BY ANAAM IKRAM
Part of perhaps one of the smaller industries in the Kingdom, sound composer Hashim Al Alawi has created a niche for himself in the sound production industry. Founder of Mello Studios, multi-talented Hashim plays the part of composer, producer as well as musician. Hashim spoke to Perle Magazine about how he hopes to expand the market in Bahrain through his work.
With an education background in Computer Information Systems and a love for music from a young age, Hashim’s passion guided him towards the path of setting up his own sound production company, Mello Studios in 2004. Playing various instruments himself, Hashim says he also listens to all kinds of music and tries to create fusion music, where he blends together different genres of music to create something new. Naming Hans Zimmer, Harry Gregson-Williams, Abdel Halim and Mohammed Abdel Wahab as some of his favourite artists, Hashim says he named the studio after the kind of music he generally likes to listen to and produce. Mello Studios even has its logo in the shape of traditional Arabic instrument, the Oud.
Working on different projects mainly involving videos and working with different artists in Bahrain and helping them develop their work, Hashim says he is very careful about who he works with in the studio. “I have been fortunate enough to work with very talented Bahraini musicians, but I have to be selective” he adds. The key, he says is to find the right kind of elements to put together. “It is a very difficult business and it is hard to find the kind of work you would find if you were in say, Hollywood” adding that in order to succeed in this business, one has to depend a lot on their connections. Over the years, he says his experience has allowed him to filter out those who take this line of work seriously from those who do not. Hashim says he looks for indicators before working with somebody and if all the right factors are present, his company proceeds with the project.
Having been set up for 10 years, Mello Studios has had the opportunity to work on some remarkable projects such as the RPG game, Guardians Of Valor, Bahrain National Charter Monument, prayer call for Khamees Mosque for Bahrain TV, amongst other sound-related projects that make up their extensive body of work. Speaking more of Guardians of Valor, Hashim says it was one of their biggest projects this year for which they did the music, sound effects and character voices. Working in association with the Bahraini studio, Empire Studio, the entire game has been produced in Bahrain, from the artists, graphic designers, animators, and of course, the sound. Readily available for Android and iOS, Guardians of Valor Soundtrack, which is released on iTunes, Google Play, and Spotify, has received rave reviews worldwide.
Hashim encourages people of all ages to come for auditions at his studio, as he is always searching for talented people to work with.
Hashim says though he has handpicked all his work and enjoyed working on all of them, being a part of the Bahrain National Charter Monument was truly a unique experience. Located on Zallaq Highway, near Riffa, the concept behind the monument is to have an “interactive museum”. The first of its kind in Bahrain, the museum explores the history, culture and environment of Bahrain through time. Consisting of 57 exhibits, the museum explores in great depth the traditional crafts of Bahrain, history of the Royal Family, the pearling industry as well as the modern industries in Bahrain, which have contributed to its growth and success. The interactive museum also takes a look at the environment, landscape, animals and plants of Bahrain.
Visitors are encouraged to take part in various activities in the exhibits to experience Bahrain differently. For this project, Mello Studios held auditions for 20 voiceover roles (males and females, young and old) and the selected were asked to recite poetry and voices for different characters.
Working in association with British companies, Mello Studios has been able to transport the concept to the Shaikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre in Al Ain, as well as Prince Salman Science Oasis in Riyadh, and currently working on a museum of the same kind in Kuwait.
Hashim says the challenge he faced when his company was initially set up was to convince people that sound composition could be done within the region. “A lot of people were hesitant to work with smaller vendors or companies like us, and trusting that we are more than capable and resourced for these projects”, adding that local companies are no different than the international companies and can produce work of the same calibre, if not higher.
Hashim says that to this day they do face scepticism because of the small size of the company, but they have been fortunate enough to be able deliver high quality work on their projects. “That is something I want to see change in the market, not just in Bahrain, but in the region. I want to see more trust of these companies in smaller enterprises. Try with smaller projects and let them work their way up”, he says. The advanced technology available he says, has also helped them greatly to work faster and more efficiently on their projects.
Hashim also spoke about the importance of having firm Copyrights laws in the Gulf region. He says that though it is understandable when some audiences claim music should be free, it is also important for the artists and their affiliates (managers, producers, studios they worked in) to also get paid. He says it is mandatory to have an organisation that specialises in royalty collection for the artists and monitors radio stations where their music is being played to pay them their dues. Along with the piracy issue in the GCC, Hashim says it is important to address this, and that the artists are given what they deserve.
For the future, Hashim says though he is not looking to expand their set-up, he is looking to take more projects and expand their network and work with different companies across the region. He also encourages those who wish to enter this industry to follow their passion and be determined. “You have to beat the odds and go against what people think and don’t focus on the negativity comes your way, and do your own thing”, he says.
Hashim also encourages people of all ages to come for auditions at his studio, as he is always searching for talented people to work with. “We’re always looking for talents to work with in music, voice overs, and sound design. People are welcomed to get in touch with us if they want to try out” Some he says, know they are talented but need a little push. Hashim aims to find such people in Bahrain, polish their talent and bring them forward. Hashim says through his work and dedication, he hopes to change any negative image people might have about the sound-production industry, as it is an art form itself that takes years to master.
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