9.5.2 Two performances of Binti Hijaz with two different ensembles


Another song that I would like to analyze is “Binti Hijaz” (see 8.3.3) which is an original composition. I performed this song for the first time a year before with the Arhus royal academy big band in Denmark. I changed the original orchestration for the ensemble in Helsinki.

The differences between the two versions are vast when considering motifs, vibes and rhythmics.

Here is the link to the original performance with the Arhus big band- Binti Hijaz with the big band in Denmark


I kept the same arrangement and only changed the orchestration for the new ensemble. The outcome was a different sound with more blend in one colour. Binti Hijaz with my ensemble in Helsinki


In my opinion, the big change in the sound was due to the fact that the Big band in Denmark hadn’t had any previous experience playing this kind of music. It was written in a 7/8 rhythmic pulse unfamiliar to them. The music wasn’t played smoothly. The song was a strange song for the big band repertoire.  Janne Halonen relates to this challenge in his thesis, when he collaborated with a big band from Finland to play African rhythms. He mentions the challenges he faced when trying to teach and transfer the rhythms to the big band.(Holonen 2018) 


“Communicating the phrasing was [a] bit more challenging. I had plenty of interpretation markings on the page to suggest the music should be played on top of the beat or even before, but one thing I learned rather quickly: this is a surprisingly difficult rhythmic ”feel” to get out of musicians, who have spent most of their life practicing laid-back swing phrasing. I sang and played a lot of examples at the rehearsals, played snippets from HCE -records, explained what to pay attention to, and also had an extra practice session with just the rhythm section. However, even though we did eventually get a fair amount of success in this field, during our time together most of the band was still unable to internalize the ”time feel” I was trying to get communicate. On the other hand I don’t blame them: it took me over two years before even starting to think about putting a band together around this kind of rhythmic content. “

(Halonen, 2018 p. 20)



Transforming the feeling of the music is a process that can take time.  Familiarizing the musicians ears and acclimatizing them to the new feeling can be compared to trying to make someone who doesn’t feel the beat dance with you. You need to feel the beat inside of you in order to play it well. The same applies to swing, if you can't swing it then the rhythm doesn’t flow. I have found it helpful to dance a new rhythm in order to feel the rhythm before singing it and only after, playing it. This led me to try dancing the rhythms during the rehearsals in Finland. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to do this extensively to achieve the required level, but you can hear that the musicians felt the rhythm.  



Concert songs order- 

As this is my Master’s concert, I chose to complete a circle and start the concert with the same song I played for my audition- “Ayelet Hen”- starting this journey with a song from my roots.

I decided to reflect my Glomas journey through my project, with the songs’ order in accordance with my timeline and to conclude the concert with my latest composition, composed two months previously, with influences from Zanzibar and Gnawa rhythms from the Moroccan desert. 


1. Ayelet Hen. 

Intro: Mohamed Abdual Whaab. Lyrics: Rabbi Shalom Shabazi 

Arrangement: Michal Hoter. 

Traditional Jewish Yemenite song


2. Beyond The River. 

Composition, lyrics and arrangement: Michal Hoter 

New samai 10/8 Arabic classical composition, 'There is something special beyond the river, beyond the river my soul will be free, and at the end of the song we discover a new land beyond the river, a land of milk and honey. "

3. Binti Hijaz. 

Composition, lyrics and arrangement: Michal Hoter 

Binti in Arabic mean my daughter, the lyrics are about a mother/father telling their daughter that she has power and it's her choice how to use it in her life. to love, to grow, to be happy. 


4. Recycle.

Composition, lyrics and arrangement: Michal Hoter

I wanted to show the concept of recycling through my music. so I recycled my own melody while composing. and tried to listen to the voice, of nature our planet's voice that is hidden within each of us. 


5. Simla Schora (Black Dress).

Composition : Amara abdessamad. 

lyrics and arrangement- Michal Hoter

While I was in Morocco I met Amara, an Andalusia composer who composed a song from my lyrics after I translated them for him. You can hear the meaning of the lyrics within his composition. "Once upon a time there were a beautiful woman in a black dress, she didn't understand what happened, the skies opened and tears fell. Once upon a time there were a little girl who hid inside a women in a Black dress". 

I know that it’s a rare opportunity to have a composition was composed especially for my lyrics and knew that I should play it in my concert. 

Amara composes in old Andalusia style, so I asked him I could add my own harmony and arrangements and he told me that this is my song now and he will be happy for me to arrange the song and send him the recording. 

It didn’t take me long to find the right harmony and in one day I wrote the whole arrangement and orchestration for the musicians in my group. It’s like the music was there and just flew with me to my own world of music and I loved the result. I hope that Amara will like it as well and won’t be too shocked with the direction the melody took. 


Zanzibar time in my field trip was a time I will treasure forever. I had no idea how much I would learn and become influenced by the amazing people I met there. I was into jazz and Arabic music and came to work with a group performing Tarajazz music in Zanzibar. I also learned a lot from the African music culture there. 

I wanted to engage those things with the audience as well so I decided to teach them a song that I sang with the choir while  I worked with at the DCMA (the music academy in Zanzibar) “Yelele”. My plan is to teach it and sing this song with the audience and then they can sing it together with my choir in Zanzibar on video and that will be great opening for the last song. 


6. Ndege. 

Composition, lyrics and arrangement: Michal Hoter 

"Ndege" mean a bird in Swahili. I composed this song inspired by the powerful independent women I met in Zanzibar. They devote their lives to music. The song commences with a strong connection to mother earth, with Zanzibar and Gnawa rhythms, and slowly the music flies as the lyrics in Swahili and Hebrew, "you are a bird spread your wings and fly to the sky" 

I learned so much from this project and I know it’s just the beginning; I know that this is a master concert and exam but for me it’s also an opportunity to share my music and work and perform with a variety of musicians, which is why I chose a big group as I wanted to hear this new music with new colours of multi-cultural backgrounds and a variety of musical expressions. 


I hope that it’s only a beginning and I will be able to continue this project in different platforms.  As my song closing the concert says- “you are a bird, Spread your wings and fly to the sky”, I feel that I have learned so much and that this program has opened my ears as a musician to different music cultures and my eyes as a person to the big global world, love and collaboration.

9.5.1 Orchestration and teaching approaches through the song “Simla Shachora”


I would like to explain the process I went through with this ensemble using the song ”simla shchora” performed in the concert. In particular I will look at the orchestration as well as the pedagogical approach leading to the actual performance.


Due to the small number of rehearsals, I needed to orchestrate the piece of music before actually meeting and rehearsing with the musicians. This included making fundamental decisions as to who would play where, what and how and to write a chart for each musician.

My first approach/decision was to keep the musicians within their comfort  zone and not to ask them to play something that was outside of their professional experience- as much as the music allowed.  


The song starts with a Taksin I wrote for an Oud solo. I knew that the oud player is familiar with this type of improvisation and also wanted to commence this song with the colour of the Andalusian music. Then all the ensemble joins in playing the introduction in unison and slowly the harmony is added. On the A part, the rhythm section plays the jazzy kicks and chords while the strings play the melody in unison in Pizzicato with the vocal. 


Only the musicians who are familiar and can play micro tones played on the maqam with the micro tones, the remainder of the ensemble played the roots or different melody lines that answer the melody without clashing with the micro tones.

I chose to give the first solo part to be played over the maqam to the trumpet player who is familiar with the Bayat maqam. I chose the saxophone player from a jazz music background for the second solo. I wanted him to feel safe in his solo and chose to give him a solo over the jazz chords. It was interesting to listen to the solos and hear the influences of the musicians, and the instances when they relate to the new music and when they remain with their own style and within their comfort zone. 


It would have been preferable to have more rehearsals with the musicians where I would have given the musicians the opportunity to become more familiar with the different sources of music. I would have liked to have given them the opportunity to hear more reference songs, with the rhythms, maqams and similar feelings. This I feel would enable the musicians to feel and relate to the music much better and consider the music as a developing project more than a new song. I believe that this can be achieved orally by listening to more jazz and/or Arabic music and becoming an informed listener. 

9.5 Master concert in Finland: process and reflection:



One of the assignments for the completion of a master's degree in Global Music is  to organize and perform in a concert. 

 I started to think about the concert in August 2019 after I came back from my field trip to Zanzibar. I knew I wanted my concert to portray the music I had learned during my 2.5 years with the Glomas master program and thought that it would be a good idea to incorporate various folk songs that I had learned. When I thought of the songs that I would like to have in my concert, I narrowed it down to 8 songs in 8 different languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Yemenite Arabic, Swahili, Turkish, Yiddish and Portuguese. I have learned so many new songs which were old traditional songs and realized how much the language is an inherent part of their sound and music. During my field trips in Morocco, Zanzibar, Israel and Istanbul, I was exposed to different cultures and really took the time to be there with the local musicians and learn their lifestyle, languages, traditional food and the music they listen to including the traditional folk songs they play. These countries are very different from one another and I had the privilege to make friendships for life.


I met with the head of my program, Nathan in October and told him about my idea to do cover songs with new arrangements for folk songs from different cultures that I had learned during my field trips and my time in Glomas. I also told him that this would mean that I wouldn't perform my own compositions, thus leaving out the composer part of me. Nathan  made me realize that what I really wanted was to compose my own songs with influences from different cultures, people, and traditional music I had learned in my field trip and during my studies. I knew that I will lose the richness of the languages because if I will sing only my compositions, it will probably be in my native language, i.e. Hebrew and maybe English. Language is part of the music and my compositions will be missing the languages’ lyrical sounds. I later on solved this problem by adding words from various languages in my compositions 


I now faced an enormous challenge: to compose and arrange a number of original songs in a short time period. I started by building on compositions that were still in their initial stages, I had a song that I had already composed while in Denmark, which only needed to orchestration and a song with Zanzibar influences which I wanted to compose. Another love song about the earth was waiting to be composed and also a Gnawa rhythm song to ensure I had a danceable song. 

While all these thoughts were running through my head, I started to plan the outline for the concert. I made a list of the songs I wanted to compose and also what materials I already had. I found the time to go out into nature and compose new songs.

I devoted a whole month to Gnawa music in order to understand better how to compose this type of music.

I didn’t start writing any of the arrangements before I knew who my musicians would be and which instruments I would use.

It wasn’t easy to find and bring together this group of musicians. 

I first asked Timo Alakotilla in August if he would join the ensemble. Timo  is my music instructor and he agreed to play piano and supervise the project. Timo Alakotila is a composer and pianist from Finland and teaches at Sibelius Academy. He comes from a Folk music background and plays my compositions melodiously with a light touch that I hadn’t imagined possible when I wrote the scores. His influence can be felt throughout this project.

I slowly got all the musicians I had in mind from the Folk department ,the Glomas and jazz department.

I chose the musicians for the ensemble carefully taking into consideration both the instruments they played and their musical background.  My vision was to have a strong rhythm section (piano, percussion, drums, bass guitar), four wind instruments (clarinet, trumpet, saxophone soprano or alto and saxophone tenor or flute or bass clarinet) four string instruments (oud, violin cello and kantale or harp or additional cello). 


I knew that I required a double bass and guitarist with a jazz background, percussionists from world music and Arabic music so they will be familiar with the odd meters and rhythms of the songs. In addition, I wanted an Oud player and some musicians from an Arabic music background. I was fortunate to find three musicians who were proficient in Arabic music. They were capable of not only playing the micro tones, but also be able to improvise over maqamat. These musicians were the trumpet player, the violinist and the Oud musician. Together, they added a lot of colour and great sound to the blend of the ensemble. In the string section I was able to have a choice in the orchestration as I had a variety of instruments at my disposal because Viola Uotila plays the cello, harp and kantala. This also applies to the wind section where the saxophone players were also proficient in the flute, and bass clarinet and soprano tenor and alto saxophones.

I finally managed to form an ensemble of 15 musicians with the instruments I required for my music which was a big surprise! The musicians in the project came from different nations, cultures and musical backgrounds:



Michal Hoter (Israel)- voice

Timo Alakotila (Finland)- piano

Ali Haithem  (Iraq)- oud

Hector Lepe (Mexico)- guitar

Viola Uotila (Finland) - kantale, harp, cello

Lotta Pitkänen (Finland)- violin

Iris Tarnanen (Finland)- cello

Ahoora Mahone (Iran) - percussion

 Roser Gabriel (Catalonia)- accordion

Ilmari Rönkä (Finland)- soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, flute

Ilkka Arola (Finland)- trumpet

Annika Lyytikäinen (Finland)- clarinet

Jaakko Arola (Finland)- tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, flute

Oskari Armas Siirtola (Finland) -bass

Christopher Rodulfo (Aruba)-drums


It was a real pleasure to work with these professional musicians.  For various reasons, we were limited to a small number of rehearsals before the concert so in order to meet with this challenge, all musical decisions needed to be made well in advance and all the sheet music needed to be as clear as possible taking into account the musical background of each musician. 


Now the big challenge was to find times to rehearse that would suit everyone or at least most of the 15 musicians. It wasn’t easy at all. I didn’t know how to start, so I just came up with dates and after making a list of who can when, I sent everyone the dates and time for the rehearsals. Then, many cancelled again, or things popped up... so again I needed to make changes in dates and times. We were finally able to book 5 rehearsals. 


However, I didn't realize that the first time all 15 of the musicians would actually be playing together would be on the day of the concert. This was the risk I took when choosing to work with a large ensemble. I hoped that despite this, the sound would be good. I knew it wouldn't sound as if we’ve been playing for many years together and probably wouldn’t sound as tight as I would have liked, but the musicians were very dedicated, and I believed that I had made the right decision.


Once I knew who the musicians would be, I started to arrange and orchestrate, thinking of the sounds and colours I would like and thinking how it would sound together and apart. I was also thinking of the musicians’ background and where they would feel comfortable, as well as the music’s needs. I knew that some of the songs can be challenging but was ready to dive in and experiment. I couldn’t really know what sound would emerge from playing all together because I have never played with some of the musicians before. Also, I had never written for this combination before. While arranging and orchestrating I realized that I didn’t have any song with Finnish music influences and then I realized that I should ask a kantala player to join my group thus enabling me to get the old traditional Finnish sound and I was lucky that Viola the kantala player could join. I also noticed later that most of the musicians in my group are actually Finns with a variety of different musical backgrounds, adding a richness of sounds to the music.

I sent three songs with their scores to all the musicians two weeks prior to our first rehearsal.  I sent the remaining songs later. I tried to write on the charts all the information needed and wrote most of my ideas and dynamics in order to avoid wasting time figuring out things during the rehearsals. 

Another challenge I faced was that the oud player couldn’t read music and I didn’t know this before…so he had to learn his part by ear. We met a few times so I sang him his part and we made charts for him with explanations so it will be clear for him. 

I told the group on our first rehearsal that the charts I had written were actually notes- my own notes to the music- which they could read once and then still find their own musical interpretation and sounds.



The sound produced from this ensemble is different to the sound with other musicians from different musical backgrounds. For example, if the musicians were from a jazz or Arabic background then the sound would be completely different. For this project, I wanted to produce a new blend and colour containing the worlds of each musician and I wanted to build this project through respect to each music genre.


As the composer, I find myself in the conductor's role wanting to lead the ensemble during the performance. In this case I challenged myself not to conduct at all. This is not easy for me after studying conducting for several years, but here I needed to be in the role of the singer/vocalist and needed to put my trust in the musicians. So, from the first rehearsal I didn’t conduct. I followed the score waiting in anticipation to hear what I had written, just nodding or looking at the musicians when it was their turn to play. I then realized that being focused on the score and who is playing what prevented me from concentrating on my singing and some songs are extremely challenging for me as a singer. I took some vocal lessons with an outstanding vocal teacher Karoliina Kantelinen, who helped me concentrate on the singing. this helped me to feel more open with my voice. During the last rehearsals I tried not to be with the score at all so I could focus on my vocals and trust that the musicians know their part.


For the visual effects  for the performance Beyond the River, I collaborated with a student from the art department, Tomasz Sekular and it transpired that we listen to similar music and we had a similar concept of how to stage the performance.  

I didn’t know that he could actually build a river on stage. We used materials from my field trip such as videos and photos Tomasz attended the rehearsals and took notes on the songs’ meanings and culture influences to use for the art project and visual art in the concert. 

Binti Hijaz with the big band in Denmark 14/5/2018:

Binti Hijazz  Helsinki 12/12/2019:

 from Michal's master concert.

Master concert photos by Jorma Airola

“Simla Shachora” 12/12/202 

   from Michal's master concert.