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Beyond Kafala

Composer: Maximilian Wolfgang Schwarz

Instrument: Percussion Trio

Level: Intermediate/Advanced

Published: 2022

Price: €30.00

Item details

  • Description +
    • Duration: approx. 8 min.


      Beyond Kafala is a threnody for the thousands of people working under inhumane conditions, in a system which could appropriately be termed modern day slavery, on the Arabian peninsula. After being invited to participate in the musical program at the German pavilion at the “World Expo 2020” in Dubai as part of the “Percussion Community Rostock”, I was doubtful of the festivals ostensible pursuits. The ethical questions surrounding the expo and our invitation demanded reflection. For centuries, feudalistic regimes have endorsed the arts to build some sort of “cultural justification” for their reign, effectively buying themselves into what can be propagated as an intellectual, elite circle.

      In the same vein, the UAE hosted a lavish festival of the arts under the banner of sustainability, building a small fully acclimatised city of pavilions in the desert next to Dubai, constructed by “guest workers" suffering under a system called “Kafala” (sponsorship). This system pertains to offer migrant visas in exchange for employment. Many are lured into the region hoping to escape poverty and persecution elsewhere. In order for their visas to be “sponsored” however, it is required that each worker hand over their passports and personal documents. They are then put to work in severe conditions with little pay. These labourers often have to pay high rent for poor and precarious living conditions thus falling into considerable “debt” to land lords and “sponsors.” While men are sent to construction sites, women have little choice but to work as house servants. It is estimated that at least 6,500 workers died on construction sites in preparation for the football World Cup in Qatar 2022 while the Expo offered conflicting figures on their number of worker deaths (though being significantly lower). Trapped, abused, exploited and unaccounted for; for many there is no way out.

      “Beyond Kafala” was conceived to be a clash of cultures. I wanted to contrast the inhumane reality with the rich, deeply human sounds of some of the migrants’ folk music. Strictly constructed serial music is juxtaposed with elements of music hailing from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Running throughout/ beneath this dissonance is an abstraction of a hymn well known across the Arabian peninsula. Each layer is a nod to the conflicting truths of home, tradition, and culture and that of an aggressive, unceasing regime. We would have liked to present this piece as part of a political programme at the Expo in January 2022. The trip however was eventually cancelled due to the second outbreak of Covid-19.

  • Instrumentation +
    • Percussion Trio

      Concert Marimba
      Bass Drum
      Stand Tom
      Tom Tom
      2 Anvils (high/low)
      3 Chinese Gongs (high/medium/low)
      3 Soundbowls (high/medium/low)
      Splash Cymbal
      China Cymbal

  • Watch+
    • Beyond Kafala by Maximilian Wolfgang Schwarz
      Performed by Maximilian Wolfgang Schwarz, Finn Hennes and Tigran Mirzoian

  • About the composer +
    • Maximilian Wolfgang Schwarz was born in Vienna in 1997. At the age of 5, he started playing the drums with his first teacher in Geneva. Two years later the family moved to Bielefeld, where he widened his musical horizon at the local “Musik- und Kunstschule” learning classical percussion. He played in many bands and won multiple awards competing in classical competitions. Between 2015 and 2020 he studied “Drums and Percussion pop-/worldmusic with classical music” at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Rostock with Prof. Dietrich Wöhrlin, Jan-Frederick Behrend, Torsten Schönfeld and Prof. Henrik Magnus Schmidt. There he gained skills in classical composition, which he fusions with his activity as a producer of electronic music in a cutting-edge manner. Since 2020 he concentrates his studies on classical percussion.   

      He gained further inspiration attending diverse masterclasses and joining the stage with international top artists including Benny Greb, Zoro The Drummer, Robby Ameen and Alexej Gerassimez. During multiple days of workshop with Grammy-award winning bandoneon luminary Raul Jaurena, he gained deep insight into Latin music.   

      Since 2016 he also composes for film, classical music and avantgarde-pop. The sonatas “Tricolon for Solo Percussion” and “Transition Void I-III” could be named as some of his most important works. Max Schwarz is co-founder and drummer of the neurofunk/postrock band CozmicRip (since 2016) and of the contemporary classical/electronica trio maTrigal (since 2019). After passing his classical final exam with distinction (2019), partly for his interpretation of Keiko Abe’s marimba concertino “The Wave”, Maximilian won a first prize at the international “Rising Talents of Europe - Great Composers Competition Series”, performing the same piece (2020). In 2021, his new piece for marimba solo Constellations I was awarded second place at Edition Svitzer’s inaugural international Stellar Competition.

  • Credits +
    • Front Cover graphics and layout: Renate Lutter
      Photo: Reiner Nicklas
      Printed in Copenhagen, Denmark
      Copyright © Edition SVITZER