With a Number Three billing on US Billboard Charts and a Number One on Jordanian Billboards, piano virtuoso Zade Dirani is a leading name on international and regional music scenes. Being able to listen live to the maestro as he flits –sometimes breathlessly and ecstatically, and at others in the fashion of a dreamy virtuoso – is an unforgettable and a pricelessly moving experience.
Before his fingers take over, he takes in a deep breath, as if readying himself for a long exhilarating journey. Floating slowly into rhythmic sounds, he devotes to each note its deserved time and attention while doing full justice to the melody by letting the notes dance in a sweet lead. His gasps and joyful smile, at the end of each piece, punctuates his return from a beautiful mystical place to mundane realm of the music hall.
While the remarkably intellectual and creative library of floating notes, vivid imaginativeness and experiences have evolved from Dirani's right brain, it is hard to ignore how playing piano has shaped this handsome man’s shoulders and how his physical articulations and presence effects the audience.
Dirani was in Kuwait, on 23 May, for an extraordinary solo concert, followed by a workshop, the next day, called "Conversation with Zade: Bridging Cultures Through Music, at the invitation of the organizers, Lothan Youth Achievement Center (LOYAC). The event, held in collaboration with National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) was an excellent addition to Kuwait's cultural and artistic scene.
Listening to Dirani play compositions from his albums, including the passionate notes of 'Yasmine and I', the touching tones of ‘With you and the night’ is a experience extraordinaire. In'Santiago’s dream’, which takes its cue from Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist , Dirani brings out the book’s protagonist, shepherd Santiago’s inspirational Spanish soul through music lined with Arabic undertones.
If gratitude could be transpired in a sensory delight beyond words, it could be in the form of his calming piece 'Thankful', while another of his compositions, 'Letters to God', calls for peace in the Middle-East. Hints of Latin rhythms, in Arabic clothing, kept a steady flow in 'Zaina', his last performance for the evening.
Dirani was always interested in combining Middle-Eastern and Western music. After studies at Jordan's National Music Conservatory, he headed to the US in 1998 to attend Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
From a three-year concert tour, playing 200 nights a year in homes, churches, temples and schools, for what he calls "a grass-roots effort to promote better understanding of his faith and culture," to being accompanied by more than 35 musicians from 18 countries, including Iran, Mexico, Denmark and South Korea, on a tour for 'Roads to You: Celebration of One World tour', the artist has been an envoy for peace-building with his Zade Foundation For Peace.
As much as one could go on about describing this Jordan-born musician, who started composing at the early of 13, nothing would be worthy enough than his own words about his life and experiences.
In an exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait, Dirani said, “I play music to bring happiness to others. Music is one of the biggest blessings in my life. The piano has transformed my life and taken me to places that I never imagined. Thank God for the gift of music! Piano gives me the range to orchestrate and write for other instruments. My relationship with the piano is that of a best friend and a lover; always with me, in the good and the bad.”
During his years at the Berklee College of Music, he studied classical Arabic scales and music theory, Western classical and piano. Asked about the US influences that shaped the present-day Zade Dirani, he explained, “The great thing about Berklee College of Music is, that it is a melting pot of international musicians and influences. I was exposed to a lot of Jazz while at Berklee.”
Dirani’s captivating and mellifluous mélange of Arabic, Latin, pop, and classical music happens without a conscious effort to do so. “It is the result of all the musical influences that I had growing up; somehow they combine with each other internally, and then come out when my fingers touch the keys of the piano. I cannot explain it. It just happens,” says the pianist.
On mainstream music, the artist comments: “The great thing about music is that it is so diverse and there is something for everybody. I like a lot of mainstream music for sure, including top 40 and especially EDM artists. I do not have a favorite style. I think good music can come from any style. I love Jazz, classical, pop, latin, R and B, EDM, and straight ahead pop. Anything that is good, really, although, I like artists such as Oscar Peterson, Jean Jacques Goldman, and Maroon V”
Behind every man’s success might be a woman and behind every artist’s successful creations might be a lover, but not so in the case of Dirani. Explaining the synchronization between love and his artistic creation, as well as the often, found dependency of creative people, on love, he said, “I am very independent and I need a lot of space to function properly. So, whether in love or not, I still need space. I love my privacy and my alone time to create music and reflect. I love hanging out with the family and chilling with my friends, but it is all about that right balance.”
Speaking about what feeds him emotionally, and what churns deep inside him to compose music that brings vivid images to life through music, he says, “I am inspired by love, beauty, and liberty. Music is so personal because I invite the listener into my intimate world. The great thing about instrumental music is that the listener's mind is at liberty to create the scenario they desire.”
If anyone could get a sneak peek into his life, this is how, in his own words, a typical day rolls out: “I usually hit the gym in the early am, then breakfast followed by emails then work on music for the rest of the day, whether piano, arranging, or composing.. When I am traveling, on vacation, I do not work on music so I can have space from my work, and look at it objectively, then I go back fully recharged.”
As a concert musician starting out on musical tours around the world in his early twenties, it soon became a way of life for him. “It still brings me so much joy to create music that people from different cultures enjoy. Playing for the late Nelson Mandela was of special significance for me; It was such an honor to perform in the presence of such a great man.”
For the ones who are starting out in music field, he says, “To become successful pianist, one needs to create a balance between overwhelming emotions that one experiences and the flow of music.He says, “Focus on your breathing before you start playing and focus your energy on producing the absolute best performance. When you connect to the song, everything falls into place. However, beware of playing on “auto pilot”; play the song as if you are singing it with emotion and not just making noise.”
Dirani is finishing his new album, which will be released this summer. He, also, has concerts planned for Lebanon on 8 August, Amman on 31 August, followed by Cairo, Alexandria and Bahrain in September and October. You can stay in touch on: www.facebook.com/zademusic or www.instagram.com/zadedirani or www.youtube.com/thezadechannel