AIAIAI

IN AMMAN

This May, we teamed up with Zaatari Radio and Refuge Worldwide to build a studio and deliver four weeks of workshops and talks at the 7Hills skatepark in the Jordanian capital.

At the Al-Raseef urban education space at the 7Hills skatepark in Amman, Zaatari Radio has been collaboratively working alongside Refuge Worldwide, the local community, and other partners to build a recording studio in the heart of downtown Amman.

Four weeks of workshops and talks were delivered by musicians, artists, and industry experts, aimed at young people from marginalised communities in Amman. Participants had the opportunity to create radio shows to be broadcast throughout Jordan and on Refuge Worldwide, which resulted in subsequent radio residencies on the station.

Now that the project is over, the pop-up studio and all donated equipment remains in place at 7Hills, to become a lasting resource for the local community.

We caught up with Zaatari Radio founder Tom Critchley and three local participants to find out how the project went, their future goals and ambitions, the music scene over in Amman, and more.

TOM CRITCHLEY

ZAATARI RADIO

Can you tell us a bit about your goal with building the studio and conducting the workshops in Amman?

I have been working with 7Hills since 2018. Last year I was in Amman constructing their second skatepark and they shared with me the news that they were building a workers space next to their office, and wanted to focus on a wood workshop and screen printing for the kids who attend their skateboarding classes. This was really great news to me; I think that you can develop a lot personally through skateboarding and the life skills it can teach you, but matching that to more hands-on skills is super important in places like Amman for young people and can really help build a community. I was talking to Kas and he was super keen to get the radio project involved and turn one of the rooms into a Media Lab. I guess with this in mind, the overall aim of the project was to nurture a space in which young people in Amman can come to create radio, produce music, hang out with friends, platform their ideas, and see where their talent may take them. 

What is the music community like in Amman?

The music community is looking really healthy in Amman at the moment; it seems that there are a number of places, spaces, institutions, individuals, and collectives that are supporting each other and pushing things into new and interesting directions. I think an important part of this is an uptake and celebration of more traditional Arabic/Levant identity and then taking this into new places. Yazan Zyadat who produces really great music under the name Toumba recently said how the scene in Amman is no longer looking to the West for inspiration, but doing their own thing and the West is now looking to the region… this idea of celebrating local identities and talent and turning heads to see what amazing stuff is going on in Amman is something we wanted to install in the very center of the Aswat al Raseef project and this comes from what amazing things the music community in Amman are doing right now. 

What are some of the biggest differences in music culture, when comparing the Arabic metropole to the home of Refuge Worldwide in Berlin?

This is a difficult question for me to answer - I guess I am looking in from the outside of both scenes! From my perspective space is so important and Berlin being Berlin there is a whole range of clubs, studios, radio stations, record shops, and more which give emerging artists the support, time, and space to produce and grow. Even more so, in Berlin there are institutions such as Refuge Worldwide that are really conscious of how important this is and work very hard to create space for people who may not have that even in places such as Berlin. Similarly, but more epidemically, spaces such as this do not exist in Amman, and organisations such as 7Hills/Al Raseef or Zaatari Radio and now even Refuge Worldwide have to work quite hard to create such spaces. It is a real problem for young people, there are just not that many public spaces even to hang out, let alone support and craft artistic output. So I would say, the provision of spaces in which music culture can form and grow is quite different between Amman and Berlin! 

What were some of the challenges you faced during this project?

A few challenges in the run-up to the project; Covid-19 being an obvious one to delivering the project having pushed back the date a couple of times, and also funding. We were originally going to do the project at the end of 2021, but decided to take a bit more time to fundraise and deliver the project with less monetary pressure… I think this was a super good decision from us so big up George and everyone else for being patient with this and really going for the fundraising stuff!

Whilst in Amman, we have a bit of a problem in customs with bringing in all the AIAIAI headphones! They were a bit suspicious that we were bringing in so many, and thought maybe we had plans to sell these for profit within Jordan. A few (too many!) trips back and forth to the airport and customs and this was all sorted thankfully, and the project participants all received their own AIAIAI headphones which they were super hyped on !!

Other than that, the project went by without too many major hiccups, from my end at least! The delivery was actually the smoothest part of the whole thing, but only thanks to the crazy good work from 7Hills Team, Refuge Worldwide, Zaatari Radio volunteers, and all the hosts of the workshops. Seemed like a real team effort with everyone coming together on a shared understanding of the importance of the project which really carried through the overall vision… super nice stuff!!

What were the highlights of your stay in Amman?

I would have liked to have said the pop-up radio event but this was not quite the day planned for me personally ha! We had organised this cool community event in which staying true to the name Sounds of the Sidewalk, we created a little street party outside the makers space with the live radio broadcasting coming from within. There was a bbq in which we served around 200 sandwiches to friends and family of the project, had live mural paintings, music, skatboarding, and a zine workshop which all went very well, and the participants got to share their radio shows with everyone. Unfortunately, I had been very ill the night before and felt like I was sitting on the edge of the world so couldn’t quite tap into the enthusiasm of everyone else!!

After that day we did have a super nice debrief with everyone who participated in the project, and the feedback was so positive and exciting for the future - everyone wanted to keep using the new Media Lab, produce radio shows and work with Refuge Worldwide and that was very positive and a nice feeling, so would say that for me! 

Maybe a boring answer but did not see too much of Amman this time with work - mainly the 7Hills Office and Media Lab for me ha!

What were the most important lessons learned so far, while working on setting up the studio and the workshops in Amman?

I think that having the workshops hosted by key figures in the regional scene was clearly a very good decision for the project. It really pushed home the message of celebrating the amazing work people are doing in Amman right now that inspired the project participants a lot. I guess also taking time with the project paid off, everything was really well organised and prepared and that is probably why the delivery went so well. Other than that, for my end navigating the cultural differences and expectations can always be tricky and something that I learn new things and processes every time I work in Amman since 2017. 

What’s next for Zataari Radio this year?

Hmmmmmm we are working on a podcasting project back in Zaatari Refugee Camp and trying to proceed with finding some funding for that!

ORAIB

ALDARDASAWI

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

Hi! I am Oraib, I graduated pharmacy 2 years ago, but I am passionate about everything else other than my original field, I love the sound world, because I have been singing since I was a kid, and recently I got interested in the podcast world, I started reading some written articles in Arabic and shared them in Anchor, after a while I saw the Radio project adv. on Instagram and I applied, for 2 reasons the first is to know more about the sound world, and the second is to get to know new people and make friends, and I got to meet a lot of passionate, creative people who made me think out of the box to go somewhere else with the voice I have.

What have you learned during these workshops?

I learned how to use different software to edit and enhance the quality of the sound, how to collage sounds together and how to make background sounds for different topics, what sounds we should use in different podcasts, and the most important thing I learned is critical thinking and how to organise and write my ideas in a clear way and how to attract the listeners, and this organised way of thinking didn't help throughout the project alone, I now daily using it, even, I got a job out of it, I knew how to make the interviewers say yes from the first interview. 

Which aspect of the workshop was the most enjoyable for you?

 

I actually can't choose, I enjoyed every single moment I spent with them, maybe I can say, the part of getting to know them and enjoying building our shows and discussing our ideas.

What kind of music are you interested in making and who are your biggest influences?

Ok, so actually me and one of the attendees called Maria she is a music producer, made a song, but we decided not to call it a song its a different thing, or maybe it will be known as experimental songs, we collage sounds that apply to the concept of the song I wrote, we tried to represent every single feeling as a sound, can't wait to hear the final result of it and share it with the world.

 

One of my biggest influences is that sometimes when I want to talk about how do I feel, I can't find the perfect words to describe it so I used to draw what I feel although I am not that good at drawing, after this workshop I can use sounds to let people hear what I feel not just see.

What are your musical goals for the future? 

There is something we thought to work on me and Maria, but it is still under processing,  once it is out we will be talking about it. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

Do not stop holding these kinds of workshops, we really need a space to express and discover ourselves more.

Thank you for being of help.

REYAM

ELYAMAN

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

My name is Reyam Elyaman, I am 16 years old and I am a Palestinian/Yemeni living in Amman, Jordan.

What have you learned during these workshops?

During this month of time I’ve learned quite a few things ranging from, discovering new interviewing techniques, to learning about production, even down to how to tell a story without losing your listener(s).

Which aspect of the workshop was the most enjoyable for you?

 

This whole experience has truly been amazing that i’s actually difficult to choose just one, I met some great people along the way and made good friends, but in terms of the workshop itself I would say my favourite was working with Odai Masri to learn about uploading content to the radio.

What kind of music are you interested in making and who are your biggest influences?

Hip hop/rap mostly.

I would say my top three influences are:

 

1. Kendrick Lamar, because of how original is and how he started from zero.

2. Eminem, like Kendrick he also started from the bottom and made it to the top which gives me hope that anything is possible, I also love his style of rap.

3. Nicki Minaj, I would have to say that I picked Nicki because of how she made it into the rap community as a female when that was kind of unheard of. She had to work twice as hard as some of the other not as skilled male rappers just because of how discriminatory the “rap game” was. She was one of the people that paved the way for all of the amazing women in rap and hip hop we see today, and as a girl I view her as such an inspiration for being able to thrive and do what she did.

What are your musical goals for the future? 

Personally I’ve only so much a “dabbled” in music on a not so professional level. I’m currently working on my first official piece of music although it’s still a work in progress but I’ll definitely be using some of the skills I obtained during this workshop, like the best equipment to use, what’s the best editing program could I possibly benefit from, how to arrange my thoughts into an organised song, etc.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

I would just like to say that this was definitely an eye opening experience for me, don’t get me wrong I knew I had a love for music and radio but learning more about made me fall in love with it all over again.

I met some astounding people along the way like: Tom Critchley, founder of Radio Al-Za’atari, who guided me throughout the whole process.

Liam Evens and Poppy Waring who helped me with editing my audio.

Robin Hunter, founder of oceanwaves.io who helped me choose what music best paired with my interviews and what I was talking about.

Odai Masri, who was there for a few days and helped me through the whole interviewing and production process.

Nour Alioshi, who taught me about the most important components of interviewing.

Mariam Al Nuzahi for teaching me the values of good advertising.

Mohammed Shuqair who taught me the basics of audio editing.

Zaid Sajdi who taught me the basics of audio recording.

And a special thanks to: Mohammed Zakaria, Jude Swearky, and Majed Abu Dayyeh for organizing this whole event and making it possible.

THIKRA

MOHAMMED

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I am Thikra and I am 16 years old, I love music but I do not have a favourite kind of music. I like to talk and I am a social person. 

What have you learned during these workshops?

I learned how to make my own rhythms and I learned the basics of podcasting and some information about people and how I can choose an interesting topic to talk about in my podcast.

Which aspect of the workshop was the most enjoyable for you?

For me it was very interesting when we learned how to make a melody with robin. 

What kind of music are you interested in making and who are your biggest influences?

I do not have a favourite kind of music, but I can say that rap is the best for me. 

What are your musical goals for the future? 

I think I will make more melodies and I will post them on some sites. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

I really enjoyed this workshop and I liked what I discovered through it.  

COMMUNITY

ACTIVITIES

Take a look at the rest of the community-focused activities we have coming up - you'll find panel talks, workshops, Discord events, exhibitions, in-store sessions, radio shows, and lots more.