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Nocturne for Pit Orchestra

Performance at the Bahrain National Quarry and film
A project by Ilaria Lupo in collaboration with Rabih Beaini, with the participation of Hassan Hujairi

2017 (film 2018)

With The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, The Spring of Culture Festival, Al Riwaq Art Space, T.A.P Temporary Art Platform, FARE, NASS, RBMA.
Sources and collaboration to the research from: The Danish Folkore Archives, The Musikmuseet Copenhagen, The Moesgaard Museum, The Bahrain Television Archives, The Bahrain National Museum Archives, The Bahrain Ministry of Municipalities' Affairs and Urban Planning.

The project is part of a seven-years long series of works re-enacting workers’ performances of labor music, which in the region is specifically rooted in a system of exploitation set during the colonial time called kafala, which is still operational today in The Middle East. Some of these projects took place in industrial sites turned into temporary theatres. This space appropriation was referring to those forms of past underground resistances in the work-place where music was playing a major role. Such legacy has been transmitted and often blended, with electronic sonorities for instance.


In 2014, Lupo invited sound artist Joe Namy to collaborate on a sound performance for a construction pit in Beirut involving the site’s laborers. Namy created a site-specific soundtrack - composing a collaborative piece with the participants using their tools as instruments to perform live. The final performance was titled Concrete Sampling, arrangement for derbekah and jackhammer.

Here at its second edition, in collaboration

with composer and musician Rabih Beaini, the project took a wider perspective on the region and was especially conceived for The Bahrain National Quarry.


Nocturne for Pit Orchestra digs into dynamics of music-making in the frame of labor while aiming to explore the intermingled layers connecting the quarry’s identity with the socio-economic-environmental shifts in 20th century Bahrain and the Gulf Region.

Beaini engaged with the site's laborers after contextual research, in particular on the pearl divers music - Fidjeri. Historically, Bahrain is influenced from the Persian, East African, South Asian and Levantine cultural basins. The Fidjeri is a vocal music of great complexity, embodying a pivotal history of labor in the region - based on the kafala system today as before. The pearl divers traditionally performed publicly in the Dar music houses. Beaini involved the group in a process where an array of influences were explored and combined. They rehearsed vocal droning, looping, amplifications, polyphonies, solo and choir.

The final performance unfolds as a process navigating between dissonance and harmony. The composition is on and on dismembered and recomposed while the structure contains both conducting and improvisation.


The stone quarry - located in the desert of Hafeera - represents the very heart of sources extraction destined to construction. This landmark site has witnessed the transition between two economic eras. It came at a time of acceleration, accompanying the radical reconfiguration of the urban and extra-urban landscape and the shoreline. It is defined as a site of 'Modernity' and the project attempts to question this ‘modern’ identity and its ties with the past, still reverberating today. The performance was presented in the quarry itself, opened to the public for the very first time.

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