The unusually talented and creative group Mzaza (m-zAH-zuh) are bringing their breathtaking live show to Byron Community Centre as part of their Sleepless Nights tour. Mandy Nolan catches up with this world fusion sensation.
Why do you think your music is so sensual? I think it’s the combined power of the rich music and pulsing rhythms as well as the connections between each player on stage. We feed off each other’s and the audience’s energy and because the music is so uninhibited and bold, I think it invites people to let go and feel like they’re part of an organic, yet exotic and intoxicating, experience.
How do you transcend cultural boundaries? Mzaza’s aim is to create music that has a flavour that will interest many. With influences from a number of different traditions and our own original spin, we combine traditional and contemporary elements to create something that everyone can enjoy. We hope that through this we can spark an interest for the broader audience in some of these less-well-known and obscure music traditions so they might endeavour to learn more about them. However, Mzaza also believes strongly in maintaining a deep integrity and consideration when using music from foreign traditions. All the members of Mzaza strive to learn as much as they can about the music and how it operates within these cultures. We always aim to communicate traditional elements in an authentic way so that audience members from some of these cultural backgrounds are able to appreciate and connect on a more cultural level.
What goes through your mind when you are playing? Of course we are thinking, feeling and listening to what each other is doing. We’re all pretty familiar with the rhythms/forms of these kinds of music but we’re conscious of the overall sound and those stops, builds and tempo-stretches of eastern European and Middle-Eastern music that make it energetic and moody.
How did the six of you come to be playing together? Some of us met through a Middle-Eastern and Balkan music session called Waziz. It’s a group of musicians who meet weekly to teach each other songs. Nowadays we meet at the Multicultural Development Association but over the last 10 years have mostly had our sessions hosted at a variety of West End cafes. Pauline and Greta are ‘original’ Mzazans; they have been playing together for seven years! Jordan and Stephen joined a couple of years later and John and Gwen have been with Mzaza for a year. Originally Pauline found Greta by leaving her number in cafes and asking Lebanese shopkeepers if they could pass it on to anyone they saw play Middle-Eastern instruments so I guess it was a bit of a fluke!
How do you ensure that so many creative minds end up sharing the same vision? In a way it is our shared love for different cultures and traditional sounds that have brought us together. So we know we are together for that reason first and foremost. In terms of how we create music that reflects this and how exactly we put our touch on those traditional sounds – we keep an open dialogue and make sure we are all happy with what we are doing. We also discuss our vision for the future of the band to ensure we are all working toward the same goals and everything we do reflects our journey. The great thing is that for us it is about the journey, the gigs we play, the music we are working on, the people we meet. So we enjoy every step!
What are the challenges that face Mzaza on a daily basis? Travelling with a double bass! It means we have to drive around in a 12-seater bus! And the double bass was broken during a plane trip coming back from the National Folk Festival! Apart from logistics we are a happy bunch really. Singer/manager Pauline dreads tour booking, but the reward of going on tour is a good motivator!
What should we expect for your Byron show? Magic in the disguise of music! Expect to be transported to another world, and lifted above the daily grind, leaving you refreshed, inspired and rejuvenated.
Saturday at the Byron Bay Community Centre. Doors 7.30pm, show 8pm, tickets: http://www.byroncentre.com.au / 02 6685 6807.