Feel Talks: Session 1.

Hello loyal readers. As you may know, I have been a bit busy/ bored/ uninterested lately, but you’ll be glad to hear that I haven’t spent all this down time sulking, oh no. I have been hard at work coming up with new content, and for that I had to reach out. That’s right. I have been connecting with some fellow local opinionated persons like myself. I have gotten together with fans/ artists from a specific genre for sessions of discussion revolving around the particular genre each represents. During each session, we sit down, turn on a recorder, and just shoot the shit (the text that follows is transcribed from those dialogues). So without further delay, here is the first ever FEEL TALKS (or FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR OPINIONS WITH ME MAN I WON’T BITE OR ANYTHING). Feel Talks is catchier though. And took less effort to come up with.

Today’s installment will center around the Lebanese hip hop scene.  My guest for that session was Beirut-based, MC Akbar Jagal. Let’s roll the tape:

-FN: Hello MC Akbar Jagal, welcome to Feel Talks.

-Jagal: Eh… ahlein khayye.

-FN: Haha, you seem eager to dive into the discussion.

-Jagal: … Lek mtawleen ta nballish ya3ne?

-FN: Euhhh… la2. Just tell me about yourself a bit.

-Jagal: Eh, MC Akbar Jagal houwwe’ fi3liyyan AKBAR JAGAL. El Jagal ad manno kbeer, wa2ta you2af 3a asabee3 ijre’ bit3attim el dinye… El Jagal ad manno kbeer, lamma yenzal 3al ba7r yetsabba7, byodrot bil may w bya3mil alf tsunami… El Jagal ad manno-

-FN: Ok, we get the gist of it. You’re a rapper right?

-Jagal: Euhh… eh hek shi.

-FN: Wait what …ok meshe (only guy I could get on such short notice really, I won’t complain…)

-Jagal: Shou elet?

-FN: Mashi… Alright, we’ll try covering as much as we can in the time available, so let’s get into this. Ummm… Rayess Bek! The guy’s a real pioneer, been at it for a while now. Lyrically, doesn’t pull punches, musically, not afraid to take risks, with his band the Rayess Bek Orchestra and all, and as a producer himself, he’s far from mediocre. His debut album has some of my favorite Arabic rap tracks on it… good man, good man. Jagal?

-Jagal: Ayre bi Rayess Bek!

-FN: … what?

-Jagal: Bya3melle 7allo houwwe’ li khallaf el rap el 3arabe w radda3o…

-FN: Jagal… calm down. What’s this you’re talking about now? He’s never boasted about any of that stuff. People and the media sort of labeled him as “the godfather of Lebanese rap”, but he’s never bragged about it.

-Jagal: Lek khayye’, ayre fik… Halla2 eh, yimkin zalamto lal zalame’, la2anno awwal aghane 3imilon keno kteer kwayseen, bas wa2ta jable’ orchestra ma orchestra w opera w ballet w Wael Kfoury w “Skizofreniaaaa3333”, eh la2 khayye, lawtane’ maximum.

-FN: …ok?

-Jagal: “I kol eet lyk I see eet”.

-FN: … ah, ok, I respect that… sort of.

-Jagal: Yalla shreek, li ba3do.

-FN: Alright, these guys have been doing some amazing things these past couple years! I’m talking about Fareeq el Atrash. Yup, it’s Beirut’s own rap-band with that soul-funk rock flavor, not to mention a beatboxer. Music aside, the MCs Edd and Chyno, are some of the best people to do it, with their abstract-ish, wordplay-infused, punchline-rich styles. And hey, their early material had some sick beats produced by bassist John Imad Nasr. Although some of the members have had to go abroad, so I’m uncertain about the lineup from now on… (huff)… Jagal?

-Jagal: Lek bta3rif lesh sammo 7alon Faree2 el Atrash? Ana 7a ellak, la2an-

-FN: La2anno kil li byesma3oulon torshen?

-Jagal: Ya 7mar la2, euhhh, la7za, eh eh, hayde’ hiyye’ li kenit bi rase’ eh…

-FN: (God)… Would you care elaborating?

-Jagal: Lek ma fhemet shou asdak “eelaboryte”, bas 7a etwassa3 bil mawdou3, meshe?

-FN: … yalla.

-Jagal: Lek shouf ana ma 3ande’ mishkle’ ma3 el rappers, bas lamma bya3mloule funky w ma funky w punky w Nirvana w Arabs’ Got Lawtane’ sar 3anna mishkil captain.

-FN: Ok, I think I’m seeing a pattern here. So I have a question for you: What’s wrong with rappers rapping over live music, as opposed to pre-recorded computerized beats?

-Jagal: Khayye’, ana be7termak w 3a rase’ w kil hal osas hay, bas ayre’ fik.

-FN: Yeah thanks…

-Jagal: Sma3, iza baddak ta3mil RAP, baddak BEAT. Iza baddak ta3mil KHARAP, baddak KHARA! Wod7it?

-FN: La2.

-Jagal: Lek ma t7arijne’ halla2… “Rock” 3a afyit “cock” w “jazz” 3a afyit “ass”, w hek hiyye’…

-FN: But doesn’t “rap” also rhyme with “crap”?

-Jagal: … khayye’ kol aire, ok?

-FN: … yeah, sure thing. Moving on now.

-Jagal: Lek khayye’ mtawleen lyom? Ana mesta3jil w 3ande’ track badna nsajjila bil studio.

-FN: Oh really?You wanna talk about that a bit? Maybe spit some verses?

-Jagal: La2, ma be2dar, ba3da “tob sikrit” hay. Bas fine’ ellak ism el track.

-FN: Sure, why not.

-Jagal: Ismo “3al Sheri3”.

-FN: “3al Sheri3”? Doesn’t sound too bad actually.

-Jagal: Eh, hiyye’ hay ekhtisar lal chorus, yilli bi2oul “3al sheri3 bfattish, w 3al sheri3 l2ita! 3al sheri3 blattish, w 3al sheri3 7a nika!”.

-FN: … sounds like a hit.

-Jagal: Killak zo2 khayye’. Yalla nkammil.

-FN: Let me just get some, unsettling images, out of my head… ok! How about that Ramcess? Lyrically, he’s got the wordplay and punchlines and flow and everything, and musically, I have been hearing a lot of good things about his upcoming release. Eagerness over here. Jagal?

-Jagal: Ramcess? Hayda shaklo ba3do bwa2t el fara3inah 3ambineek Cleopatra…

-FN: Well, he does keep it old school, haha.

-Jagal: Lek… ayre’ fik khayye’.

 -FN: Ok, Double A the Preacherman? He’s very versatile, very open minded.

-Jagal: Ana hayda ma b2arrib sawbo m3allim… Awwal shi bya3mil rap bil Englesh inno houwwe Tupac yaba, inno houwwe Eminem yaba, inno houwe Waka Flocka yaba. Engeeze’ ma btouwsal matra7…

-FN: Waka Flocka?

-Jagal: Ma3loum, hol legends, ma byinlamaso…

-FN: Nice… bas hek?

-Jagal: Ya reit bas heik! Se3a byotla3le’ ma3 Hezb el Taleta 3ambyinteko wara 3ambyel3abo mousi2a bitdapris, se3a ma3 DnB Broject 3ambyil3abo ishya bitza3zi3 el badan, w se3a 3ambyi2liba tekno ma3 OkyDoky ABCDEFG I love you you love me and bingo was his namo w Radio AK47.


-Jagal: Lek  khayye’… bi sharfak sid nee3ak.

-FN: … bas hek?

-Jagal: Bisammile’ 7alo Doble A ka2anno shi battariye walla motor walla transformer walla Obtimus Pryme aw shi…

-FN: Yeah… ok. Hey fun fact time! Double A’s from Saida, and Saida has a nice selection of MCs and producers. Any thoughts on them?

-Jagal: Mitel meen?

-FN: Well there’s Bull Pup. Funny intelligent guy. Could use more suitable beats though.

-Jagal: Hahayyyy, bisharafak bisharafak sma3 hay sma3-

-FN: Is the punchline “Bull Shit”?

-Jagal: … 3anjad ayre’ fik.

-FN: Hey, how about Illegitimate Mind Disorder? It’s these two rappers, Mobin and Menace, with producer BigFlow, making some very socio-conscious philosophical type stuff.

-Jagal: … Shou Superman ta7t el qasf aw shou?

-FN: … what?

-Jagal: La2, iza jeyeen  ya3mloule’ Nitshe’ w Aflaton w Socrate w Frankenstein, eh toz fiyon.

-FN: That’s not what I meant when I said “philosophical”.

-Jagal: Khayye’ sma3ne’ shway, baddak falsafe’: “I sink zerfor I em” – Danny DeVito.

-FN: Don’t you mean Descartes?

-Jagal: … kifa immak?

-FN: Hey… what did you mean with that “Superman ta7et el qasf thing” you said back there? Why the fuck would Superman be under an airstrike like that? What is he a goat in Baghdad or something?

-Jagal: Ya 7mar hayda mathal. Ma tekhedo bi jadiyye’.  Bas bi jamee3 el a7wel, Superman wa2ta meto ahleto houwwe’ w zgheer w 3addo haydek el 3ankabout , sar y3eesh bi kahef ta7t el arod, w hek sar a3ma, w t7wwal la RoboCop. Tsa22aflak shway ya zalame’…

-FN: … Adde be2e’?

-Jagal: 3ashr d2aye2 shreek.

-FN: (Thank you Lord)… 7a neshta2lak.

-Jagal: Hek el 2soul.

-FN: Ok, let’s squeeze in some quick ones, no introductions or anything. RGB?

-Jabal: Hal zalame ghazl el banet, btotr2o kaf bitdabbi2 eedak.

-FN: God your criticism is constructive…

-Jagal: Walaw.

-FN: Jnoud Beirut?

-Jagal: Z3abeet.

-FN: Jagal, how old are you?

-Jagal: 25.

-FN: It says on your ReverbNation profile you were born in 1994.

-FN: Ya 7mar, ma 7siba bi rasak! 1994 – 2011 = 25…

-FN: … yeah. Bill Amaliyyeh?

-Jagal: Hayda bye3la2 mashkal ma3 akhtabout bifout 3al tawari2 baddo otab.

-FN: … alright. Ashekman?

-Jagal: Mitel baydate, byijo tnen sawa…

-FN: …you’re too clever for my taste man… Fahrass?

-Jagal: Euhhh… Cinderella jombaz fouta.

-FN: What? That didn’t even make sense dude…

-Jagal: Mish la 3omrak.

-FN: Oh snap, look at that, I think our time’s up for today.

-Jagal: La awwal marra, ma3ak 7a2, HA2HA2HA2!

-FN: … eh. Thanks for stopping by MC Akbar Jagal, it was, insightful, to say the least.

-Jagal: My blejir gangstuh.

-FN: … Ok, go drop that bomb in the booth now.

-Jagal: “3al sheri3 bfattish, w 3al sheri3 l2ita! 3al sheri3 blattish, w 3al sheri3 7a nika!”

-FN: … right on, home slice.

-Jaggal: Aight beace!

-FN: This so wasn’t worth it.

Ok, so I failed to mention that most of these sessions were disastrous, but I spent a lot of time preparing them, meeting with these people, so regardless of how profound they are, I shall be posting these gradually. Thanks for reading.

Show Review: Dan Sin Live @ EM Chill (May 6, 2011)

Photo by: Me.

On May 6, Danielle Balabane would once again take to the stage as Dan Sin to perform a set of vocal-fueled tunes.

The first time I saw him live in March, he utilized a loop pedal and some effects pedals along with some vocal instruments such as a mouth harp, didgeridoo, and glass bottle.

Just as last time, he performed the same set again, this time adding a couple of new pieces afterwards. The performance featured all kinds of vocal techniques, such as beatboxing, Buddhist chanting, and something along the lines of Tuvian throat singing. I must say he’s got quite a versatile voice and doesn’t hesitate pushing it to its limits. This time around, Dan Sin also occasionally made use of the drum set available at EM Chill, which was not the case earlier at Walimat Warde’. This, as well as briefly being joined by Stephane Rives on saxophone added an extra layer of improvisation to the already semi-spontaneous vocal compositions (as in, the elements of each composition are specified, but their progression is improvised).

I do have a complaint however, which is that there isn’t that much variation between once piece and another. Drumbeats sound very similar and the tone of bass lines is nearly identical, save for a couple exceptions. I know it’s difficult to create extreme variation when all you use is your voice, but there are a lot of options. For example, the drumbeats Dan Sin makes are quite technical and fast, but to mix it up, they could be simplified (kick – hi hat- snare – hi hat – kick – kick – snare – hi hat?) with effects added perhaps. There’s room for development.

 Supposedly, Dan Sin is working on a release of recorded material which I am looking forward to, but for now, his stage show is a peculiar musical spectacle everybody has to see at least once.

I Want You to Go Dan Sin.

I have been way too busy lately.

So busy, that I didn’t have a chance to write a review or make the slightest mention of a performance that occurred on March 12th (ouuuuuuf) by Danielle Balabane a.k.a Dan Sin.

Dan Sin uses nothing more than his voice, his mouth (and anything he can stick in it or blow into), and a loop pedal with multiple channels. What he does is create loops on the spot by humming, singing, beatboxing, chirping, screaming, rapping, blowing inot a digeridoo, plucking a mouth harp, etc…

I would call the style of music “vocal-fusion”, as there are hints to electronic, trip-hop, and world music, with an ever-present psychelic element.

So please, go Dan Sin.

Mouths from the South

For those unfamiliar, Shaabeh bi T-Marbouta is a new series of events held at T-Marbouta (as the name implies) showcasing local MCs and hip hop artists. Well I’m a Beiruti and the majority of alternative local acts I’ve seen have been from Beirut as well. I had heard from a friend that Saida has had some hip hop action going on for a while and when he shared this track with me, I was intrigued.

As luck would have it, the second Shaabeh featured a couple Saidawi rappers, but this third edition had the whole package (not literally): Illegitimate Mind Disorder (or IMD), Bull Pup, XZE, Sawt el Dameer, and even the young producer Big Flow who provided the beats for all the aforementioned MCs.

 First up was Sawt el Dameer rapping in Arabic. Content-wise it wasn’t anything new; politics, society, the usual. He certainly did not lack energy or charisma though.

 Next was Bull Pup who raps in English, starting off with an acapella. Right off the bat you could tell that his style and subject matter were somewhat different. He was more focused on punchlines, wordplay, and cultural references, all of which don’t get enough love, even in English. I can’t recall the entire performance exactly, but I think the style of beats doesn’t quite match his lyrics. More laid-back tunes might better suit the lyrics than aggressive ones. 

 After two solo performances, he supported XZE, who also recites his rhymes in English, on backing raps. XZE’s style was more along the lines of Jedi mind Tricks or Immortal Technique. Though I’m not too much into that style, he did it well. That is until he did a second track which could basically fit right into a Masari album. Well he did warn of this being a club track, so I guess… no, even if you give warning, there is no need for this crap here in this non-club setting. The irony was that the song was aimed at females, and there were only a handful of ladies present.

 Finally, it was Illegitimate Mind Disorder, the duo consisting of MCs Menace and Mobin. They too adopted that “philosophical” lyrical style XZE had used earlier, but I’d say they were the best to do it overall. I must also add that Menace rapped a few verses in Arabic and they were just as good as his English ones.

 All in all, I think this has proven to me that the fiercest competitors Beiruti rappers have are the Saidawis, who clearly have the upper hand when it comes to English language rhymes. 

 So make sure to check them out whenever they’re in town.

Album Review: Wled el Balad – “Wled el Balad”

Heyyyy… it’s been a while, internet. How’ve you been?

 Now let’s get down to business.

 This one came out late-December. It is the first release from the band, which consists of Mohammad Hodeib and Ashley Chokeir on vocals, Saad Malaeb on guitar, Mahmoud Ramdan on bass, and Hussam Elias on drums, a 6-track demo.

I have only seen the band live once, and they were pretty good. Not “WOWOWOWOW” good, but definitely above average, which is why I had some good expectations for this. But somehow it fell short of completely meeting them.

 Overall, I liked the lyrics penned by Mohammad Hodeib. They’re sarcastic and make good use of figurative language, not all of them though, like the song “Rawa2”, which narrates a story pretty straightforward. I’d like to make a side-note here: Has anyone noticed the overwhelming number of alternative Arabic-language artists whose lyrics fit the descriptions: “Sarcastic”, “Ironic”, “Surreal”, or “Critical”? Hell, Michelle Keserwany’s whole body of work is based on this. Don’t get me wrong, those are my favorite kinds of lyrics, but it’s almost like that’s the standard now. Like if you write in Arabic, but not cynically and vaguely, you’re just another no-substance pop star. I’m sure “Rawa2” has all the kinds of symbolism and implications that other songs have, but it doesn’t sound like it’s trying desperately to get them across to us, and I respect that.

 The vocalists Hodeib and Choukeir should also be commended. Hodeib sings with emotion, like an actor, changing tones, yelling, etc… Choukeir also displays variations in tone, not as much as Hodeib, but it’s not necessary since her voice has an endearing quality to it.

 Now the music, I have some issues here. The band’s style is rock with touches of blues, jazz, and reggae. The rock aspect is a double-sided sword. At times it’s fresh and punk-like (like in “Sakra Dayme'”), other times it sounds like it was played by a classic rock cover band. I’m not sure how to explain, but there is a corner of rock music that I don’t like going to, and they took me to it. Not that it’s wrong or anything, I’m just not into classic blues-rock. Sue me. As for the reggae aspect, they stayed true to the genre to some extent with the use of effects (delay, reverb) and the drumming (you know, side-stick). Speaking of the drums, they could have been better, regardless of genre.

 I’m not really talking about the drummer, who I wouldn’t say sucks, but is certainly not the best; I’m talking about recording. The drums sound dry. They sound like each hit is a prerecorded sample. They’re just separate from all the other sounds. It sounds worse when they’re slow too. I don’t know… I really don’t know. Maybe it’s the volume? Maybe they needed some slight effects? I’m not a sound engineer…

 Anywho, good lyrics and vocal presentation, but I have a love-hate relationship with the music, and the recording could have been better. It’s a demo in the end, a sample created for evaluation and general feedback; you’re not going to get the final polished result the first time, so those were my two-cents. Thank you very much.