7keeleh is an open-mic session organized by Taste Culture and hosted by Fareeq el Atrash, where anyone is welcome to present rap, poetry, or anything else, and some pretty big names also present their work (Fareeq el Atrash, Cristobal, RGB, etc…). It is held in the Amadeus pub of the Hotel Mozart in Hamra.
This was the second edition of these sessions. I did attend the first, but did not see any of the performances since I had to leave early. Luckily, this time around, I was able to stay for the whole thing.
-Before the Show: I was feeling a little sick, but decided I felt well enough to go out. I was bringing along three guests (two friends and one of their cousins) who wanted to meet graffiti artist Fish, of the Lebanese graffiti crew, REK Crew. He was asked to tag the word “7keeleh” on a canvas outside. The three of them have tagged some graffiti themselves, and I’m thinking about trying it myself, will get back to you on that… The first time me and my two friends met Fish was at our school, where for some mysterious yet awesome reason, the school got him and a couple other members of the crew to come over and show us how to tag, not on walls, but on canvases, nonetheless still pretty neat. And my friend’s cousin would be Gup. If the name sounds familiar, then you’ve probably seen the walls in Hamra lately.
Went inside, greeted all the good folks there. The first time I came, they were giving out this free CD that contained music by local acts. I liked that CD a lot, one of the reasons is for which is because it introduced me to Toffar. This time, there was no compilation CD, but instead there was Fareeq el Atrash’s pre-album (which they also had for sale at their Basement gig), as in, the pre-Chyno versions of the tracks that will appear on the upcoming album, as in, the tracks on their myspace plus never before heard tracks. All of this for the price of: as much as you feel like. I had to take a cab home, so I felt like 1,000 L.L.
So we decide to go talk to Fish. We step outside where there is a canvas hung up and spray cans and stuff and we say hi and that we met at our school and he recognizes us, and Gup from some other place.
After some graffiti-chat, he began with the tag, first spraying on the overlapping outlines of the letters. This helps one choose what letters to put behind what letters and what letters to put on top of what letters. He then started coloring in some green sections at the bottom of each letter, and yellow in the rest.
Meanwhile, inside, they were about to get the ball rolling, so I went back inside and let my friends watch Fish spray. I would go on to see them intermittently for a while then not at all.
-The Show: I will try my best to recall the correct order and not to forget about anybody.
Edd and Goo kicked it off with Edd rapping and Goo playing electric guitar.
This was followed by a musician named Ashraf. Armed with his trusty oud, he played it and sang some traditional Arabic songs. I’m not a huge fan of this stuff, but I gave it a chance, because seeing Rabea Beirut was the first step of a journey. The destination would be making up for my lack of Arabization. It’s a long story, but in brief: When I hear something that is a blend of several genres, I have to have an idea of each genre on its own to see how faithful it is to both genres separately, in their pure forms. One of the more popular strategies being adopted here is mixing a modern genre (hip hop, rock, electronica, etc…) with traditional Arabic music. So, I know enough about most of the modern genres, but ironically, I am slightly alienated from traditional Arabic music. Thus, it is my duty to expand what little I currently know of the music of our forefathers, just so I don’t get to the point where I find myself groping in the dark. So you remember that thing I mentioned in the Rabea Beirut review about mentally improving music that I don’t find 100% satisfactory? Well this time, FZ saved me the trouble and did it for me. He started adding vocal percussion. He wasn’t holding a mic, just standing with the crowd watching, and everyone could hear his contribution. That man can do some loud clicks dude.
A lady read a poem after that I believe. It was a tribute to a friend, and was quite beautiful.
Following that was a rapper by the name of Fahrass. He said that he’d do this more “storyteller” style than “rapper” style, so he took out a cell phone and read his verses revolving around two girls that each faced certain hardships as children and met one another in the present, while FZ provided some of his mouth-sculpted sound replications. Concerning the cell phone factor, I would have done the same thing myself. Actually I might have messed up a little while reading, so yeah, it’s all cool.
I believe after him followed a poet by the name of Tina Fish. She recited two poems. One was about these “jagals”, the stereotypical Lebanese males. I share her loathing for that particular social group, so I could relate. Her style was more spoken word than poetry, releasing a sentence one time, a single word the other. She mainly spoke in English but sprinkled some Arabic here and there. The second was a response to a photography contest called “Lakom Hamrakom Wa Li Hamra2i” where photographers are encouraged to take photos of what makes Hamra special to them. She wrote a poem. It covered almost all the ingredients that blend and clash to form Hamra, which I consider my spiritual home. No seriously, this lady is something else… major kudos!
Following her were 3/5 of Fareeq el Atrash. Edd, Chyno, and FZ. They started off with their introduction routine where FZ beatboxes then starts announcing a soccer game that the band are playing in. It was actually longer than usual this time. This routine comes with rapping by Edd and Chyno of course. After that, he treated us to another one of his Fareeq el Utrush routines, this one I had only heard once and was eager to hear once again, it was the movie trailer one! He did the whole deep voice announcer bit (fun fact: that guy’s name is Don LaFontaine. Unfortunately, he passed away last year, sigh…), where he declared “in a world, where the music industry is dominated by artists like Haifa-“Wawa!”- One band, Fareeq el Utrush, here to save the day (eh, I still haven’t memorized it). Usually this would have been it, but this time it was a revised version, which included some movie trailer-musts such as, cast list and excerpts from the actual (well, hypothetical) movie!: “Starring Edouard Abbas as, Edd”, then Edd said something, a line of his from the “movie”. “Nasser Al Shorbaji as, Chyno”, he said something that sounded like he was warning people not to mess with him. “John Imad Nasr, who isn’t here right now…”.”And Fayez Zouheiry as *vocal scratch vocal scratch* FZ!”. I don’t know how it ended, but I loved this version. Chances are the guys will read this, so I’d like to take a few moments to say: RECORD. IT. Including actual sound effects. Ooh ooh! Album intro! Album intro! ALBUM. INTRO.
They performed some songs sans bass which included “Ana 7abib Balade'” and “Bteghlawa Ma3 L’Zikra”, as well as some other stuff. Some of the songs mentioned were performed later on, but I’m just putting it out there…
After that, if I remember correctly, FZ beatboxed with Karim Mallak, another beatboxer, whose name I forget, but they were good together. They did a medley of songs similar to the beatbox routine that you’ve probably seen already on the web by that French-Japanese fellow on the French version of “American Idol”, as in “Beat it”, “Yeah”, etc…
L’Fareeq went back on and performed one of the aforementioned songs.
After them, Chyno performed some acapella rap in English.
Following that was some more spoken word, this time by Becky Katz. She read two poems. The first was called “The Binary Serpent”. In it, she talked about a certain incident where she fell victim to social prejudice and gave us some philosophical insights, well Tina Fish did too, but Becky’s were more textbooky. She was briefly heckled by someone asking her to “read faster” whom she replied to with “leave faster”, and that was met with applause… oh those precious “bakh3a” moments… She then read an untitled poem, a love poem dedicated to her boyfriend.
This was followed by some Arabic rap by rapper Ramcess, which was pretty tight actually.
Then Yassine from I-Voice also delivered some Arapic rap with FZ beatboxing and acapella too.
I think there were a couple more rappers after that…
That’s when it happened. FZ went on a killing spree. He did a nice kung fu movie style skit, then some more beatboxing with the beatboxer he performed with earlier that night, but then he shocked everyone by: beatboxing, and speaking, at the same time… At first they were skeptical, but he did it again slower, singing that line “if your mother ooonly knewww”. Mind boggling. As if he didn’t his beatbox prowess wasn’t established by then, he topped it all off by beatboxing and playing a pipa at the same time. The pipa in question is a little wind instrument that Edd brought FZ back all the way from Thailand. I’ve seen a guy play flute while beatboxing on the web, so seeing something similar live was nice.
Two poets finished the night off…
-After the Show: That was a pretty good batch of talent I’d say. Oh and by the way, this spans for like… 2 hours. While there, if not for the occasional smoking induced coughs (too much smoking going on), I had no idea I was even sick. It’s the healing power of music… It was inspiring too, seeing average people present their work, which turns out to be awesome. I might even present something myself if I have time to work on it and practice… But overall, this is a good concept and I hope it keeps going strong and people keep showing up and sharing their talents.
*Personal: I have a video of FZ rocking that pipa. To be posted as soon as I can upload it.
Tatse Culture Blog: http://tastekulcha.blogspot.com/