Strings Attached: Hisham Akira Bharoocha



As game theory would predict, collaboration yields a high return. In the case of a collaboration between musicians Hisham Akira Bharoocha and Ben Vida from the band Soft Circle, Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and 41 string musicians, the results can only be positive. An ensemble made up of violins, violas, cellos, electric guitars, upright bass, and electric bass will play along with a piece composed by Zinner, Vida and Bharoocha through improvisation work and thoughtful consideration for the musicians involved, leaving space for them to add their own voice in the mix. At the helm of the operation is Hisham Bharoocha, member of Boredoms, who organized the epic performances by 77 and 88 drummers that happened in 2007 and 2008 in Brooklyn and Los Angles.

Interview spoke with Hisham about the nature of collaboration as he was packing up his gear getting ready for rehearsals for tonight’s show.

ADAM O’REILLY: How did this collaboration between you, Nick Zinner, and 41 string musicians get started?

HISHAM AKIRA BHAROOCHA: Last year we organized the 40 drummers event with Loomstate for Earth Day, and that went over really well. I am a little more used to dealing with drummers because I have been doing that for many years, but Erin from Loomstate came at us with an idea to do a different thing, and that was to do it with strings. That led to seeing if Nick Zinner would want to work with it as well, and he did. That was great because I have known Nick for a really long time, we all came out of the same music scene in Brooklyn, I just haven’t had a chance to collaborate with him, actually play music with him other then just playing show. It started with us jamming together and then Nick spearheading the writing of it because he had some ideas that he figured out for it—it happened organically.

O’REILLY: The community-building aspect of this event adheres well to the idea of Earth Day, which it celebrates. How did you work that into the performance?

BHAROOCHA: If we appreciate each other as human beings, hopefully that leads to being conscious of what we are doing on earth. There is so much bad stuff going on the world, and as humans we inhabit this world together. On a day-to-day basis in America, it can be hard for people to see what is happening to the planet. At least we can feel the joy of our interactions through these types of events, and hopefully it will lead to more awareness.

O’REILLY: A lot of projects you have been involved with involve large-scale collaboration; what draws you to working with other people?

BHAROOCHA: It’s the notion of creating a bigger community, the joy and merits of bringing people together. Most people enjoy being a part of these larger events; you are creating something that you can’t do on your own. When I organize these things, I leave a lot of space for creativity, so I am not just controlling the whole situation—I enjoy that more than writing the whole thing and telling people what to do. I have never been a musician who has been comfortable with telling people what to play. What is the point of collaboration at that point? If I wanted to play it by myself I would do it with my band and write all the parts. There are limitations to playing on your own, you start to know your own vocabulary, you can challenge yourself, but you still know what you are going to do, you know what you’re going to play. When you involve other people, it gives a chance for a different sound to happen, you have no control over it. It is the nature of our existence on the planet, to a certain degree.

O’REILLY: Collaboration can really make artists and musicians better humans.

BHAROOCHA: Yes! A better human being that is versatile. I like to think about it like that, rather than just making better artists.

O’REILLY: What other projects are you working on these days—is there another Boredoms event in the works?

BHAROOCHA: I have been playing in Boredoms since 2007, and we are trying to do 111, just like we did 77 and 88 drummers performances [2007, 2008]—it’s the last year of all the numbers lining up exactly. We haven’t figured out the location; we have our feelers out and are seeing who will come forward to put the logistics together. We try to do free-to-the-public events; that is a way for people to enjoy it without having to think about the money. It’s hard because it costs a ton to make something like that for free, so we’ll see how it goes. I also have a little bit of touring in the summer and I am still working with Soft Circle, we started to do remixes and write songs for other people, so we’re getting into that. I am in a transitional mode of rewriting things. I just did an event through this organization Flashlight, Nuit Blanche, and the New Museum. We did a piece related to the Loomstate piece from last year, but in a tighter grouping: 2 drummers and 2 synths. That one was called IV, based on the four seasons.

O’REILLY: What sort of impression do you want to leave on people with this performance?

BHAROOCHA: There is something about seeing live music. People are used to listening to very compressed mp3s; it’s very different than experiencing something live. It’s important for people to hear a sound wave rather then just a square wave. It has a different effect on the body; it gives people motivation to something they haven’t done before. Whenever I see creative people pushing themselves, it makes me want to work hard to push my ideas, put myself on the edge.