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With a cello to his chest, a Saudi musician brings the melody to Saudi Arabia’s classical music scene

JEDDAH: When Mohammed Al-Quthmi holds his cello and leans back with the instrument on his chest, he can sense that there is something different about it. “The sound captures your attention. There’s a depth to it that you can’t hear or feel with other instruments.

Al-Quthmi, 42, is one of Saudi Arabia’s few cellists and part of the Kingdom’s thriving classical music scene.
He started playing the instrument in early 2019, practicing more frequently during the 2020 lockdown.

Saudi cellist Mohammed Al-Quthmi began playing the instrument in early 2019, practicing more frequently during the 2020 lockdown. (Supplied)

“The cello is not just a wooden instrument, it was my companion during the COVID-19 lockdown and our relationship at that time grew stronger,” Al-Quthmi told Arab News.

I like to play American classic and pop songs myself, and I especially like improvisations in my own style. I play some Arabic songs but I still need more time to master them because it is not easy to play Arabic music scales ‘Maqam’ on cello.

Mohammed Al-QuthmiSaudi cellist

His journey with music began when he was in college. He was listening to the band Gipsy Kings and it inspired him to learn to play the guitar.
After learning to play the guitar, he learned the piano and the oud, his last step being the cello.
American cellist Adam Hurst was his main inspiration for choosing the instrument.
“He was the one who stole my senses once I heard his track ‘Forsaken.’ At that time I was in Dubai and went straight to a music store and bought my first cello.
He said music has always been part of Saudi culture, but it was not given serious status until the Saudi Vision 2030 social reforms.
“It was a bit difficult to perform publicly compared to what we have today. Thanks to our beloved Crown Prince, things have changed 360 degrees; I can share the music I love with the public .
Al-Quthmi said professional musicians should practice three to four hours a day but, in his case as an amateur cellist, he usually played one to two hours a day. “I just play what I feel and what touches my heart,” he said.
The cello is of Italian origin, but it is played all over the world across continents.

QUICKLYFACTS

• Last November, the Yamaha Music School in Riyadh opened its doors as the first officially authorized music education institution in the Kingdom.

• Mohammed Al-Quthmi, 42, is one of Saudi Arabia’s few cellists and part of the Kingdom’s thriving classical music scene.

“I like to play American classic and pop songs myself, and I especially like improvisations in my own style. I play some Arabic songs but I still need more time to master them because it’s not not easy to play the scales of Arabic music “Maqam” on the cello.”
Al-Quthmi has participated in a number of private musical gatherings, most recently at the Syrup Music Lounge in Riyadh where he played piano and cello. “It was an amazing night. I hope I can do something like this again soon,” he said.
The Kingdom has recently launched a number of music institutes and initiatives.
Last November, the Yamaha Music School in Riyadh opened its doors as the first officially authorized music education institution in the Kingdom.
The Music Commission of the Ministry of Culture launched Bait Al-Oud (House of Oud) in January and is scheduled to open in 2023.