And the Winner is…

First of all, I realize I should have posted a link to the voting-event when voting was underway, so… sorry.

Anyway, out of the three entries selected, the one that got the most votes was Edd Abbas’ remix.

Now let me tell you, I was expecting some wild things to come out of this contest. I was expecting bands to make their own live tunes and DJs to reinvent beats. So when the results were announced as being “hip hop”, “rock”, and “fusion”, I was psyched. Then I heard the entries, and realized that having a non-hip hop winner would not work out this time, since the other two entries were not that good, the entries by Ben Jewels and Steve Last (who would get my vote for second if I were allowed to vote more than once). Edd is already well known for his work with the band Fareeq el Atrash, so I thought someone who hasn’t gotten much publicity could benefit more. But if you just think “he’s already known” without specifying what he’s known for, you wouldn’t ever realize that he’s in fact known more for his lyrical abilities than his production skills (to the mass public at least).

In the end, a talented producer was unveiled and got what he deserved. Check the remix out and expect it on Rayess Bek’s next album.

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Lebanese Hip Hop Heroes Unite!

If you like Lebanese hip hop even just a teensy bit, be sure to come down to Zico House on the 17th of April. As the event page reads:

“as some of you might already know YASEEN (from the Palestinian hip hop act: I-Voice) has been accepted at the London University in Ontario (Canada) to do his graduate studies in sound engineering and managed to obtain his visa. Only funds for a start-up are lacking!

Knowing Yaseen and how hardworking he is, we — as an improvised collective of friends and fellow artists — decided to make a concert to collect the missing funds.

Our declared objective is to raise 7,000$. We hope this event and the one that will follow in the first week of May will allow us to reach this figure.”

A worthy cause no? So who’s playing then?:

Fareeq el Atrash (Arabic hip-hop-funk-rock band), I-Voice (Palestinian-Lebanese Arabic rap), Malikah (FEMALE Arabic rap), OkyDoky (Electronic music), Double A the Preacherman (English rap), Ram6 (Arabic rap), Rayess Bek (GODFATHER OF Arabic rap),  and Zeid Hamdan & RGB (Trip-hop-electronic-reaggae/dub & Arabic rap)!

But if you don’t want to support local music, I suppose I understand… *guilt guilt guilt >:(*

Come! Pay! Come (alternate meaning)!

Event page: http://www.facebook.com/omaralfil?v=feed&story_fbid=10150168688360215#!/event.php?eid=102662206442747&ref=ts

Show Review: Your Mama Wants You Back @ Zico House (March 20, 2010)

I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to review this one. I felt so passive about it… But still, there were some new experiences:

 -Before the Show: The main reason I was going was for saxophonist, Stephane Rives and DJ, Ernesto’s performance for saxophone and turntables. The theme of the night was “funk”.

 I arrived and paid the reasonable fee of 10,000 L.L. Outside I had a chance encounter with the improvisor Raed Yassine, which was neat because I learned where the releases of his improvised music record label “Annihaya” are available (Music Now, Makdessi Street, Hamra, just ask and Youssef will hook ya up 😉 ).

 I entered and found Chyno and John of Fareeq el Atrash chillin. The place was almost empty, just a couple of people there. I found out that they would be playing in a project I was not that much interested in called The Mudbone which would supposedly fuse hip hop with drum n bass. Thus, I decided to stay longer in order to check that out.

 -The Show: So when I heard “saxophone and turntables”, I was expecting, “jazz and turntablism”, ya know? Well, boy was I in for a surprise.

 Stephane Rives was seated at a table with a laptop and a saxophone in his lap, while Ernesto behind two or three turntables.

 What followed was basically 30 or so minutes of Stephane blowing into his sax playing a single high pitch note, occasionally fiddling with his laptop creating clicks and hisses, while Ernesto played some vinyls of animal sounds, African chanting, and classical music, slowing them down and speeding them up manually. Accompanying this was THE BEST VJ’ING I HAVE EVER SEEN, done by Nadim Saoma (excellent job). This sort of completed my “Improv-Trilogy”. I had seen the three main kinds of improvised music: Acoustic (Sharif Sehnaoui), Electric (Scrambled Eggs), and Electronic/ Artificial (anything made by synths, computer programs, and turntables, though turntables are more physical than the other two)

 Following that, one hour DJ set by DJ Heavy G. Funky funky shit…

 After that, The Mudbone went on. John Imad Nasr was on bass as usual, Marcel Chalhoub on electronic drums, and Jeremy Chapman on saxophone.  Also, Chyno added freestyle rap verses every now and then. Marcel played some Latin percussion with a constant pounding bass drum accompanying. John joined in on bass, and Jeremy jammed along. It was all very on-the-spot sort of. Chyno would pick a phrase and repeat it over and over again. It was all too close to mainstream house music for me honestly. And then there’s the saxophone; oh the saxophone. Let me go on the record now for what I will say: The saxophone is an extremely controversial instrument to me. With it, the line between awesome and cheesy is EASILY crossed, one wrong note, and bam! Corniness… I left after three “jams”, though I heard that after that it got more hip hoppy, with Edd Abbas taking charge of the mic.

-After the Show: I went back home and gave my mama a hug…

-Photos:

*Personal: http://www.facebook.com/omaralfil?v=photos&ref=profile#!/album.php?aid=411747&id=842365214

Show Review: “Untitled Tracks” Book Launch

FI-NAL-LY! I’m back in the saddle! What can I say? Things had slowed down for everyone at the beginning of this year. Sure there has been activity on and off, and of course the still-getting-warmed-up Greedy Ears Sessions, but I’ve been busy with my own affairs and whenever I’m not, it happens that the event is going down too late into the night, for my schedule at least. But as luck would have it, along comes this perfect package of an event! The launching of local photographer Tanya Traboulsi’s photo-book “Untitled Tracks” with live music by some of the artists featured in the book itself, who would be Fareeq el Atrash, Youmna Saba, Scrambled Eggs, The Incompetents and a warm-up DJ set by DJ Lethal Skillz. The book features Traboulsi’s own photos of local musicians, along with text by several contributors among which is Ziad Nawfal, so you know this’ll be worth it. Why was it so convenient though? You don’t really need to know this at all, but I do like to add an autobiographical touch to these posts, so sue me. The starting time was 7:00 PM (though the live music portion didn’t come in until later), and the conclusion was set for 10:00 PM. Just to put things into perspective, the performances at The Greedy Ears Sessions START at 10:30 PM… Also, it was a book release, not a party per-se (fi sa2afe’ bil ossa).

 -Before the Show: The location was Gruen Eatery in the Gefinor center. Initially, there was some confusion concerning the exact location, but eventually I managed to locate it.

 One of the other allures of this particular shindig was that it was a “family reunion” of sorts. I attribute this aspect to Tanya. If she were to only photograph rappers, you’d find the place packed with MCs and b-boys, but no, with her photos she slices off a thick chunky piece of this cake we call Beirut’s alternative music scene, including many of the different layers that constitute it, icing, sprinkles, chocolate syrup… yes, the scene is certainly quite delectable, and that night everyone, both seasoned undergrounders and curious newbies, was about to get a taste of it. In non-culinary terms, Tanya’s photography spans a wide area of the scene from rock to electronic and it’s rare for the players of each specific genre to come together like this, but then again, it’s not everyday that a book on the music scene is released, let alone a photo-book.

 I kicked off the night by greeting familiar faces here and there. Some of these people I hadn’t seen in months… I eventually made my way to the back of the room where the photographer herself was seated at a table busily signing copies of the book to eager purchasers. Ziad Nawfal, seated besides her, suggested I browse the book first before I buy, so I did and I was quite pleased with it for a first glance. I coughed up the price of $30, which was fair taking into account that it’s a photo-book, not an issue of Samandal… (which costs around 5,000 L.L).

 The mainstream media made its presence evident. Here and there cameramen were snapping away, shooting footage.

 The next hour or so was spent mingling, greeting, and mingling… I got to meet DJ Lethal Skillz for the first time. He’s the only locally operating turntablist I know of. There’s a difference between a DJ and a turntablist; A DJ plays music on the turntables. A turntablist makes music with the turntables. I’ll try elaborating on this obsession someday, but for now: it is, when a sound’s pitch is in rapid arbitrary fluctuation, being silenced at irregular intervals; it is, beauty.

 -The Show: Skillz packed up and Fareeq el Atrash were the ones who’d get the ball rolling. The performance area was almost perfect. Just an open space, no pillars or anything like the last show I had been to (Last Crate Session at Walimat Warde’) Fun fact: Fareeq el Atrash are the band I have seen live the most times up till this day, so I’ve come to get accustomed to their shows. As “Atrash Tradition” decrees, they must start off every gig with a bit I’ve dubbed “Introduction Song” (this one). It’s a nice little opener that features FZ doing his solo beatboxing and comical commentary skits that range from a soccer match to a formula 1 race, not to mention Edd explaining the circumstances under which they are here tonight (they change the location mentioned in the song and who invited them to play accordingly). The people were digging it. Following that was a song I believe I’ve heard before but am not exactly sure of its title. You see, l’Fareeq have yet to release any sort of track list, and the tracks on their pre-album (available for download right here) are rarely played, so we’re all really in the dark concerning their set lists at this point, but hopefully that will be cleared up when they release their album (for real) this summer. The crowd was into it and responded well to Edd and Chyno’s cues to repeat after him and clap to the tempo. The next song was one I actually did recognize and knew the name of. It was “L’Njoum 3am Te2rab” and it was played very well as usual. I’ve seen all of these played before, so there wasn’t much that was new to me to take notice of, however, they did extend the “Rapper’s Delight” part of that song and I had never heard that before (the song features a breakdown sampling the bassline from “Rapper’s Delight” by rap crew The Sugarhill Gang, a nod to the old-school hip hop that has a great influence in the band’s sound). Legend has it/ FZ told me, that they once extended that breakdown for about 15 minutes when they were playing at The Basement (either their own gig that went down last November or opening for Termanology), and at that show there was their trombonist and other musicians who joined in. For me, it was another great Fareeq el Atrash performance, for people who had never seen them before, it was hopefully their gateway into the funky world of l’Fareeq…

 Some music was put on while the next act got ready. I was getting thirsty. There was literally nothing but beer…

 Youmna Saba was getting started, playing acoustic guitar, accompanied by Fadi Tabbal on electric guitar. Unfortunately, I was at the far end of the room. As I made my way back to the performance area I managed to pick up on Youmna’s Arabic lyrics, layered over a moody blues tune. Then as soon as it began, it was over. Supposedly they were two pieces, but I only managed to catch three-fourths of a song… oh well.

 More transitional music followed… Still thirsty.

 Following Youmna were Scrambled Eggs. I was surprised by the lack of drum kit. That along with the setup that was slowly taking form before me led me to the conclusion that they will be playing some free improvised music, probably in order to get people psyched about the performance they will be giving as part of the “Prelude to Irtijal” this coming Tuesday at Masrah el Madina with fellow improv all-stars Mazen Kerbaj, Sharif Sehnaoui, and Raed Yassin. Malek Rizkakallah sat before a hi-hat with a snare drum on the floor. Tony Elieh laid his electric bass on a seat in front of him, its strings slackened, two metal plates/ bowls placed under them on different parts of the neck, a stick in each hand. Charbel Haber held his guitar in the traditional fashion, on a seat within reach he had a screwdriver, steel wool, and somekind of screwdriver-like tool with ridges along it, like a screw, and of course his plethora of pedals, blinking and flashing around his feet. Haber rapidly strummed his guitar, making one extended high pitched “birrrrr”. That was the first sound. I can’t recall the exact order of each bit played, but Haber went on to play his guitar with that screwdriver-like utensil mentioned earlier producing a spine scraping squealing sound reminiscent of some wounded animal. Elieh tapped the strings, then the plates, then alternating between the two creating a percussive rythm. I was very amazed by his ability to hold a tempo for that long, that gave the sound a mechanical feel. Later on he would pick up the bass, removing the bowls, and play it by swiftly slapping it. Rizkallah tapped on his hi-hat, he banged on his snare with big fuzzy drumsticks, and he slid the top half of his hi-hat up and down the steel rod between it to make a creaking scrapoing sound. And gradually it all came to a halt. It was the second time I ever saw improvised music live, and personally I prefer seeing it live over listening to it prerecorded. I’d like to further discuss this issue in the future.

 Music was played while the final act set up… Should I stop nagging about the thirst and how secluded the location was from any supermarket, mini-market, or dekkaneh? I met Mazen Kerbaj for the first time during this break. He means a lot to me both musically and visually.

 Wrapping up the night were The Incompetents! Some people had seen enough and left with their books (including the camera crews), so the place became less dense. They were with their current “full” lineup, which now consists of Serge Yared, Fadi Tabbal, and Abed Kobeissy. To start off the set they played “Bullets Gently Flying Over My Head” with Abed Kobeissy on melodica, Fadi Tabbal on acoustic guitar and harmonica, and Serge Yared on vocals. Following that was “Disposable Valentine”, infamously quite on the album, but energetic in live performances. Yared was on cowbell and vocals, Tabbal still on acoustic guitar and harmonica, and Kobeissy on electric guitar (slide guitar even!) After that came one of their more recent songs, a song which I refer to as “Footnotes”. Kobeissy borrowed Fareeq el Atrash bassist John Imad Nasr’s headstock-less bass guitar and set it to an effect making it sound like more of a retro synth, very quirky. Concluding the set was a cover of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” with Kobeissy now playing buzuk. Fun fact: The first time I heard this song was on the way to the venue in the cab that night. I kid you not. Overall, every single song I’d heard prior had something new added to it, which was good of course.

 -After the Show: The book had been more than a year in the making and it couldn’t have been released a moment too soon and under such convenient circumstances too. Also noteworthy is how it was one of the few events I have been to that actually ended on the agreed-upon time. I’ll be posting some brief thoughts on the book soon.

-Photos:

*Personal: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=402002&id=842365214&saved

 

Check out Tanya’s work here: http://www.tanyatraboulsi.com/

See Scrambled Eggs make this kind of noise again (with some extra friends too) here: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/event.php?eid=332661693033&ref=ts

Fareeq el Atrash: Representin’!

Fareeq el Atrash are representing us, as in the Lebanese people, in the international music contest Fair Play – Anti-Corruption Youth Voices, which is organized in partnership between Jeunesses Musicales International and the World Bank Institute.

Now, without further ado, Fareeq el Atrash’s entry, “Corruption”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B2x6D2hvm4

This was recorded in late December 2009 at the Forward Music studio, who l’Fareeq were signed to a while back (Forward music is a Lebanese label that mostly specializes in world music). Through the miracle of deductive reasoning one can arrive to the conclusion that this isn’t 100% live. Some parts were overdubbed, the parts you can’t see being performed in the video, like FZ’s beatboxing (which was recorded after he came back from abroad) and Goo’s guitar playing (because, he takes over the keyboard here). The drummer is Fouad Afra, who also plays in Ghazi Abdel Baki’s band. The whole track is very dope. The actual drumming is a nice change from their usual programmed/ beatboxed drums. The keyboard is also a fresh change. You know, I’ve come to see that I can’t keep saying “The Lebanese Arabic rap crew Fareeq el Atrash” because they are in fact bilingual, not just in a couple of songs, but in the majority of them, Edd covers the Arabic, Chyno the English. It’s a treat for those who understand both, and it makes them appeal to non-Arabic speakers as well, who are the ones they’re trying to win over with this thing here, ilakh ilakh, you have no excuse whatsoever for hating them…

The competition opens February 1st, and the more views their video has, the greater their chances of winning are, so if you watched it once, do a good deed today, watch it a second time, then a third, then a fourth, then a fifth, then a sixth… It deserves that many views by its own merit.

Here is the official Jeunesses Musicales International website: http://www.jmi.net/index.php?ID=0

And while I’m on the subject of this band, be sure to catch them this Tuesday at the inauguration of the the Greedy Ears Sessions, Serge Yared’s latest live-music endeavor after the success of his legendary Crate Sessions of 2009, at Walimat Warde’s brand new location (the corner of the street it used to be on).

Link to the event: http://www.facebook.com/inbox/?ref=mb#/event.php?eid=280985937233&ref=ts