A letter from Amman

Hey Ted - we've been trying to write something about Never Records Amman, and at every attempt something was off. It was only when we removed notions of the PR agency that we began to see that what we need to write is something for Never Records. This, my friend, is our love letter to Never Records, in response to the one you wrote for our city. Feel free to do with it what you please, but know that it was written with you in mind, and not the press:

When rendering complex and nuanced storylines, the end is a good place to start. Endings are the triumph of mood over plotline, weaving texture into a narrative, and allowing emotion to permeate its porous membrane. Texture wins, especially when you’re talking vinyl, so what better place to start than at the very end?

I got the call from Saeed at around 7pm, it was the last day of Never Records Amman, and the sky was dimly lit by a parting sun, and the weather had already begun turning. “Ted’s about to start packing gear,” he told me. I went over to Turbo, quicker than usual, wanting to prove useful during the final moments of our project. Despite my better intentions, Khotta made my job redundant, packing more yards of wire and mics than I have ever seen. He was the only full time musician amongst the four of us, and it showed.

Despite his apparent exhaustion, Ted’s clockwork intensity morphed into something more somber, as though the curtain was falling down on the Amman chapter of his journey, and I felt that that was the last time he’d visit our city, if only for the sheer number of places on his map that remain uncharted. Thoughts of a long, lonely, uncomfortable flight that starts and ends with the inanity of Customs bureaucracy on either end of the Atlantic surely didn’t help. Up until that point, there was an unspoken synchronicity between the motley crew of individuals who were helping build the momentum of this thing. But now as the fat lady sits front and center, individual thought outside the collective had begun to appear in the ether. For the crew that flew in, thoughts began to shift Westward towards life after Never: significant others, upcoming galleries in shabby chic neighborhoods, reliable plumbing, the Trump apocalypse, etc. Meanwhile, the Jordanian crew thought about our very local tomorrow, and it was clear that goodbyes were nigh.

After everyone left, and the pop-up furniture with them, Saeed, Ted and I stood in a cavernous Turbo, with nothing but the sound of industrial humming coming from the factory-purposed fan we had purchased on the first day of the project. We sat around a portable speaker hooked up to Ted’s laptop, and listened to the harvest of the past three weeks. The retired Egyptian violist, the Sudanese tribal singers, the Syrian Oud player, the Armenian duduk composer, the Jordanian hip hop crew, the Palestinian poets, Stu’s folk composition, and of course, a track by Conor O’Kane. We hadn’t even closed down the installation before we started reminiscing, and a mild melancholia was soon lifted as we dialed Stu, who at that point had returned to civilian life in the UK.

We all had different hopes of what Never Records Amman would accomplish in the months leading up to the installation. But what I learned was that there was much more to experience than to accomplish. The diversity of backgrounds that walked through those doors at Turbo was nothing more than a manifestation of what a cultural cross section of Amman looked like during those three weeks. A filigree of souls wayfaring about their respective journeys that had gathered around a proverbial halfway house, sharing stories of adventure and wonder and displacement and triumph and anxiety and hope, if only for that finite period of time in the history of our venerable and timeworn city. While we waited for the project to render a coherent picture of what Amman is in the here and now, Never Records was holding up a giant mirror for all of us to see what we, its inhabitants, were all about: our strengths and shortcomings and opportunities and misgivings and habits.

What was it like? I can’t really describe what being there was like, or what being there actually entailed. Maybe because the effect was so personal that it cannot be coined. Or maybe because I didn’t feel that the ‘installation’ directed you to feel or behave in a specific way. People walked-in to the tune of their day, and paths coincided in a unique and special way, unlikely to ever be repeated in that same manner. The irony is not lost on me: a project whose outcome is to capture the vibe of a city at a given moment in time yields an indecipherable sensory feedback that words cannot surmount. But like all things sublime, there was a collective recognition of that extrasensory energy emanating from the lathe and extending to a radius well beyond the physical confines of the space and into that deep and nebulous place that is responsible for all things Sentiment. Writing becomes especially difficult when you’re trying to freeze into words what was so ethereal and visceral in nature.

On the surface, Never Records brought people together. Some came to socialize, others to immortalize themselves on vinyl. But most who where compelled into Turbo were led by a curiosity towards that street-punk otherness that was being perpetrated on our side of King Hussein Street. Never Records showed me a bigger urban picture of what Amman is like under the surface, painted with a loud brush of color, and imbued with vivid motifs of our surrounding borders. That bigger collective that goes beyond professional backgrounds and tax brackets. That unspoken sense that we are all pulling this city together, one opposing tug at a time.

In the end, what remains is gratitude. Immense, unspeakable, colossal rains of gratitude for the friends made, the bonds forged, and the love shared.

Hamed & Saeed