Show Review: International Day of Peace (September 27, 2009)

Originally, the International Day of Peace event, organized by the Permanent Peace Movement, was to be held on the 21st of September, but due to some unpredictable rain, it was rescheduled to the 27th.

 This would be an event for the whole family (including children) that would include a concert come nighttime. Several relatively unknown groups, as well as one theater group, were to perform, but one group was more than known to me, and that was Fareeq el Atrash. One of the lesser known groups that I was eager to check out were an enigmatic twin-sister Arabic-acoustic duo by the name of ShaBa, who made their debut during the 2009 Fete de la Musique. I had found their myspace through a message sent by Mashrou3 Leila, who are friends of theirs, to members of their group. I’ll do a full analysis in the future, but for now what I will say about them is that from their myspace I concluded that Shaden Fakih, the vocalist of the duo, sings of edgy social issues in Arabic to simple acoustic guitar tunes played by Bane Fakih, the guitarist of the duo. Both girls are about my age (17), so the fact that they are part of the younger generation of groups, the class of groups that I would fall into if I were to play in a band, was appealing, like: “Hey look, people my age DO have something to offer the scene!”.  

 -Before the Show: This particular show took place in Jesuit Garden (L’Jnayne’ L’Yasou3iyye) in Ashrafieh. It was hard to find. They could have tried securing a more well known location. For a while, even Fareeq el Atrash themselves were confused location-wise…

 I arrived to find a stage set up, with chairs and stuff, and filling up most of those chairs were kids (well some were standing on them, others chasing each other around them, but you get the idea). This was where the weirdness began. I didn’t imagine this kind of crowd honestly. It was basically kids, their parents/ grandparents, and a couple random people. Not really the “undergrounders” I had gotten used to being around for these kinds of events.

 -The Show: After a lot of waiting and a lack of artists showing up on schedule, one of the event organizers, Shant Kabakian, asked the only band that was there at the moment, an obscure band called Body Jam to, well, jam, to stall. So they did, and it wasn’t too bad. After them, some guy who competed in the show “Superstar” sang. He sang for a while, average Arabic tarab stuff. Following that, an improptu DJ set for the purpose of stalling. The bass was WAY too powerful, painfully powerful, and I’m talking physically now. Children danced, old people danced, they had nothing better to do. Children were jumping onto the stage and an old dude was assigned to shoo them away.  

 Just then, I spotted Edd of Fareeq el Atrash. The others shortly followed. We chatted for a while. Eventually, I located Shaden Fakih, and introduced myself for the first time, but unfortunately did not get the chance to meet her sibling that night.

 I hung out with the Fareeq el Atrash dudes while the theater group Firqat el Dafade3 presented a political satirical performance in the style of “Basmet Il Watan”. I wasn’t too impressed with it, but it passed.

 Following that were ShaBa, who were performing with the slogan “Make Love Not War”. Now ShaBa’s fans, they were mostly close friends of theirs. I think I was among the few people who wanted to genuinely see them, and not just do so as a polite gesture. But regardless, their fans were very excited. They clapped along vigorously and even sang along to the songs. This was rare. Usually people, including myself, are all “silent-appreciation” accompanied by foot-tapping/ head-nodding/ rhythmic shuffling from side to side. But their fans threw these unwritten rules of concert-going out the window and just went wild, which was kinda weird to me, but still cool.

 Kids were jumping onto the sides of the stage, and the aforementioned old dude was doing his job of keeping them off, both him and them disrupting the experience actually.

 They performed all four of their songs. During one song the mic got all feedbacky so they lightheartedly started over again. The kids thought they were SOOO witty and edgy when they started repeating “khazze2ni ya deek” hinting at a “hidden” innuendo. It’s good that they didn’t get all defeated by that and just brushed it off. Now usually, well, the one other time they performed and this one, the band consists of the two sisters, Shaden on vocals and Bane on acoustic guitar, but this was the first time that they are joined by two friends of theirs, Aya Attar on keyboard and  Rola Najjar on electric guitar. The duo is known as Nattar. Together they played a new song and this lineup showed me that they are still a band in progress, still in that stage of experimenting with different instruments to fill in gaps. Due to their lack of bass, I forgot about the whole “painful bass” issue that I was suffering from earlier that night. For some reason, someone thought it was a good idea to hand out candles to the kids, and the girls were briefly pelted with candles by the unappreciative little rascals, nothing catastrophic, just an inconvenience for them. They also succeed in brushing that off, so bravo! At the end they were presented an award by some lady, so that was nice.

 Following them were Fareeq el Atrash who performed the usual set of songs. They were very good, but when you see a band live that many times, you start getting bored of hearing the same songs. But, it’s important to keep in mind that even though you’ve already seen these songs played live, there are others that haven’t yet, so you just have to tolerate that. That went by quick, and the painful bass issue came back to haunt me, and left me with ringing ears. Dude who rigged up the sound system, I am a proverbial “atrash” and have no desire to become an actual one…

After they were done, they too were presented with an award.

 -After the Show: Following them were rappers ZeineDin and Venus followed by Body Jam, but I had to leave. This show was kind of ruined by the crowd and the bad sound setup.

 -Photos:

*Personal: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=133924848778&index=1#/album.php?aid=325338&id=842365214

 -Videos:

*Personal:

ShaBa & Nattar – “Shiftak Laziz”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1RhMlsZ77I

I have a video of “Alla Bi 7ebba” that I will upload when I can.

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Artist Analysis: Fareeq el Atrash

Fareeq el Utrush

Photo by: Tanya Traboulsi. Logo by: Omar Khoury

-Name: Fareeq el Atrash (A pun on the name of the famed Arabic musician Farid El Atrash and Arabic for “Team of the Deaf” or “Deafman’s Team” (interpret it as you like)) 

-Members: Edd (Eddourd Abbas), Chyno (Nasser Al Shorbaji), FZ (Fayez Zouheiry), John Imad Nasr, Goo (Ghassan Khayyat), DJ Stickfiggr 

-Years Active: 2006-Present 

-Genre: Arabic Hip Hop (with rock and funk touches) 

-History: The first incarnation of Fareeq el Atrash was as a live jam band that played funk, psychedelic rock, and trip hop, not having specific songs, just going with the flow. This was around late-2003. The members were John Nasr on bass, Ghassan Khayyat on guitar, Rawad Choubassy on drums, Issam Raad on percussions and beats too I think, and DJ Stickfiggr on turntables. They were sometimes joined by Fouad Zakka on saxophone. One day, while trying to come up with a name for themselves, Issam blurted out the name “Fareeq el Atrash”, probably due to the fact that next to Rawad’s house in Raouche’ was a “super night club” (*cough*WHOREHOUSE*cough*) named after the Arabic musicican and singer, Farid El Atrash, and both Issam and John were fans of his work, so they went with it. Issam tragically passed away in a car accident in 2004. DJ Lethal Skillz, who had shown interest in doing a collaboration between them, was briefly brought in as a substitute for Stickfiggr, who was abroad. 

After a successful gig in 2005 at the infamous Beirut nightclub, The Basement, the band dissolved. 

John, Goo, and Stickfiggr then attempted to reform the band, this time with Rabih Sakr on drums and Wissam Karam on trumpet. They played one show, but after that, several issues came in the way, including each member having to leave the country in pursuit of their own personal careers and the 2006 Lebanese-Israeli conflict. 

John was left to fly solo, that is until Edd came along. Edd had been working with some other groups and as a solo artist around 2001 or 2002, rapping in English then later on reverting to Arabic. John and Edd had seen one another around but never actually talked until a friend of Edd’s introduced them. John heard Edd rhyme in Arabic and was greatly impressed by his laid back and intellectual style. So John started working with Edd on making him a solo album, producing and creating beats for him. 

Eventually, John would play a bigger part in the project when he would contribute his bass playing to the songs. It was around that time when Fayez Zouheiry would come into the picture. FZ was introduced to Edd while they were in university. He was a beatboxer who used to perform with another beatboxer as a duo. He continued beatboxing solo after his partner resigned from the duo they had going on. Edd would bring FZ in while he and John were recording and he was greatly impressed by their work so he joined in. And so this project transformed from a solo rap project to an unlikely “band”. When time came for them to play a show, they were asked to give themselves a name, and they finally decided on resurrecting the name of the original band John was in, Fareeq el Atrash, FZ giving it a new spin as well. 

Around 2008, they added a new member to the roster, Chyno. Nasser Al Shorbaji, or Chyno as he is known, has been a friend of the group for a long time and has been rapping with other groups and on his own in English. Edd and John asked him to try rapping in Arabic, so he did, and adopted it alongside his English rapping. He got to work closer with Edd in a play which consisted of a series of dreams where the story is told through rap entitled “Eddem el Safara Kein el Leil Tawil”. This play would showcase the onstage interaction and stage presence of Edd and Chyno, so it was just crazy not to ask him to join. DJ Stickfiggr has also performed live with the new incarnation of the group and Goo (Ghassan Khayyat) has been brought back in. 

Both Edd and Chyno went on to appear in separate tracks on DJ Lethal Skillz’s debut album “New World Disorder”, Edd on the track “Byin7aka” and Chyno with his close associate MC Zoog on the track “Scratching Skillz”. They have collaborated with DJ Lethal Skillz live for a street performance in support of Gaza. 

Fareeq el Atrash were also asked by the Iqra’ group, which is an Arabic language center based in Beirut that teaches speaking, reading, and writing in Arabic, to make them a song in honor of Beirut being World Book Capital for the year 2009. The result was a song called “Nammi Fekrak”. 

Edd, FZ, and Chyno, along with other prominent names in the local hip hop scene, recently participated in a workshop for local hip hop talent that covered everything from stage presence to beatboxing. 

They appeared in a movie made by Siska (6K) (former member of Kita3 Beirut) on Lebanese hip hop and contributed to its soundtrack. 

They have played in events like the Iqra’ shows, The Road to Kfifan Festival, and the International Day of Peace 2009, among others. 

They have distributed a pre-album. It was supposed to be the actual album, but these were recorded before Chyno was recruited, so they decided to redo the tracks with him on them. But instead of trashing the old tracks, they gave them away as a pre-album.

They released the finished-album on June 21st 2010 as part of Fete da la Musique.

 -Sound: I classify Fareeq el Atrash as alternative hip hop, because they are more than just a rap group, they are a rap “band”. There’s instruments being played live, and I greatly value that because I like the “human” element. The fact that when there’s a certain emotion present in the music or lyrics, every instrument carries that emotion along with it to the listener and that cannot be done when you just play the music on a laptop for example. I have the same philosophy towards other forms of music, especially electronic music, which these days has been summarized to a push of a button. Music should be human. It should be “alive”, reflecting the musician’s mood and personality. On the subject of the human-instrument bond, Fareeq el Atrash have a very special instrument that I don’t see that often in bands, let alone Lebanese ones. They have a beatboxer! This is no longer an issue of the connection of the human between his/her instrument, this is a human becoming the instrument itself! FZ has a very versatile voice that is capable of great vocal feats. He is always reliable in delivering a constant drumbeat and suitable sound effects. He also adds a touch of humor with his solo beatbox skits that can be about anything from narration on a football match that the band is playing in or a movie trailer starring the band as the saviors of the Lebanese music industry. John’s bass playing is very old school. It has a distinct funk and rock flavor to it, same applies to Goo. Both guitarists are in the same musical sphere, which is expected, as they have been at it since the earliest days of the very first group. Sometimes they are joined by a trombone player live and d drummer on some occasions. Musically, they are very faithful to the roots of hip hop, and add modern touches to it. It’s not just some techno music with random rhymes rapped over it. It is in every sense alternative.

On their pre-album, they showed their abstract side, experimenting with noise and effects, as well as a jazzier side to them, employing saxophone and clarinet.

Edd has a deep voice and a very unique style of rhyming. In recordings, he sounds very laid back and gives off that air of “wisdom”, as if he’s giving a very civilized lecture, telling his own personal side of the story with a series of alliterations, puns, and metaphors. He is not desperately trying to convince you that every single word he utters is 100% undeniable truth. No, he is merely content with just getting his opinion across. However, he takes on a more assertive tone during live shows, not yelling at the top of his lungs, more like adding some extra power to his words. I think this variation in tone is appropriate because in live shows you need to keep the audience on their feet and clutch their attention. 

Chyno raps in both Arabic and English. He has a softer voice than Edd. He raps in a more traditional energetic manner, in contrast to Edd. His rhymes though are quite similar to Edd’s, very witty and elaborative, which is why them working together is very logical and produces a smooth flow of quality. 

-Links: 

-Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/futrush 

-Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/reqs.php#/group.php?gid=56715256086&ref=ts

-Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/FareeQ-el-Atrash/313398918139?ref=mf#wall

-Videos: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx5Bi8-4tOU 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN302kDX6E0 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qqs3vkLBHjM 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4XRMuYy0Eo 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AufAREchU5I

Show Review: Fareeq el Atrash – Live @ Zico House (September 5, 2009)

I have not covered these guys yet, but it’s on the way. In the meantime, this should be a taste of what to expect from them.

-Before the Show: I had found out about this show on the night of the second Crate Session when Youmna Saba was performing. This performance was a fundraiser for the theater group “Zoukak”. Tickets were 20$, which is a bit of a steep price for just one group, but it’s a fundraiser after all, so the money wouldn’t be going to waste, and I got a free drink too.

I had been there the day after the Crate Session at Walimat to find the location and what I learned is that the place is an old three story house, and the guy who lives there, who goes by the name Zico, opened it to the public as a cafe, place for self-expression, or just a “hangout”. There are tables, there’s a bar, there’s a stage for musical performances, on the walls there are posters for old Arabic films, and upstairs is an exhibition room that is used by photographers or artists to display their work when they have an exhibition hosted by Zico House. Just a place to hang out and occupy yourself with whatever it is you went there for (drinking, music, art, etc…).

So I arrive early, as usual, and find the guys doing sound check. I had talked to three of them on Facebook before but this was my first time meeting them in person. I greeted those three, who were Edouard “Edd” Abbas, John Nasr, and Fayez “FZ” Zouheiry, and met the two members I had not had contact with before that, Nasser “Chyno” Al Shorbaji and their drummer Ali, whose last name I cannot recall unfortunately. I got to chat with John, Edd, and FZ for a while more throughout the night before they had to go on.

The crowd was mostly associated with Zoukak in one way or another, but there were some who came for Fareeq el Atrash, including me. I had started noticing that in these underground shows (this one and the past ones I have been to) the audience consists mostly of people who have no prior knowledge of the artist but are present for one reason or another, people who are close friends of the artist, and people who know about the artist, but have not been close friends for years and years, just “fans”, not showing up because they’re buddies with the artist and attending their show is a friendly gesture, but just going for the music. We need more fans. Then we’ll know that people are actually listening to the music and becoming, well, “fans” of it. But being a close friend of the artist doesn’t mean that immediately your fandom is rendered obsolete. I in fact encourage everyone to be friends with the musicians you are fans of. Talk to them, shake hands, crack a joke, they’re all regular people, only way cooler.

-The Show: After some waiting, it was time for the long anticipated performance, my first hip hop show (RGB was the first rapper I’d seen, but that was not entirely a hip hop show per se). They started with an introduction song. FZ kicked it off with some of his masterful beatboxing. The beatboxing is interrupted by soccer game commentary, produced by FZ himself! He commentates on an imaginary soccer match that the “Fareeq” are playing in. At that moment I learned that this was a group with a sense of humor. The African player Abbas takes the ball. Some vocal scratching cues Edd’s rap, which is backed by beatboxing from FZ. Then, the commentary fades back in. Edd passes the ball to the East-Asian player who plays better than he looks, Chyno! Vocal scratching announces Chyno’s rap, later being joined by Edd. It was during that skit that I first heard the phrase that would help me shape an opinion on what this group’s name actually means, other than it being a pun on the famous Arabic musician Farid El Atrash. That phrase was “Fareeq el Utrush, min d’dajje ntawash”. Chyno commits an error, the referee tries to stop him, but he keeps running and he scores! The rest of the players come running, and so does the bass! Now that we’re out of that imaginary game, concerning the actual performance I say: Goal!

They continue with their set which consists of the songs “Demoqrati” and “Terikhna Bi Libnen” which are to be featured on their upcoming album, as well as brand new songs not on their myspcae page. One song I refer to as “Byin7aka”, another is “Min Awwal Ma Shifta”, a love song! Finally! Lebanese rappers have been saying for years that in this state they’re living in there’s no time to write love songs, but spreading love with Arabic rap is just as important as spreading a political message, because one of the solutions to our predicament is to simply love one another, and this song is not all “7abibi b7ebbak”, it’s sophisticated poetry. Kudos! Also included was a song about the 2009 Lebanese elections, which again showcases the groups edgy sense of humor that stands somewhere between innocent mockery and hard-hitting social commentary when FZ would comically say “W’Ssama zar2a”, the Tayyar L’Mostaqbal (Movement of the Future) slogan. Another song briefly sampled the tune from Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, so you can really get a good idea of how deep their hip hop knowledge goes, even paying homage to the old-schoolers. For all those songs, John did the bass and the drums were produced by Ali along with FZ doing beatboxed drums and vocal effects.

Their set was officially over, but the crowd wanted more. So FZ did another of his vocal skits, this time taking us to the movies! He declared in a deep voice: “In a world, where the Lebanese music industry is dominated by artists like Haifa-“, interrupting himself to let out a Haifa-esque “Wawa!”, “one group, Fareeq el Atrash, here to save the day” (something along those lines). Epic beatboxing followed. Then Chyno took over the mic being accompanied by a guest, Khaled Yassine, playing a strange box-like percussion instrument for Chyno to rap to, along with FZ doing drums and vocal effects. Finally, a guest rapper whose name I am not quite familiar with, joined Edd doing what they said was an old rap song they have done together before.

-After the Show: With that, the performance ended, I congratulated the guys on a job well done, and asked for one last thing; A photo. Lucky for us, Christophe Katrib A.K.A Cristobal was there to lend us his photographic expertise, as he is a photographer. In the spur of the moment John suggested I cover my ears, being “deafened” by Fareeq el Atrash (Team of the Deaf, you can say). After some trouble with the camera (memory, battery, you name it) we finally got the shot. Today, I use an edited version of that photo as a profile picture in several places.

Also present was Ziad Nawfal who had a DJ set right after the guys. I said hello, and went off to get that free drink I was promised; Just a Pepsi, no alcohol for me.

That was it, my first hip hop show, and it was one of the best yet. I noticed that Edd raps more agressively live than on the recorded tracks on their myspace. If the sound was more agressive I’d have compared them to Rage Against The Machine. I planned on heading back there two days later for Zeid Hamdan and his mysterious project that seemed to have come out of nowhere, “Three Little Pigs”.

-Photos:

*Personal:

 -The photo I took with them: http://photos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs236.snc1/8333_271420210214_842365214_8814356_3960827_n.jpg

http://photos-d.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs236.snc1/8333_271414100214_842365214_8814259_5632676_n.jpg

http://photos-e.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs216.snc1/8333_271414110214_842365214_8814260_2979713_n.jpg

http://photos-c.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs216.snc1/8333_271414115214_842365214_8814261_2683219_n.jpg

http://photos-a.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs216.snc1/8333_271414120214_842365214_8814262_5611273_n.jpg

http://photos-g.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs216.snc1/8333_271414135214_842365214_8814263_6584081_n.jpg

http://photos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs236.snc1/8333_271420180214_842365214_8814354_5136995_n.jpg

http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs236.snc1/8333_271420190214_842365214_8814355_6843784_n.jpg

-Videos:

*Personal:

-Introduction Song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RN302kDX6E0

-Demoqrati: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qqs3vkLBHjM

-Terikhna Bi Libnen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4XRMuYy0Eo

-Chyno’s Encore: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AufAREchU5I

I will not inform you on Fareeq el Atrash right now (muahahaha!), because you’ll know all what you need to know when I analyze them. Be patient. For information on Zico House and its events go here:  http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=22820230933&ref=ts 

 And just if you’re curious, here is Zoukak’s website: http://www.zoukak.org/