Taaktive

 

IMG 9838Otaak Band plays lyre music.

Drummer, producer, composer, lyre player and educator Miguel Merino uses this name for all of his explorations and expressions on an ancient instrument that he plays in new and unusual ways.

Miguel is the pioneer in the use of the lyre as the lead instrument in sophisticated compositional settings. As Otaak Band, he takes it far outside the folkloric tradition to produce contemporary and unique sounds. In addition to the typical 5-string lyre, Miguel also plays a variety of lyres and harps with up to 25 strings, which offer a huge range of musical possibilities. 

Otaak Band is excited to announce the recent completion of Dunia al-'Ushaq, a new album of the songs of Egyptian folkloric singer Ali el-Abady. As lyrist, percussionist and producer, Miguel takes the lyre, the only melody instrument on the record, into uncharted territory, conjuring lush soundscapes and textures with a dazzling variety of tones and timbres. Mixed and mastered by Grammy-winning Egyptian engineer Alaa El Kashef, a long-time friend and collaborator of Otaak Band, all the lyres played on this album are completely acoustic, showcasing the amazing sonic range of these instruments.

After studying jazz drums at the University of Miami, Miguel moved to Egypt in early 2009, where for the next three years he learned from and collaborated with many local artists from the region. During this period, he expanded his sonic palette by learning a variety of new hand drums and local percussion instruments, and was introduced by Sudanese musicians to the ancient east-African lyre they called tambur, and he was hooked.

He began forming a group to explore these strange new sounds of the lyre. Soon after beginning to play the instrument, he met the Sudanese Beja singer and lyre player Ahmed Said Abuamna, whose spectacular voice was the centerpiece of Otaak Band’s debut album Bejawiya (2012). This album was also the debut of the Sudanese-style lyre as a modern, adaptable instrument, capable of playing in a variety of musical styles. Otaak Band toured with the album in the United States twice in 2014, bringing the little-known sound of the lyre to new audiences.

In addition to his music, Miguel has a great love for the Arabic language. He works as a freelance translator and interpreter, and has always been fascinated by the way language and music cooexist and interact. He holds a master's degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Georgetown University, where he studied modern Arabic poetry, researching extensively the recent works of celebrated Bahraini poet Qassim Haddad.