“The strength of a tree is in how far its roots have ventured in the dark.” – O.A.K.
Bahrain Confidential explores the mind of Ashwin Shenoy and Omar Ahmed Al Khulaqi, the artists behind Bahrain’s up and coming EP album ‘O.A.K.’.
Tell us more about the inception of O.A.K., how did it come about?
Ashwin: O.A.K is a collaborative project between me and my good friend and poet, Omar Ahmed Al Khulaqi. This project wouldn’t have happened without him. He contacted me towards the end of my studies and asked if I could “sing one of his poems”. “Just something acoustic, nothing too fancy” he said. Little did we both know this grew into quite a big project involving great musicians.
Omar: Over the summer of 2016, Ashwin began showing me some basic renditions to some of my poems. I was blown away by the diversity in composition and emotion, and I saw a lot of potential for these songs to grow. At the time we weren’t talking about an EP, it was just something experimental for Ashwin, who usually writes his own lyrics for his own music.
Where did you draw the inspiration behind this album?
Ashwin: Omar’s poems were truly the key to opening that creative door for me. His poems came in three series: Mystic, Romantic and Gothic, all with a strong spiritual undertone that really resonated with me. I read one of his poems called “The Inner Kiss” and it’s about self-realization, finding something so priceless within yourself that nothing in this world can compare. This started to reflect creatively in the music that was coming out of me. I really didn’t feel like I had a part in this process though, it felt more like I was a channel – I would read Omar’s words and then wait for that phrase or motif or rhythm that was hidden within the words to reveal itself in me and from there everything else fell into place.
These songs represent a special phase in my life life that everyone if they are open to it, will go through. I tried to put that experience although, individually interpreted, I tried to put all the emotions that were felt into this short 10-minute experience. Almost like a short film, the time just goes by fast when you’re listening to it.
What themes are you exploring?
Omar: Indian culture, traditional Arabic music, the oud as well as the progressive rock and metal, all blend together to create this unique and interesting project, which represents special phases in both our lives and in the lives of everyone around us.
Ashwin was intrigued by this new process of stepping outside his comfort zone and interpreting someone’s poetry into songs. For me personally I was impressed by how he gave my words a voice, one that is transcribed from his unique perspective. I saw my poems from a different angle, one that I’d never seen before.
He never asked me about the meanings behind my poems though, instead he inscribed his own meanings to them, which is why this collaboration was such a rewarding experience; hearing how he relates to the words and in what direction he wanted to take them musically. I gave him full creative freedom to express himself and despite the EP having a general overarching concept or mood, each song stood out on its own, musically, thematically and emotionally. This is all thanks to Ashwin’s talent and creative expression.
The cover looks great – who designed this?
Omar: When the songs were completed and shortlisted for the EP, I began working on the album’s artwork. Designing the EP booklet was a challenging yet beautiful process as well. I’ve been honoured to work with Ashwin on many levels, and I’m looking forward to part II of this project, which is currently in its pre-production stage for recording and release later this year.
Ashwin is currently based in Boston, USA and has just graduated from Berklee College of Music with a dual degree in Music Production and Music Performance. However, he was born and raised in Bahrain where the place and the people there are still home to him.
To listen to Ashwin’s music visit:
Omar Ahmed Al Khulaqi
Omar also known as the writer, OAK, is a young poet of terror and romance from Yemen, raised in Bahrain. He is highly influenced by Edgar Allan Poe and the poetry of the Romantic era. His recent works deal with subjects of spiritual enlightenment layered in surrealism.