Zahed has had a keen interest in traditional pearl-diving music from the Arabian Gulf from a young age. He was exposed to it by his father and was intrigued by its complexity as well as its simplicity. Characterized by melancholic vocal phrases, syncopated clapping and percussive patterns - Fidjeri or Bahry (sea) music is performed communally. It is highly functional music and task oriented – with sub-genres that have a direct correlation to performing a task such as pushing a ship (dhow) out to sea, hoisting its sails or keeping time when a diver descends into the ocean in search of oysters. Often described as ‘journeys of death’ with thousands of men spending months at sea, the music explores themes of togetherness, belongingness, separation and loss. There is an inherent feeling of lament and pain within the music that Zahed connects with on a personal level. Here the journey began to understand its roots and uncover bridges to the present through a project he named Hiwar (Arabic for dialogue).
Through Hiwar, Zahed explores how this music and the culture surrounding it can move away from rehashed versions and evolve instead, through re-imagining its forms. Audio, video, and dance are the mediums Zahed has been utilizing to re-imagine the culture, with a focus on preserving its essence whilst re-presenting it in a contemporary, relatable way. Drawing on parallels of Blues music’s development, Hiwar aims to spark an inter-generational dialogue through multimedia performance that speaks to today’s youth and engages audiences internationally.