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Flee Project | Research Trip

Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates | Interdisciplinary, Music

3 weeks — Interdisciplinary, Music

Olivier Duport:
Born in 1989, Oliver Duport is a graduate of Science Po as well as the University of Helsinki. After an assignment for the Austrian Embassy in Brussels, he joined the French Institute in Berlin in 2015 where he worked in collaboration with the Bureau Export. In Germany, he initiated Le Rituel, a platform dedicated to the curation of avant-garde music, involving collaborations with the likes of Fabrizio Mammarella and DJ Athome. A fine photographer specialized in outdoor and modernist architecture, Olivier Duport’s works have appeared at Les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles in 2020 and on various specialized media such as Freeze. In 2019, he left Berlin to found Bureau Sepän, a trans-medial agency focusing on international artistic projects.


Alan Marzo:
A graduate from the University of Geneva and the University of London (SOAS), Alan is an artistic director, as well as the co-founder of the cultural engineering platform FLEE and Bureau Sepän. His interest focuses on music, a hybrid cultural phenomenon and transmedia practices. Oscillating between writing, curating and video directing, his works have been celebrated on several platforms and journals (It’s Nice That, Les Cahiers du Centre Pompidou; Pigneto Film Festival; etc.).

About the Flee Project and the research trip:

Life in the Gulf revolved around the natural pearl for centuries, according to archaeological evidence. It was this object – occurring spontaneously in the world – that not only brought a specialty trade to the region but also incredible risks to the divers who endeavoured to find it. Pearl grounds originally stretched on the Arabian side from Kuwait along the coast of Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman followed by the Phoenicians and Arab seafarers undertaking long, arduous journeys in their primitive sailing ships, shows.

The pearl divers are known for practising what is considered as the Gulf’s most original and characteristic musical genre “fidjeri” or “sea music.” These songs, consisting of an all-male chorus and solo singer with minimal percussion, often accompanied specific and common actions, like rowing, setting sails, and pulling up the anchor. Influences were picked up along the trade routes of the Indian Ocean with African, Indian or Iraki imprints.

After having worked on Kenyan music genre Benga and Apulian trance music ritual tarantism, FLEE is currently organizing, in collaboration with Kuwaiti artist Zahed Sultan, comprehensive research on Pearl Divers’ music in the Gulf. The aim of the project is to document, from a trans-disciplinary perspective, this fascinating practice alive in the Gulf until the late ’60s and understand the important role played by music in this phenomenon. Based on this research taking place around the Gulf, FLEE will be publishing a book, a double LP and a series of art commissions.

More about the Flee Project

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