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

Show Review: The Last Crate Session @ Walimat Wardeh (December 29, 2009)

Visual by Youmna Saba

It all started on August the 25th with Zeid Hamdan, bringing with him his latest collaborative partner, vocalist Hiba el Mansouri, and Arabic rapper RGB. It was the first concept of its kind in Beirut. It went on for about 4 months. It had a variety of artists spanning numerous genres from rock to classical to hip hop to free-improvisation. It had one single 12 watt amplifier that everyone, no exceptions, used for their performance, no matter what instrument, from guitar to laptop to microphone capturing the sound of a trumpet being blown into with a hookah hose, no matter what genre. Yes, it must be: The Crate Sessions.

 The Crate Sessions is the brainchild of Serge Yared, Incompetents frontman and DJ at the restaurant Walimat Wardeh. It is basically a more productive (not to mention culturally enriching and entertaining) way of passing the time until the restaurant is scheduled to be demolished and move to a new location. Quite simply, there is this amp, the Crate, a CA15. It has certain specifications (12 watts power, 2 inputs, etc…). So the catch is: Each week, a local artist will be invited to play a set, but he/she can only use the amp at hand, which as you may have deduced has its limitations (two inputs allow for a limited number of individuals for example). They can bring their own instruments though. I attended the first three, then came a long absence due to school (some I was really tearing myself up to see mind you), but I managed to make a comeback for the second-to-last one and of course, this one, the very last one.

 They had really gone all-out for this one. First of all, the lineup looked very promising. They had familiar faces making comebacks (Zeid Hamdan, Youmna Saba, The Incompetents, etc…), as well as newcomers to the Crate Sessions (Abdallah el Mashnouk & Rayya Badran, Fareeq el Atrash, White Trees, etc…). But wait, there’s a catch tonight too. No, they weren’t forced to abide by the usual rules of the Crate. It would be electric, though acoustic was still an option. The catch is: they have to play covers. Fadi Tabbal had brought instruments from his studio, Tunefork, and set up the sound system and everything. In conclusion, it would be a three to four hour non-stop ear-orgy… Well actually, there’s supposed to be a break, so it’s not exactly non-stop… wait no, there would be DJ’ing by The Playmobiles (Basile Ghosn and Margot Hivernel). Shit, guess it was non-stop then… Oh and, all proceeds would go to “Oumnia”, an association that aims to provide children suffering from serious illnesses with psychological and medical care.

 -Before the Show: They said they would start at 7:30 sharp; They SO did not start 7:30 sharp. I paid the ticket price of 20,000 L.L which was quite reasonable, since you’d get to see more than 10 artists perform in one night, plus it’s for charity.

 Most of the artists from the first half were there already. I was glad to find Zeid Hamdan there, who had been abroad in Europe for a long time now, as well as the Fareeq el Atrash crew (sans FZ) who were one of the acts I was really looking forward to seeing, and of course Serge Yared, the man behind it all.

 I noticed something I wasn’t happy with. On Halloween, the restaurant played host to a big costume party, and one of the things that I didn’t like was the “performance-area”. It was this room where tables and chairs would usually be found, but those were cleared out and replaced with a drum set, amplifiers, and other musical equipment. But the thing is, the room is open and everything, but only through a door and a huge gaping window thing. This: http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs197.snc3/20435_371095310004_614085004_10181244_2442568_n.jpg. The point is, as I’ve personally experienced it on October 31st, you can either see what’s going on from the doorway, or the big opening. The pillar in the middle obstructs the perfect viewpoint, the literal middle, where you could switch from left to right by rotating your head. But I see they had nothing else they could do, since it’s the only sectioned off room in the place. If they did it where the previous performances took place, you’d have the crowd blocking entry to diners to that particular room that they used. But you have to keep in mind that the place wasn’t built with live music in mind, however, the new location will be. I came up with a practical solution later on, but it depended on that beam not serving any particular purpose apart from an aesthetic one. Since the place is going to be torn down in a couple of days, why not just start early… with that pillar as the first casualty. But if it wasn’t just a decorative pillar, let’s just say there would have been more than one casualty…

 There was a fairly large crowd. Not THAT large, but it was good nonetheless. Ziad Nawfal would be the announcer for this night. He introduced the head of Oumnia who gave a speech before the performances began. She basically talked about the organization and its goals. She finished off by thanking Walimat Wardeh, Ziad Nawfal, Serge Yared, and all the musicians involved.

 Now onwards to the performances…

 -The Show: Sima Itayim was to start. She had been featured before as part of the Crate Sessions and is now making her comeback. She covered “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” from the Disney movie “The Aristocats” as covered by the band Psapp (This would be the first appearance of a song from a Disney movie). Good that it wasn’t just the same old songs we’re used to hear covered. It was just her on acoustic guitar. The piece was quite jazzy and she performed it quite well though if I remember right it was here where the cracks in the sound setup began to appear. The noisy diners and crowd members didn’t help either. I was briefly one of them… (My apologies, Mr. Nawfal).

 Between each act, a couple of minutes of DJing while the artists got ready.

 Following her was Elyas, who first made his debut on the 96.2 FM “Modern Music Contest” CD and appeared as part of the Crate Sessions as well. He sings in French, and I’m not biased against the French language or anything, but it rarely does it for me. He was on acoustic guitar and was joined by Phillipe (I think) from Intensive Care on keyboard. They covered a French song (which didn’t surprise me) and there were some technical difficulties that didn’t help it appeal to me. Then he covered another French song on his own. I don’t know how much I have to keep saying that I’m not prejudiced against French, but I really don’t find pleasure in listening to it, because I have a mediocre grasp on it, yes, I openly admit it; Sue me, but do it in English please. In some cases, no matter what language the song is in, the music would make up for the unfamiliarity of the tongue. For example, I can’t tolerate Rayess Bek for a while when he raps in French. Now back to Elyas, his style isn’t really my cup of tea. It’s too… soft? I dunno.

 After that was a new act, the duo of Eva Madsen, which consisted of Basile Ghosn and Tad Catranis, joined by Vladimir Kurumilian and Serge Yared. Eva Madsen covered a song by the Violent Femmes. Basile was on vocals and Tad on acoustic guitar and backing vocals. They were quite confident, and though Basile didn’t have that spectacular a voice, it was good enough. Afterwards, they were joined by Vladimir and Serge, with Vladimir on keyboard and Serge providing vocals. I don’t know what they covered honestly, but I was glad to hear Serge take the mic for a while. He has the voice for it.

 Ramzi Hibri cancelled…

 I had heard cristobal’s music before and met him many times but never actually saw the man perform. Now I would get my chance. The people had gotten quite noisy again. Chyno of Fareeq el Atrash did his part by unleashing some epic “shush”s on the crowd, leading a “shush” revolution that was to an extent quite effective. Cristobal, not one to ignore such favors, showed his gratitude with a “shhhhukran”. He had some special guests too. He was on acoustic guitar and vocals, Sima made a comeback on backing vocals, Fareeq’s own Goo and Edd, Goo on guitar, and Edd making his musical debut playing keyboard (“playin’ da keys!”  *grins*).  John Imad Nasr joined in too on bass for this one if I remember right. They performed a cover I am not familiar with. The more obscure the better I say. Following that was another cover, this one without Sima. It was a slower more soulful acoustic rendition of Fareeq el Atrash’s “Shou Kamish?. Is it still a cover if the original artist partakes in it? Eh who cares, this is one fine collaboration right here, cheating or not.

 Following that, the new-to-me (and to others as well I believe), Abdallah el Machnouk and Rayya Badran. I had no prior expectations and was surprised with Abdallah’s instrument of choice: The underrated, underestimated, undersized… ukulele! They covered a song, with Abdallah on ukulele as previously mentioned, and Rayya providing vocals. She was quite good. I didn’t mention this for the previous artists, but it still applies to them: I’m not a big fan of covers, because I see no original input in them. However, when you cover something with an instrument that it was not originally meant for, or with any kind of twist or alteration, that is where the creativity is showcased. There were definitely some twists present in what had been presented. For their second cover, they covered The Incompetents’ own “Bullets Gently Flying Over My Head”. Yared was quite pleased. They did pull it off very well. Bravo on your peculiar instrumentation, vocal delivery, and song choice you two.

 The space-visibility problem was still a factor by the way, and the sound wasn’t holding up too well.

 Next up were one of the acts I was particularly looking forward to seeing, Fareeq el Atrash. They have not appeared before for a Crate Session, so this was their Walimat debut. The lineup this night consisted of Edd and Chyno MC’ing, John Imad Nasr on bass and Goo on guitar. Their beatboxer, FZ, was abroad, so they recruited a drummer, right there on the spot. It just happened that Nadim M of Intensive Care was there for them to lay down some beats on the drums. I’ve learned this long ago, but it was demonstrated once again this night. Rappers are demanding. They thrive off crowd interaction. You don’t a rapper rapping at a café, you see a jazz band or something, because jazz you can just get lost in, but rap is different, rap requires intellectual commitment, an open mind, concentration, attention, etc… So Edd had to get the crowd fired up. He wanted them to cheer. Some cheered. He wanted them to cheer again. Some more cheered, the rest were chatting, eating, or doing nothing at all. Yalla, good enough. They started with “Beat It” I think (the first Micheal Jackson tribute of the night), but it was that song musically, but lyrically, Chyno took it in a completely different direction, substituting his own English raps in the place of the original lyrics. The bass riff was the same, and the impromptu drumming was effective. Following that was a more obscure reworked classic: “Brothers on the Slide” by Cymande. The bass riff was the same also kept intact and the drums were improvised, while the lyrics were altered, but I was familiar with them still. Before they started, Edd asked the crowd to shout “Walimat!” when he asks “Wen ittijehak?” (Where you going?). The lyrics in question were the lyrics of Fareeq’s own song “Lawen”. How do you cover in hip hop? You sample! They sampled… live. They’re as clever as their lyrics… There was an on/off response to that “Wen ittijehak?” thing. Sometimes people went along with it, other times, nada, zip, zilch. They concluded with their song “Bti2wa Ma3 L’Zikra”, which already samples Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”. Technical difficulties did not hesitate to announce their presence. Edd and Chyno had to swap mics every now and then.

 After them was Zeid Hamdan, who was joined by RGB, but not Hiba (who just got a big record deal from MTV (the local channel, not “Music Television”. If you’re gonna rip off another TV channel, at least steal the name of a less recognizable one…) He had a drum machine with him, and he programmed a drumbeat on-the-spot, grabbed the bass, and proceeded to cover a song by Portishead. I would like to announce that after that night, I became a big fan of Portishead, mostly because I love trip hop, and I hadn’t heard any in a while, so they kind of rekindled that flame, so yeah. The mic was capturing the sound all distorted which was kind of cool actually. Following that, Zeid altered the drumbeat on the drum machine and performed the second Micheal Jackson cover of the night: Billy Jean. Not a big MJ fan myself, but I was happy to see people still paying tribute to him, despite being dead for quite a long time now, his impact can still be felt. Same goes for the other artists, who I assume cover songs by artists that mean a lot to them or have greatly influenced them as musicians. Then, rapper RGB joined him. They performed RGB’s song “Awwast L’Sherif”. Well… it’s not exactly a cover, as Zeid always plays it with RGB, and I don’t think RGB performs it without Zeid, but it does reference Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff”, and translates it to Arabic. Does that count? Either way, nobody really cared whether or not they would be hearing covers that night or original music. Then another song with RGB: “Ma3na L’Rap”. You know, these are the only two songs they do together, and as I mentioned earlier, Zeid was abroad, so you can’t really expect something different on such short notice. The crowd was very dense now…

 A 20 minute break followed. I stayed a while then stepped out for 5 minutes.

 I came back, and succeeded in losing my spot. I was pretty tired too.

 Part 2 of the night started, with me occupying a slightly worse spot. But is there really a perfect spot? Not with this set-up.

 Youmna Saba covered two Arabic songs. Covering is nothing new to her, as she covered a Sabah song in her own Crate Session. She played acoustic guitar and derbakkeh and was joined by violinist Layale Chaker, who has appeared during a past Crate Session, and her frequent collaborator Fadi Tabbal. The variety in instruments was nice.

 Following her, Mazen and Maher Mardini, formerly of the band Roswell I believe. They covered a song by Porcupine Tree, Archive, and David Gilmour. I believe one was on acoustic guitar and the other on keyboard.

 Afterwards came Nadim M and Phillipe M from the band Intensive Care who operate in Canada. Phillipe was on keyboard, and Nadim, who played drums for Fareeq el Utrush earlier, was on electric guitar. They first covered a song I was not familiar with, but after that, another Disney movie song. That song was “Under The Sea” from “The Little Mermaid”. The people ate it up, and they were very energetic, Nadim was at least, as I couldn’t quite see Phillipe that well, you know, the whole location issue mentioned in the beginning.

 Now it was The Incompetents’ turn. Tonight they consisted of the main duo, Serge Yared and Fadi Tabbal. Serge was handling the vocals and Fadi was playing acoustic guitar and harmonica at one point. They covered a song by the name of “After Hours”, but I am not familiar with its original performer. Following that, their recorded covers, Daniel Johnston’s “Bloody Rainbow” and Tom Waits’ “God’s Away On Business”. Both were presented very well, but I must address this now: Tom Waits’ original version sucks. The rescued that song, trust me on this one. As usual, very energetic. Though they only presented one completely original cover, out of the blue that is, I had never heard them play “Bloody Rainbow” live, and it was acoustic too, and though I had heard them play “God’s Away On Business” live prior to that, this time it was acoustic, so I guess it wasn’t all the same.

 They had performed earlier that Sunday at The Basement accompanying Scrambled Eggs and Canadian producer and musician Radwan Moumneh’s band, Jerusalem In My Heart. Radwan was there.

 Now this was the show-stealer. I know White Trees as the duo of PT and Carl Gerges, who play mellow acoustic melodies that comprise of acoustic guitar and minimalistic drums. They were supposed to play at the second-to-last Crate Session, but were not able to for one reason or another. Their soundcheck would obliterate almost all notions I had of them. Carl Gerges was drumming pretty energetically… P T was testing out his… trumpet… Ibrahim Badr was playing bass… They announced that they would be covering a Radiohead song. Carl drummed energetically indeed, PT played trumpet and delivered the lyrics, while Ibrahim added the bass. Magically, the sound was crystal clear. I don’t know where the song ended exactly, but at one point Ibrahim and Carl were left playing on their own while PT enthusiastically grabbed some drumsticks and lent Carl a helping hand by tapping along to the beat on a cymbal. He grabbed an electric guitar later on and played some very blues-rock-ish tunes. Ibrahim began fiddling with a touchpad-device (not a Mini KP) where he would scratch a vocal sample. They played that cover, but 3/4of what I just described was them randomly jamming. I COULD be all snarky now… but what the hell, it was utterly brilliant! After wrapping up, they distributed one of the two CDs they’ve released (you can find them at La CD-Theque). Unfortunately, they don’t know whether or not to record this sound of theirs. Guys, if you’re reading: DO. IT.

 Finally, concluding the evening, Scrambled Eggs. They played their Abba cover, “Lay All Your Love” from their CD “Dedicated to Foes Celebrating Friends”. Not really new… Then they admitted that they don’t know that many covers, so they just played “Russian Roulette” and had it segue into another song of theirs. They were good, but nothing was different from the last time I saw them. I mean, all the artists that I’ve seen at least once before had something fresh about their performances tonight. Could have been different guys…

 -After the Show: It was very late into the night, something I was not at all happy about. The lack of a solid schedule pisses me off, not just here, everywhere, every single time.

  It was indeed a crate, errr, great farewell to this beloved weekly tradition. They definitely delivered the quantity, and the quality was ok. Not spectacular, as some were just ok, others were great, and a few were awesome. My top three would be: 1- White Trees, 2- Fareeq el Atrash, and 3- I have no number three…

 Hopefully Walimat Wardeh’s new incarnation will play host to future live musical concepts and will be built with musical performances in mind.

 

For more information on the Crate Sessions: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=118734329783&ref=ts

Read Jackson Allers’ article on the Crate Sessions (featuring an interview with Yared): http://jacksonallers.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/bye-bye-crate-sessions-a-talk-with-serge-yared/

 

-Photos:

*Personal: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/album.php?aid=368356&id=842365214

 *by Tanya Traboulsi:

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Show Review: Kharbish Bilsanak (II) – Obros (December 23, 2009)

Alright, this is not really a “show review”, but actually more like a “yo, check this shit out!”

 I heard about this via Fareeq el Atrash and it sounded very interesting.

 Heard of pictionary? The game were a player is given a subject and must draw it (without writing or saying any words) and one or more players must guess what it is he/she is drawing.

 So here, artists were to draw subjects assigned to them, and selected individuals were to guess them.

 But this wasn’t a “Pictionary Party”, no no no. What happened here was that rappers, among which are the Fareeq MCs, Edd and Chyno, were to guess what was being drawn with… freestyle rap! They must toss away regular speech and make freestyling their sole method of communication.

 This was the creation of Karma Hamaday (bringing it here all the way from Australia). It was done once before in Zico House around July 2008 I think. This would be the second time this takes place.

 Again, this wasn’t exactly a show, but I’ll call it one regardless.

 -Before the Show: I showed up at the Obros restaurant/ bar 9:00-ish, and there wasn’t that big a crowd. The place is quite nice by the way, very modern. I paid the 10$ fee which was a wee bit steep (10,000 L.L would have been fine really), though I did get a free drink (though I like keeping myself alcohol-free, so it was just a Pepsi, and I could’ve gotten one of those anywhere else without paying the fee, but it’s my choice, so yeah…)

 The artists were sitting at the table killing time, making some incredible artwork. There was plenty of paper and markers, and the action going on at the table was being filmed by a camera, and which fed that fed into a projector, which projected the action onto a screen for all to see.

 John and Chyno of Fareeq el Atrash were there and so was their close associate DJ Stickfiggr.

 Some time passed and still not that big a turnout. Stickfiggr was getting us all fired up with some true hip hop (he played Aesop Rock. Nuff said.) Edd eventually showed up and I was happy to see Youmna Saba present too. After some chatter, jokes, and time killing, it was 10:00 and Karma decided that they had waited long enough.

 -The Show: Stickfiggr put on some instrumental beat for the rappers to rap to. It was very smooth flowing actually. Karma would give the artists their topic and they would make their sketches as quickly as they could. When they were finished, the sketches would be collected in the middle of the table for all to see clearly. The rappers would freestyle everything they had to say, even if it wasn’t an attempt at guessing the illustrated subject. They basically switched off their ability to speak without rhyme. When they were guessing, they rapped it, and when they were completely confused, they’d rap that too.

 And they couldn’t have picked funnier MCs. Chyno, who is quite the skilled freestyler, would slip in a wisecrack or two every now and then (“Everybody give it up for Stickgfiggr *crowd cheers*, no not him, the dude in the picture”). Same goes for Edd, though he doesn’t see himself as that a good a fresstyler, with his Arabic verbal craftsmanship. I didn’t believe it at first when I saw it, but John, bassist/ beatmaker John, he freestyled too. He was actually pretty good, though he said it’s been five years since he last did something like this. There were a couple other rappers too there, though I wasn’t familiar with them.

 I don’t remember every single topic that was drawn, but there was everything from “Santa Claus”, to “Grindizer”, to “Lisanoka 7isanoka”, to “Mdawwa raso”.

 Around 11:00, they took a short break and Stickfiggr played some more tunes for the crowd that actually got a bit bigger. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay till the very end, but what I saw was more than satisfactory. I was told that the previous edition of this event had a bigger turnout.

 Ramcess showed up right about then. He was earlier praised by Edd and John for his freestyle skills, so I would have liked to see him in action.

 I watched one hour of this stuff. In the first one it went on for like… 3 hours.

 -After the Show: I was actually planning on asking to be a sketcher, but watching was so much more entertaining.

 There will be a third one in the future, and I’m telling you this from now: Whether you’re an art lover, a rap lover, a comedy lover, or just a fun lover, you should definitely stop by when the third one’s going down. DO. IT… DAMMIT.

Album Review (+ DOWNLOAD): Fareeq el Atrash – “Fareeq el Atrash (Pre-album)”

DOWNLOAD: With permission from Fareeq el Atrash, here is “Fareeq el Atrash (Pre-album)” for your listening pleasure. But when the official one comes out, you’re on your own dudes: http://www.mediafire.com/file/hyqtmmbvyxt/Fareeq el Atrash – Pre-Album.zip

This was supposed to be the official Fareeq el Atrash self-titled album, but since this was recorded before Chyno joined the group, it would not have presented the band as they are today. So, currently, they are rerecording with Chyno. But instead of trashing this, they decided to share it with fans by giving it away at a couple events, giving us all a generous insight into their history, instead of just sweeping this under the carpet like some fluke of an outtake.

-The Look: Though not professionally distributed, this did come with a cover and an image on the disk. Omar Khoury is responsible for all the artwork here. The front cover is a drawing of Edd and John Imad Nasr with sort of faded images of themselves on top, along with the group’s logo which is a beautiful piece of Arabic typography if I do say so myself.

The interior is a drawing of a Beirut skyline with the album credits and track list. This was mixed and mastered by Fadi Tabbal by the way…

The back cover has the track list in that lovely Arabic typography used for the band’s name on the front.

The CD itself has part of that skyline picture on it in black and white.

-The Sound: This took Lebanese hip hop to places I hadn’t seen it go before. It’s an album that cherishes actual playing and using basic instruments (bass, piano, drums) as opposed to just sampling synthesized beats, but also isn’t afraid to show off with some fancy effects and noises, and to use some more uncommon instruments (saxophone, cello, pots and pans). Furthermore, what they have up on their myspace is very basic, it only shows you the more “natural” side of them, but here you get to see a more experimental side of them, playing with effects, noises, and samples.

1-“Moqaddima”: This is an acapella track with the noise of the Beirut streets as its background music. Edd sets out his plan of infiltrating all ears, making even the deaf hear what he has to say. He comes bearing a message that he feels the need to deliver. So he asks of you simply to listen. All of this set to the sounds of a bustling Beirut street.

2- “Demoqrati”: This track is the listener’s first introduction to L’Fareeq’s musical style. It features John’s funk-influenced bass playing, a sampled drumbeat, FZ’s beatboxed drums, which might make you think “ok, so they got a guy to beatbox for one song”, but listen on and you’ll see much more of him, Goo’s equally funky effected guitar playing, Fouad Zakka’s saxophone additions that succeed in jazzing things up a bit, and of course Edd’s expertly crafted lyrical arrows that never fail to hit their assigned targets, be they politicians, society, or anything else he feels like shedding some light of truth on. This track samples part of a speech by the politician Smair Gaegae where he is trying to identify a certain mysterious concept that can be found here, unable to name it. It’s called “democracy”, and what they’re implying is that the presence of this so-called “democracy” can hardly be felt here.

3- “Lawen”: This is one of my more favorite tracks. Edd raps of society and politics while Goo provides some faint guitar strumming. A percussive drumbeat comes in, and then disappears, leaving the very funky guitar and bass to do their thing, but a new beat comes in to join them, only to be briefly replaced by FZ’s vocal percussion and then return to join the bass and guitar, which is now at maximum funk levels, with the appropriate effects and everything. The track ends with the guitar playing off.

4- “Byin7aka”: I have heard two versions of this song before. The first is Edd’s solo version with DJ Lethal Skillz which appears on Lethal Skillz’s debut album “New World Disorder”, and the other is the Fareeq el Utrush version that features Chyno, live. The Lethat Skillz version relies heavily on piano, the Fareeq el Utrush with Chyno version is basically just guitar, bass, and beatboxing, live that is, but it could go anywhere on the album really. This version is different than that new live version. This is one of the songs on this record that isn’t afraid to be “abstract” through its use of noise. It starts out with some faint guitar coupled with an eerie reverb which is later joined by bass. While Edd raps, a drumbeat plays, with bass, and saxophone interrupting from time to time. The saxophone plays over the spatial ambience of the guitar. Edd spits his rhymes once again, this time with a more prominent saxophone. Eventually it all fades away…

 5- “Qatshe'”: This is a little interlude that is basically Rabih Sakr playing what appears to be buckets and some percussion. This foreshadows the methods to be used on the following track…

6- “Terikhna Bi Libnen”: This is a good one right here. It actually sounds “happy” while still delivering that serious message. It goes to show that even if you’re talking about politics or something grave, you can still sound friendly while doing it. It starts out with one of the most memorable bass riffs on the album, with some metallic percussion, that may in fact be pots or pans, played by Samer Sagheer interrupting here and there. Edd breaks into his rap on the instability of Lebanon with nothing but the bass and the now more complex kitchen percussion. Edd raps of the 2006 Lebanese-Israeli conflict. Some jazzy piano comes into play, played by Samer Sagheer as well. As Edd raps the chorus, the piano accompaniment takes a more ominous turn, and then a drum sample solidifies the percussion already playing. That all dissipates leaving only the piano and bass, which repeats that riff that started it all. Like the first verse, the bass plays the riff along with the percussion, while this time the piano additions appear earlier on and the drum sample of the chorus breaks into the verse this time along with the added percussion of a tambourine. Edd continues his verbal assault on this particular war mentioned earlier. The chorus repeats, now with every single element previously heard playing in unison, plus some jazzy saxophone, or at least it sounds like saxophone. It’s bass! It all ends as the piano’s final notes echo and the hits of the tambourine fade away… Good production work, Mr.Nasr.

7- “Khabriyten”: It is ushered in with some noise, along with FZ’s beatboxing. A guitar tone repeats itself over and over, so does a hi-hat sound, and the bass, with a muffled grunt. All of this looping leads up to the introduction of a drum sample and saxophone tune, setting a very ominous mood, while that hi-hat loop lingers. On top of this audio collage, Edd does some storytelling. He talks of being stopped at a military checkpoint where he is questioned and asked for some papers. An odd looped noise fades in to interrupt this all, only to be interrupted itself by some Arabic samples that came out of nowhere; a man comments on how funny the situation is while another inquires as to what happened next. Edd continues his lyrical onslaught on the system and in the end, sarcastically dismisses the whole thing and suggests nobody even bother walking the streets at night in the first place. It concludes with that guitar tone, repeating on and on, backed by some crunchy noise, that saxophone tune, which then shifts into a brief segment of FZ beatboxing and the guitar improvising with some eerie reverb.

8- “Shou Kamish?”: I have mixed feelings about this one. I like the dissonance aspect in some songs, but I would have preferred it if it were a bit “cleaner”. More prominent drums, less of that background sample thing. Not all tracks have to be “Terikhna Bi Libnen” clones, but I would have liked this one in particular to be more “solid”, but actually it has grown on me (love that clarinet riff…). A man, who it turns out was John himself, yells at Edd, telling him pull himself together. He replies condescendingly saying “Ok baba”. A drumbeat can be heard building up as well some background noise of somekind. A monkey cries out, and the drums bust in along with the bass, as well as that faint background noise which sounds like a voice crying out. Edd raps on rap itself, recounting his early days writing his verses and his dedication to it today. He is joined by Fouad Zakka’s mood-setting clarinet while he raps the chorus, and even after it plays its main tune, it lingers on popping in and out (or is that the sax there?) with his lyrical progression. After he’s said all that needs to be said, it wraps the track up with some short improvisation that concludes with that background noise of a voice singing letting out its very last cry.

9- “Lawen (Marra Tenye’)”: This track is the little brother of the track “Lawen”. In my opinion, doing it “marra tenye'” wasn’t really necessary. It begins with some reverberating oral clicking and slurping with some guitar, and by guitar I mean running the pick on the tightest part of the strings, up on the headstock, to replicate a sort of musicbox sound. Bass joins in with a steady riff. Edd proceeds to rap the chorus from “Lawen”, which is followed by some lyrics exclusive to this track, so this isn’t a reprise, with faint voices hushing in the background and an effected guitar tune. A drumbeat emerges with an odd “forward-reverse-reverse” hi hat, later replicated with the aforementioned hushes. A guitar tune briefly comes into play but doesn’t stay long, returning the track to its previous format of that repetitive bass riff, the hushes, the drums, the musicbox guitar, and the effected guitar. The guitar freestyles once again and finishes off the track. All fades out…

10- “Qatshe’ 2”: The second in the “Qatshe'” trilogy. This one is of Samer Sagheer playing the drums.

11- “Sadis”: Similar feelings as the ones concerning “Shou Kamish?” It could have been more solid. A kung fu fight starts this off, along with some crunch noise, decimation I believe. A drum sample, which I really like, plays, coupled with a delicate little piano tune. This goes on pretty steadily for a while until all of this is abruptly interrupted by a horn sample I believe and some sudden percussion which is joined by what sounds like a siren which reveals itself to be a saxophone that proceeds to freestyle till the end of the song.

12- “Sabe3 Nawme'”: I love this track. It opens with an Arabic sample of a woman lamenting on someone’s unconscious state, detachment from the outside world, lack of interaction with anything, and absence of that lust for life. As a faint drum sample builds up, a variety of noises from saxophone beeps to static play while Edd can faintly be heard reciting his poetry, overlapping on himself. As the saxophone drones, it happens, the first appearance of an infectious piano tune that only teases by fading in then out, for now. The piano tune bursts back in alongside the drum sample with Edd rapping about escapism and detachment from reality with the saxophone joining in at points. Then the song takes a new direction. The Piano tune is retired and we’re left with the drum sample, a bass riff, and saxophone. As Edd continues to expand on the subject of retreating from this unpleasant reality to a literal dreamland, the saxophone improvises and wraps up the track. You can hear a clip of Edd asking why the sound is cutting. This may just foreshadow the next track…

13- “Qatshe’ Ma3 Kamal”: The third and final installment of the “Qatshe'” trilogy. It is basically a cellphone recording by Edd of a man by the name of Kamal Ghraizi singing some classical Arabic tarab. I’m being serious now, not sarcastic: sound quality could have been better. I know it’s a cellphone, but why not try to get it to be the same quality as “Moqaddima”? Raw, recorded on the streets, but clean and clear. I like to imagine this guy is a “street-person”, what I mean is, he doesn’t spend his days in an office, but instead maybe drives a cab or owns a small shop. If you think about it, this is the original definition of street poetry. They’re putting the traditional poetry of the past that people still recite on the streets today alongside this new poetry inspired by the streets of today to be recited on them, and that is what we refer to as Arabic rap. It’s a nice concept but it could have been executed better.

14- “Tzakkar Hal Iyyem”: This is a real masterpiece. It tackles an issue that not many Arabic rappers have given its significance and Fareeq el Utrush have proven themselves to me as a group that covers a wide variety of subjects. It starts off with a simple guitar tune by Goo with an equally simple bass-snare beat. Edd wants a beat that’s good. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just listenable. Someone laughs in the background. Hi-hat pops in and out along with a cymbal that you can just pick up on its slightest vibration. The mystery laugher hums and delivers a “louloulouloulouloulou”, followed by that cymbal that oh so percussive cymbal which leads into a segment of cello, played by Jana Simaan, reverse percussion, and reverberating voices. The drums start pounding and you can feel the depth. Tagging along with them is some Middle Eastern percussion, derbakke’ to be precise. And providing the main rhythm the bass riff that joins in. Edd raps of infidelity, men’s constant lack of satisfaction with what they have, and their insatiable appetite for something else. Lina Monzir melodiously sings in the background, creating this intoxicated trance effect. I can imagine walking in the streets late at night, my dizzy staggering matching the drumbeat, with the risky anticipation of an alluring prostitute greeting me at every alleyway in order to exploit the aforementioned masculine need for pleasure. Edd urges men to keep their lovers close and not to be led astray from the truth and purity of the love they have already been blessed with in exchange for cheap thrills. He gives his own philosophy on love and relates personal experiences. In the end, as the beat plays on and eventually fades out, the cello hums its way to the end of the record. Personally, those final cello notes gave me a sense of salvation, like the men saw the error of their ways and decided to stay true to their loved ones.

My analysis of Fareeq el Atrash: https://feelnotes.wordpress.com/2009/10/24/artist-analysis-fareeq-el-utrush/