Hasan and Zeyad (Part 1) | The Sound of Home (Episode 2) | The PlainStory Podcast | NET Nebraska

Genevieve: Listen to this. Genevieve: Want to know
how that music came into my life? You’re about to find out. I’m Genevieve Randall. This is season two of
The Plain Story Podcast. Eric: Oh man. What a sky. Genevieve: It is gorgeous! Genevieve: Let’s start
with me and a car. Genevieve: Okay. [inaudible 00:01:10]
Genevieve: You know what? Seriously, this is
so close to work. I pass this. I don’t know. Genevieve: I’m not going
to be in there long because this drive was
so short, I could’ve just walked. Genevieve: It’s got
music notes on it. Eric: Yeah, I
wonder how many? Genevieve: And
it’s got scissors. Genevieve: It’s eight
o’clock at night. A beautiful spring night. I’m with this guy Eric. He plays the upright bass,
and he’s lugging it, and me, to a barber shop
to hear some music. You’ll hear more
about Eric later. Let me tell you
about this building. It’s in a residential
area, and this is a small bungalow-type building,
painted in happy yellows and blues. There’s plate glass
windows on the front. The open sign that hangs
in them is off, but what comes from inside
sounds inviting. Genevieve: This
is Golden Scissor. It’s a barbershop, but
tonight they aren’t cutting hair. Genevieve: Ah, I
hear music already. Genevieve: Inside, half
the room is covered in mirrors, with a counter
for scissors, shears, and haircare products. There’s some couches and
chairs that make up a waiting area with
world news on the TV. Two barber chairs sit
empty waiting for their next customers, but in the
far corner there’s another area cordoned off by
low seated futons. There are speakers set up,
cords running everywhere, microphones, keyboards,
and audio gear paraphernalia every place. Zeyad: Hi, guys. Genevieve: [inaudible
00:02:47] Ziad: How are you guys doing? Genevieve: This is where
it, golden scissor becomes Golden Studio, an
off hours jam space. Eric and I are there to
meet the man behind this unique place,
Hasan Kahlil. Genevieve: Only,
Hasan isn’t there yet. We are greeted by a
stylish looking man in his 30’s. Zeyad: I’m Zeyad. Genevieve: Zeyad,
nice to meet you. Zeyad: Mr. Z. It’s easier. Genevieve: Zeyad, who
stopped playing when we came in, and Arkhan. Eric: Nice to meet you. Zeyad: How are you doing? Genevieve: Good! Arkhan: Brother,
how are you doing? Genevieve: Who
had been singing. He’s smiling and
nodding politely. My eyes are immediately
drawn toward a showstopper in the room. Genevieve: Whose is this? Arkhan: That’s mine. Genevieve: And what is it? Arkhan: Electric saz. Genevieve: An
electric saz! I’d seen them before, but
couldn’t come up with the name. Genevieve: Oh,
that’s beautiful. Arkhan: Yes. Genevieve: That
is gorgeous. Genevieve: This instrument
is a point of pride, I can tell. And it should be. It has a bull-shaped,
teardrop body, and the neck is long. There are 23 frets, and
it is inlaid with a shiny, silver vine and flower
pattern that climbs from the body up the
entire neck. Genevieve: It looks
like a mandolin? Arkhan: Yeah. We used to call-
Genevieve: S-A-Z, saz, is an instrument we’ll
be hearing a lot. Right now, we’re
waiting on Hassan. He’s running a bit late
because he’s concerned with being a good host
and isn’t about to show up empty handed. Zeyad: [foreign
language 00:00:04:15]. Zeyad: Do you want coffee? He’s up by the Starbucks. Genevieve: Meanwhile, Zeyad
sets up to play with Eric and Arkhan. Eric: Oh, you want
to plug it in? Zeyad: Yeah. Or, you want
to plug it in? Eric: Sure. Zeyad: Too many wires here. Ziad: [foreign
language 00:04:52] Genevieve: Hasan comes in
bright and energetic and apologizing. Hasan: Hi, guys. Sorry that I took forever. Genevieve: His hands are
full, balancing a basket of fruit and cups of
coffee for everyone. Hasan: Hi! Genevieve: Hi. Hasan: Made it fresh. Genevieve: Oh my gosh,
that smells good. Hasan: Hi, how are you? Genevieve: Hi,
I’m Genevieve. Hasan: Gen, my
name’s Hasan. Genevieve: Hasan. Nice to meet you. Hasan: Nice to meet you. Genevieve: I’ve been
looking forward to meeting you. Genevieve: He has a
Yankees baseball cap on backwards, and jeans with
designs on the pockets. His bright eyes are, well,
they’re just kind eyes, and he sports a
neatly trimmed beard. As a barber
should, I guess. Genevieve: It’s a Thursday
night and I’ve got a live show tomorrow morning. So tempting, that coffee. Genevieve: I’ll just
take a melatonin later. Genevieve: Something is
about to happen, and I want to be a part of it. Arkhan: I have a smoke. Ziad: David, do
you smoke, or no? Genevieve: We head
outside before playing. It’s dark by now, but
these are the hours of musicians, right? Zeyad: Well, thank you
guys all coming today. Eric: Zeyd was
a translator. Genevieve: Oh really,
you were a translator? Zeyad: In Iraq, yeah. Genevieve: There are
little reminders that Lincoln isn’t a place
Hassan or Ziad chose to be. Lincoln just
happened to them. I want to know why and
how, but now isn’t the time. I’m wondering what they
think about this blonde guy, Eric, and his
gigantic bass taking up a corner in the barbershop. Genevieve: What did you
think when Eric first called you, or
contacted you? Hasan: When
he first came? I mean, I knew he
was a musician. Hasan. I thought he was me! He play music. Genevieve: Just
by looking at him? Hassan: Actually,
I just figured. I thought he play music. I don’t know why,
but I had a feeling. Hasan: But he called
me and he just, I dunno. Or he- Eric:
Showed up here? Hasan: Yeah, he
showed up right here. Yeah. Genevieve: And now here I
am, a total stranger, just showing up. Genevieve: Inside, we
start settling in for the music. Hasan: [foreign
language 00:06:51]. Eric: So if you
did, like … Hasan: The [foreign
language 00:06:57]? Eric: Yeah. Hasan: The- [crosstalk
00:07:03] Genevieve: Eric is in the corner with his
bass, Hasan seated at the keyboards adjacent from
Zeyad, who has the electric saz across his lap, and
Arkhan sits in wait. He clutches the mic
and looks eager to sing immediately, but he has to
be patient through these awkward moments, because
though Eric and Hasan have been friends for
a while, Eric is a classically trained
musician from Lincoln and Hasan and Zeyad are
self-taught musicians originally from Iraq. Genevieve: People say
music is a universal language. It is, but cultures use
notes differently to build musical sentences. Eric: Did you show
Genevieve your quarter-tone frets? Genevieve: Quarter tones? When we talk about music,
it really is like learning a language. There’s learning the
words, that’s like playing the actual notes, but like
a language, there’s also learning the cultural
pronunciations, like rolling your R’s or
elongating your uh’s. Genevieve: If you’ve been
doing those things your whole life, it’s as
natural as breathing. If you haven’t, well
it’s hard to do. Hasan: We’re
[rolling 00:08:11]. Genevieve: Sorry. Thank you. Eric: So if you did, like-
Genevieve: The differences between the classic
Western or European music that Eric is used to and
the middle Eastern music of Hasan and Zeyad aren’t
just about the instruments they use, like the saz,
but also about how those instruments are designed
to speak Genevieve: Yeah, and then I hear those
little pitches in there that I’m like,
“Wait, what is that?” Genevieve: Hear that? Zeyad is using that long
neck of the saz, and all those frets, to play notes
between the Western notes. If you think of a piano,
there are places where there are two
adjacent white keys. The Western classical
world, for the most part, doesn’t think any other
note exists between those two white keys. Genevieve: However, for
much of the world, there are. Imagine notes down
there in the cracks of a keyboard. These are the quarter
tones, and they sound a little bit out of tune
to a Western-trained ear. Eric: Yeah. Hasan: But a lot of our
songs and music, you have to pull out quarter tones. Genevieve: In fact,
Hasan’s keyboard can be programmed to play
these quarter tones. Hasan: To make
a certain … Ah. Genevieve: Okay. So play it with
and without. Hasan: See? Genevieve: Oh, I see! Hasan: A quarter tone
brings [itself back 00:09:31]. Genevieve: Right. Hasan: We sometimes
do even … Genevieve: So it
brings it down? Hasan: It brings it down. So yeah. Genevieve:
That’s beautiful. Eric: So, if you would’ve
played it in the scale- Genevieve: If your ear is
trained in Western music, middle Eastern music
can sound out of tune. Hassan: Just wait-
[crosstalk 00:09:50] Genevieve: The musical
language Eric is trying to learn means he needs
to unlearn some of the training he grew up with. And in this case, his
talent of reading music and seeing if it is played
“right” can hinder him. Genevieve: Mm-hmm
(affirmative). Hassan: Can he … My
God- [crosstalk 00:10:04] Genevieve: It can be
as awkward as being in another country where you
don’t speak the language. I think you can hear
it here as they begin. Genevieve: It sounds like
a clunky conversation, but it doesn’t take long and
they start to get it. Genevieve: Because Eric
is playing a fretless instrument, a bass with
strings you can just slide along against the neck,
finding quarter tones can be done as opposed to a
piano where those keys will never exist. Genevieve: I’m starting
to get mesmerized. This is super cool
for me to see. I’m glad I drank
that coffee. Genevieve: Eric has been
watching me the whole time, smiling as he plays
from over in the corner like, “Do you get it now?” Genevieve: I do. Eric is trying to bridge
the divides we hear about in the news all the time. Only, because he’s a
musician, he wants to start with music. Let’s start by making
connections, using what we love, and then worry
about all that other stuff later. We can cross the cultural
divide when we get to it. For now, let’s just jam. Genevieve: This
is awesome. Electric saz, keyboards,
Eric carving away on this huge bass, and I’m
thinking to myself, “Come on, Genevieve! This whole scene, this
little world has been right around the corner
from you this whole time!” How did I of all people
let this slip under my radar?” Genevieve: On the next
episode of The Plain Story Podcast, I get
a surprise gift. Genevieve: Thank you for
letting me borrow this. It’s been really fun! Speaker 7: Oh yeah, you
can have it, honestly. Genevieve: Really? Speaker 7: Yeah. Genevieve: And with it
comes a musical challenge. Genevieve: There we go. Speaker 7: Oh, good. Yeah. Genevieve: Hold on. Genevieve: Plus we
hear more electric saz, keyboards, singing,
and quarter tones. I know you can’t
resist that. Genevieve: The Plain Story
Podcast: The Sound of Home is produced by
NET Nebraska. I’m your host,
Genevieve Randall. Our producer is Brian
Seifferlein, and our associate producer
is Monica Star. Our field audio is by
Emily Kreutz, Nathan Todhunter, and Andy Bigham. We had editing from Alex
Epperson and mixing by Nathan Todhunter. Our graphics are
by Joe McMullen. Bill Anderson is our
radio network director. Chad Davis is our
executive producer. Genevieve: Special thanks
to Golden Studio, Eric Higgins and the Lincoln
Crossroads Music Festival. Genevieve: See you
on the next episode.

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