Samassin perform original music in a world fusion vein; highly detailed compositions, rich with exotic melodies and grooves, each piece a vivid and emotional journey. The sound is rich and textured and the members play with passion and energy. Written by composer Kirsty Pittman and beautifully interpreted by the band, these enigmatic compositions draw on the influences of jazz, contemporary art music and traditional rhythmic and melodic ideas from the Middle-East and India.
In the lead up to their CD launch, Nela Trifkovic, The Boîte's Guerilla-interviewer, hung out with Samassin and found out a thing or two...
Tell us a little bit about the band…
Samassin came together in late 2013, with Kirsty Pittman on guitar and vocals, Daniel Hoban on middle eastern percussion and guitars, Justin Lim on Bass Clarinet and Volkan Susuzer on various flutes. We had a shared love for odd time signatures, Arabic jazz, Balkan, and middle-eastern.
I [Kirsty] studied at Melbourne Conservatorium during 2016-2017. The music is composed in long form, often with dramatic twists and turns and great attention to detail, however it also comprises improvisational elements often involving the whole band in improvisation.
We began playing with these sounds, including works by Tunisian Oud maestro Anouar Brahem and Lebananese Maestro Rabih Abou-Khalil. And we started adding Kirsty’s exotic original music. We soon had enough of our own works to focus on performing original compositions and added Claire Johnstone on violin to our line up in early 2015. Belinda Woods and Gustavo Moreno joined us at the end of 2016 and for the last 2 years have developed the sound that is the basis for this new album: “Sin Samas”.
What have been some of the highlights and interesting points in the band's development?
In 2015 we recorded debut album with engineer Tomas Strode/Myles Mumford. Golden Muse; seven exotic, passionate and very original songs written by Kirsty between 2012 and 2014, most of which are based on traditional odd time rhythmic ideas from the Middle East/Turkey and from her intoxication with the joy of creating music, plus Rabih Abou–Khalil’s exhilarating “Arabian Waltz”.
With the album ready, we then had the tremendous fortune to take our music to the bars and streets of Istanbul and Berlin. Our Turkish and German audiences were warm and generous, appreciating our unique Western take on odd metres and eastern modes. We drew fantastic audiences both at the gigs and busking on the streets, and had many great adventures.
Where have we arrived to with this album; what are some of its signature traits?
The music contains overlapping cycles, architecture with moving parts and a sense of temporal transformation, with an engaging vocal element on half of the album, wordless vocalisations utilising syllables that evoke sun and moon deities; the theme of the album.
With the addition of Belinda Woods on Flute and Gustavo Moreno on Cajon and Latin American percussion since the band’s last album, the energy of the music has notably increased in its vibrancy and raw power. Both musicians have increased the jazz and Latin flavour in the band which we believe, mixes seamlessly with the Middle-Eastern and Indian influences and the contemporary classical compositions.
What do you believe Samassin is trying to contribute to the Melbourne music scene?
This music is pure fusion created by musicians from diverse musical backgrounds and playing with open minds. It is both powerfully dramatic and sweetly lyrical. Joni Mitchell said: “Every picture has its shadow, and it has some source of light”. We have been highly appraised for playing music that is risk-taking and powerful. I believe this kind of music is essential in a healthy music scene.
Catch Samassin's live celebrating the launch of their latest album "Sin Samas" on Saturday November 10 from 7:30 at The Oratory at Abbotsford Convent. For more information and tickets, visit trybooking.com/YDNA
By Nela Trifkovic