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FEN FIVE – April 2011 //


It isn’t often we find one piece that’s worthy of occupying all five spots on our FEN FIVE — but when we met Karim Sultan in NYC recently and had our first listen of “Three Sketches” — it was a done deal. Half-Syrian, half-Indian and well-traveled, Sultan is part of an ever-growing population that calls many places home. “These ‘Three Sketches’ began the night before the Egyptian revolution started,” he says. “While, I produce electronic music, and have studied and play the oud, they never seemed to come together. In a way, I was afraid to try. But at the beginning of the year, I had promised to perform a live set for Beit Zatoun in Toronto. After too much brooding and a lot of anxious procrastination, I began work without really knowing what would result.

“I began tackling these deep seated fears of mine at this historical juncture, feeling that some kind of response was necessary and that [the sketches] were considerably more honest as a result.”

The song expresses the current mood in both the Arab world and its diaspora. And that is the feeling of transition; being in-between: worlds, moods, languages, sounds; ideas we’ve held about culture shifting, being broken down and reshaped again. In a single word, Karim’s take on blending the sounds of the oud with electronic music is: fresh. Make sure you listen till the end, where he brings in a very personal element of his production — poetry (text below). Now, press play, and let us know what you think…

Karim Sultan – “Three Sketches”

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Untitled – Memory Sketch #3

i find it hard to write the things i should be writing/
the things that one would write if they found themselves/
in the middle of something big, something they’ve been/
waiting their whole lives for. i look over my shoulder/
and see what the others are doing: reading, also writing,/
listening to one another (but not always)—somehow/
there’s a movement and a pace that i, no matter how/
hard i try, cannot recreate. its the place i am in, both/
my immediate surroundings and my mental space;/
what else could it be?/

there’s more i find: that my image reflects not through,/
but from. my language does not bend to my use, my/
vision is obscured from space to space and i am in/
between, somewhere. but there’s still something./

i find it benefits one to examine one’s proximity to/
worldliness it benefits one to examine one’s/
proximity to worldliness it benefits no one to write/
something that only one and a few followers listen/

and still i listen only, it seems, to the songs that/
take one to exactly where one will stay listening.

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