24 Feb 2018

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Kelsely Abaza


Kelsely Abaza (كلسلي أباظة) is an Egyptian avant-garde, multi-genre composer/songwriter and producer, writer, interdisciplinary researcher and mental health and meditation advocate working in New Zealand. Abaza’s compositions manifest rich polystylistic variation including elements of avant-garde electronic music, electronic classical music, Arabic and Circassian tonal systems, electronic jazz, musique concrète, vocal music, microtonality, and experimental electro-pop. He is also a member of the ‘Cantabrian Society of Sonic Artists’ and a part-time teacher of Modern Standard and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, poetry, and literary translation.

Kelsely Abaza was born on 27 December 1984 in Cairo. He is a naturalized New Zealander, having moved to New Zealand to further his education studying Political Science, Sociology and Philosophical Logic at the University of Canterbury. He hails from Egypt’s largest political and literary dynasty, the Circassian/Abazin ‘Abaza Family’, also noted for its artistic and cinematic contributions to Arabic and Egyptian culture, and takes his name from ‘Prince Mahmoud Al-Yazgy Sharaf-ad-Deen Qaraq Kelsely’, a maternal ancestor from the ‘Royal House of Mohamed Ali Pasha’.

Overview of Reception :

Kelsely Abaza’s work has been well-received by some Egyptian media and underground art communities such as ‘Mashareeb’, ‘Mideast Tunes’ and ‘Ahram Canada’, describing it respectively as “very special, very distinctive, very daring and very unusual”, “exquisitely complex...avant-garde experimental electro” and as a “masterful” mix “between the classical, the traditional and the best of modern experimental music.” In 2015 New Zealand underground music magazine ‘Cheap Thrills’ published an excerpt of an academic essay on his music in which they described his work as having “melodies and harmonies...[and] sound design” which is “sonically and dynamically very exciting...[and] with an international gaze...[which is] demanding and compelling.”

Other commentary in Egyptian media on Abaza’s work (January 2016) described his pieces as a “show of force [through] complex arrangements [displaying] orchestral beauty so that indeed we feel that we are listening to a full orchestra.” An earlier review of other compositions (October 2015) stated that - “[Kelsely Abaza’s] style is eclectic; the arrangements, sound design, and instrumentation sounds accomplished and professional. His melodies are at times dark, at times playful and addictive, hypnotic and satisfying.”

Work and History:

Kelsely Abaza’s performances often involve multimedia son et lumière shows. He has collaborated on music videos with visual artists from Russia and France and creates visual accompaniments to his music for audio-visual concerts.

Abaza’s music first began airing on local New Zealand radio in 2008 and he has been active as a performer since 2011. On 12 December 2015, the composer released Mood up the Mode, a composition of jazz-influenced electronic music and on 2 January 2016 he released Amira, a more accessible tune of downtempo electronica dedicated to his sister.

A melancholy composition from the projects entitled ‘Michael Louis’ met with some unexpected success reaching New Zealand on Air’s ‘RDU Te Ahi Top 10’ twice in February 2016 and several early versions of pieces by Abaza continue to be played on local New Zealand radio.

In November 2016 ‘New Zealand on Air’, ‘Massive’ and Christchurch’s ‘RDU’ radio invited Abaza to perform in their annual ‘Live Sessions’ for broadcast in May 2017. For this Kelsely Abaza composed a highly experimental electro-acoustic rendition of New Zealand’s national anthem featuring a new harmonic arrangement of the original melody. In early 2017 ‘Radio New Zealand’ invited the composer to speak about his music and played a 9-minute piece dedicated to his brother.

Beginning with the 9/11 attacks in the United States; Kelsely Abaza began publishing articles on socio-political issues specializing in Middle East politics, mostly in local New Zealand press. He was regularly consulted by New Zealand broadcast and print media during the 2011 Egyptian revolution and following the uprising in 2013. Perhaps the most momentous of these contributions was during the historical final speech by deposed Egyptian President Mohamed ‘Hosni Mubarak’ broadcast live on ‘Television New Zealand’ for which Abaza was called in haste to aid in the translation and analysis of the address.

In the same year, the ‘Auckland War Memorial Museum’ invited Abaza to speak on the Egyptian revolution of 2011 with Political Scientist ‘Nigel Parsons’ of ‘Massey University’ and to perform his music. This concert constituted his first attempt at audio-visual performance.

In terms of academic work, Kelsely Abaza abandoned a research piece for the ‘Rutherford Journal: The New Zealand Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology’ and his postgraduate dissertation on Mathematical Logic in 2015 in favour of pursuing several musical and artistic projects. He uploads educational lectures on Philosophy, Logic, Psychology, and papers on a number of topics to Acdemia.edu and YouTube.

News and Updates:

In early 2018 Abaza announced he is composing music for voice and acoustic instruments including violin, viola, and guitar as well as electronic instruments. He will also write lyrics in Arabic and English. These works will feature Christchurch musicians Michael Summerfield who notably played and recorded with bands such as The Undercurrents and performed on songs by Marlon Williams, and Nick Harte of Shocking Pinks and the CM Ensemble. Several Egyptian singers will likely be involved to perform on Abaza's Arabic songs. They include EL Eraqy and Aya Fekry.

Biography up to date as of January 28, 2018.
Provided by ‘Of Modulation’.
Please include attribution if third parties quote text or publish pictures.
Ⓒ ℗ Of Modulation 2018.


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  • Christchurch

Media Downloads

  • Amira

    Composed, produced, mixed and mastered by Kelsely Abaza. Copyright: Of Modulation and Ahmed Tarek Bahgat Abaza 2017.
    Download Now [Size: 11.33MB | 4:57 | 320kbps]

  • Michael Louis

    Composed, produced, mixed and mastered by Kelsely Abaza. Copyright: Of Modulation and Ahmed Tarek Bahgat Abaza 2017.
    Download Now [Size: 13.11MB | 5:44 | 320kbps]

  • Mood up the Mode

    Composed, produced, mixed and mastered by Kelsely Abaza. Copyright: Of Modulation and Ahmed Tarek Bahgat Abaza 2017.
    Download Now [Size: 9.94MB | 4:21 | 320kbps]

  • My Brother's Veins (Original Arrangement)

    An electronic classical composition from Kelsely Abaza's upcoming release in late 2017. Composed, produced, mixed and mastered by Kelsely Abaza. Copyright: Of Modulation and Ahmed Tarek Bahgat Abaza 2017.
    Download Now [Size: 8.93MB | 8:26 | 148kbps]

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