The division in the contemporary world is more visible than cohesiveness. With communication means becoming swifter and more accessible, the world instead of becoming more inclusive seems to be falling apart.
However, there are people who continue to spotlight the similarities from time to time and endeavour to bring people closer. Such an attempt is visible behind the concept of Broken Wings, a musical play, derived from the poet novel of the same name by Khalil Jibran, a Lebanese-American writer, poet, visual artist and philosopher.
Dana Alfardan, critically acclaimed Qatari musician, composer, songwriter and symphonic artiste, and Katara – the Cultural Village are bringing the West End musical to Qatar in November. The play is co-written and composed by Dana Alfardan and West End’s very own star actor Nadim Naaman, a British national of Lebanese origin.
Nadim along with his team was recently present in Doha to announce and promote the upcoming show of the musical. Community got hold of the talented artiste and interviewed him about his career, accomplishments so far and the concept of the musical Broken Wings.
Nadim was born and raised in London. His father is Lebanese and mother British. “My parents got married in the Middle East but they moved to London after my father got a work opportunity there. We are two siblings, and am married and have two daughters.”
The musical actor and writer got all his education in London. “I studied theatre and English literature in the university. I did my post-graduation in musical theatre from Royal Academy of Music in London in 2007.”
The co-writer of Broken Wings considered himself very fortunate as he got a role in a prominent musical soon after he graduated. “I was fortunate enough to land a role in The Sound of Music, performed at London Palladium. This was a perfect start for me. I played a young guy in the show and I spent a year there and learnt many things about how the industry works.
“This is a career like any other. One thing leads to another. You meet people and you make friends with people. You also find collaborations that you like. Generally, every role or every show that you work on might open the door that leads you to a new direction. So, for the first eight or nine years of my career, I worked on my acting. I was just a performer.”
For the last few years, Nadim has started experimenting with writing and producing. “I have started looking at the other side of the same business. This is when I met Dana Alfardan three years ago and we started the writing process (for Broken Wings).”
Nadim however, likes to be called an actor. “Primarily, I am an actor. This is what I did most of the time. Broken Wings, nonetheless, has really been a very fulfilling experience and it has definitely inspired me to do more writings. I cannot wait to do something new. But I am still an actor (smiles). I have done a few plays but it has been musicals more than anything else. I have so far been acting only in English language plays. I have mostly performed in London. I have also been to Hong Kong, Norway, Canada, Dubai and Lebanon. It is the job that takes you to many places. I am very fortunate.”
For the British actor, musical is a kind of play that is more accessible for the people. “Music connects. Music is the one thing that everyone on the planet Earth has in common. No matter where you come from and what is your background, music is at the heart of everybody’s life. If it is just a play, you either understand it or you won’t. But if it is musical, sooner the song starts and you understand that the people are singing because they are experiencing the emotions that you cannot describe in just speaking. This is something that everybody can relate to. This is why the musical stories are very popular and millions of people around the world have seen them. I think these things are harder to achieve with just a play or a movie. The music does something that speaking on its own cannot do.”
The writer speaks highly of the musicals when set against the TV plays or movies. “I think what we are trying to do is that we are trying to highlight the fact that nothing substitutes a live performance. Because, when you are watching a video or listening to an album, it is very heavily produced. It can be edited in the studio. It can be polished with special effects. But, live music — human beings playing instruments with an orchestra, standing and singing with that passion at their heart — is something very raw and very strong. It is not something that you can fake. It is just in the moment. It is something that you can share with your audience. Everybody is in the same room together.”
Nadim is very upbeat about the subject matter and how it has been treated in Broken Wings. “It is very significant that we are telling the Middle Eastern audiences one of their own stories in this format for the first time. Arabic TV or movie is a big industry but it is self-contained. The Middle Eastern people watch a lot of Middle Eastern art. We are trying to combine the two — a Middle Eastern story but with a Western art form. So, we are giving them something familiar but in a new way.”
As far as his project in collaboration with Dana Alfardan, Nadim sees it a demonstration of cultures coming together. “It is for the audience to come and see it. We have a Qatari orchestra which is very international. We have team members from London — actors from all over the world. It is about telling a story about acceptance and peace — the things that unite us. The whole thing is about uniting people in a time when the world is still divided. Jibran represents the frustrated voice saying ‘I just do not understand why we all cannot get along.’ Working as a team from across the world and bringing it to a city like Doha that is very international, there is something very fitting about that.”
Nadim also has plans to collaborate with Dana Alfardan in future and they are already working on another project. “In the short term, we are focusing on Broken Wings over this winter. We are beginning this mini tour with Doha in November. We are also taking the play to other countries in the Middle East and in Asia.
“Dana and I have begun working on a project about Rumi — Jalil ad-Din Muhammad Rumi — a Persian poet and theologian. We have so far written six songs. The project is more a look at his biographical journey and his relationship with (his spiritual instructor) Shams-i-Tabrizi. It also shows the effect of their relationship on the life of other people.”
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