Arab music's alternative ambassadors find fans – and bans


Arab music's alternative ambassadors find fans – and bans
  1. Arab music's alternative ambassadors find fans – and bans
    yourmiddleeast.com
    With the growing popularity of bands like Lebanon's Mashrou' Leila and Jordan's Autostrad, hip-hop artists like Iraqi-Canadian Narcy and Palestinian Muqata3a and solo acts like Yasmine Hamdan, Arab artists not traditionally considered mainstream are increasingly gaining recognition both at home and across the globe.Building on a rich musical history, their fusions reflect experiences in situ and in the diaspora, blending traditional beats and maqams, or modes, with rock, reggae, funk,…
    United Arab Emirates

With the growing popularity of bands like Lebanon's Mashrou' Leila and Jordan's Autostrad, hip-hop artists like Iraqi-Canadian Narcy and Palestinian Muqata3a and solo acts like Yasmine Hamdan, Arab artists not traditionally considered mainstream are increasingly gaining recognition both at home and across the globe.

Building on a rich musical history, their fusions reflect experiences in situ and in the diaspora, blending traditional beats and maqams, or modes, with rock, reggae, funk, electropop and hip-hop.

Indie outfit Mashrou' Leila, arguably Beirut's most famous contemporary musical export, sold out at both London's Barbican and The Hamilton in Washington DC after the release of their last album, "Ibn El Leil," in 2015.

Multimedia artist Narcy this month landed a Juno, the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy, for directing an equally gripping and entertaining music video for the 2016 hip-hop track "R.E.D.", which spins a complex tale of race, war and migration in under five minutes.

But hard-won recognition and rampant misrepresentation are far from mutually exclusive.

"Arab culture is under attack. It's fetishised in the West and all over the world. It's either evil or it's sexy, right?" says Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman, one of the leading voices of Arab hip-hop.

"At least while they're killing our children, we try to continue the legacy that our parents put in us," Narcy, formerly known as The Narcycist, adds shortly after a high-octane gig in Dubai.

"If we're alive we might as well do that while we're here, you know?"

'Heart-to-heart'

With their blend of traditional garb and trainers, of maqams and messages, artists not conventionally considered mainstream have reinvigorated the Arab world's music scene. For Avo Demerjian, vocalist and bassist with breakout Jordanian act Autostrad, "it's not a renaissance so much as a return".

"It's a heart-to-heart between musicians and the people," Demerjian says of the Arabic reggae funk band's success.

"I think this is the moment when music is coming back to our part of the world, when we can stand on our own feet and say what we ourselves have to say, through music."

Autostrad, Narcy and Mashrou' Leila headlined the April 7 closing night of Dubai's STEP 2017 conference, an annual technology, digital and entertainment festival.

Overlooking the water of the man-made Dubai Marina canal, festival-goers mingled and cheered as a string of mainly Arab, and mainly male, musicians took the stage.

Don't miss out on great stories!

We're on a mission to show you the real Middle East.

Signup to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

  •    
  • Follow @YourMiddleEast

Massively popular Mashrou' Leila sang against a backdrop of animated footage, including a segment that appeared to take the audience through a pink-lit underground sex club.

But the most high-energy gig was Narcy's. In a traditional aabaya and his trademark wire-rimmed glasses, the rapper was joined onstage by fans doing the chobi, an Iraqi folk dance, to his Arabic and hip-hop beats.

"The currency is murder/you a man of worth," he rapped in "R.E.D.", a collaboration with Native Canadian DJ collective A Tribe Called Red.

His award-winning music video played on a giant screen behind him, featuring African-American hip-hop artist Yasiin Bey (also known as Mos Def) and drum group Black Bear, who hail from the Atikamekw community of the Manawan First Nation in Quebec.

Narcy's final track, "Free", was…

  1. Taiwan – Truly Asia’s Hidden Gem

    Arabiangazette.com - UAE
    05.21 / 22:13 arabiangazette.com
    Taiwan – Truly Asia’s Hidden Gem Taiwan is a beautiful island country layered with the heritage of Taiwanese aboriginals, Dutch, Spanish and Chinese in a beautiful cultural amalgam of sorts. Endowed with magnificent peaks, green rolling hills, plains, basins, coastlines, lush forests and national parks, it is also a nature lover’s paradise. At the backdrop of […] Arabian Gazette …