southbank Centre artistic venue in London, as part of the Women of the World Festival.
The album celebrates Saudi film director Haaifa Al Mansour, civil rights activists Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks, Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, British saxophonist and composer Barbara Thompson and The Suffragettes, who won the fight for women to have the right to vote 100 years ago.
Born to a Bahraini father and a British mother, the 36-year-old now lives in a little village outside of Luton in the UK.
“Growing up in Bahrain, there was always music playing around the house, be it classical, reggae or jazz,” she said.
“However, the biggest influence on my musical development came from my maternal grandfather, Terry Brown.
“He was a successful jazz trumpeter in the 1950s, playing with John Dankworth, Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott, amongst many others, and later became a record producer for Pye and then Phillips Records.
“I loved the sounds and spirit of the music he would play to me and was fascinated by the stories from his life as a musician.”
Ms Ahmed first started learning the trumpet at the Merton Music Foundation in Morden, UK.
She then went on to take a bachelor’s degree in music at Kingston University and later won a scholarship to study for a master’s degree in Jazz at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
Ms Ahmed, who spent her early years in Bahrain, said some of her earliest memories were sneaking out of the house to ride her BMX in the desert, swimming outdoors all year round and big family gatherings at her grandfather’s house.
“I lived in Bahrain until I was nine and then moved to London with my mother and four sisters,” she said.
“I get quite home sick from time to time – I miss the weather, the fragrances, the food and, of course, my family.
“I only get to visit Bahrain once a year, which for me is not enough.”
Ms Ahmed has led various ensembles in concerts around the UK and the world, and at major festivals such as Womad, Molde Jazz, Pori Jazz and Love Supreme.
In 2012, she represented Bahrain in London’s Cultural Olympiad, joining renowned musicians from the Arabian Gulf in collaboration with Transglobal Underground.
It was an Algerian journalist who described her music as ‘psychedelic Arabic jazz’ in a review of a concert in Algiers with special guest Amel Zen.
“My formal study of Arabic music is way behind my knowledge of Western genres, but the sounds and the spirit of Arabian music is in my heart and my psyche, absorbed from my earliest days growing up in Bahrain,” she explained.
“I have composed music inspired by the songs of the pearl divers and the rhythms of the women drumming groups that play at weddings and celebrations.”
Her debut performance in Bahrain took place in 2016 at the Bahrain International Music Festival and a second concert was held last year.
Last year she also released a collaborative EP, La Saboteuse Remixed, and earlier this summer she put out a limited edition 12” single, A Shoal of Souls.