Show Review: Fundraising Concert for Artists Vol.1: I-Voice @ Zico House (April 17, 2010)

Yaseen of the Palestinian-Lebanese rap duo I-Voice was accepted at the London University in Ontario, Canada to complete his studies in sound engineering. The visa was in the bag, but some cash was still required. So, since the scene here is so supportive, some friends and artists, led by Serge Yared, decided to pitch in and throw a fundraiser concert at Zico House. The lineup included: Zeid and the Wings (Zeid Hamdan’s latest project), I-Voice (themselves…), Malikah, OkyDoky, Double A the Preacherman, Ram6, and the most prestigious guest in my opinion, Rayess Bek.

 -Before the Show: I’d like to dedicate this segment of the review to Ghalas Charara, expecting a swift glasses-shattering punch to the face afterwards.

 They said it would start at 8:00 PM. Then to be ultra-specific, they said that it’s the DJing that would start at 8:00 PM, and the actual performances an hour later, 9:00 PM… on the dot? Doing this is like telling people: “If you don’t have anyone to mingle with, instead of showing up at 8:00 PM and wasting an hour staring at a wall, come at 9:00 PM, because that’s when the actual show starts”. Excuse me if I somehow misinterpreted this message.

 8:45-ish: Arrive at Zico House. Pay fee of 20,000 L.L, which isn’t that bad, since it is a fundraiser after all. Expecting an eager crowd that has been busy socializing/ mingling/ chatting/ dancing for an hour now, I found a slightly less dense crowd. Ok, so low turnout is a big deal in this case. I mean, every person (and his/ her money) counts. But it was delayed by about… an hour. I have a statement to make later concerning this. Throughout this hour, I made up for my lack of mingling and socializing with whoever I knew…

 A little debate was started on the infamous PirateBeirut, which is actually starting to dry up on material to upload for the moment (that’s right, beotch). Rayess Bek is definitely against. And also, I do not aim to promote it, only raise awareness of its despicable deeds.

 There was also a strong media presence. Yaseen himself was interviewed as well as Kinda Hassan of Eka3, who had a table of their CDs available for purchase set up outside.

 EVENTUALLY, the performances started.

 -The Show: I liked the space this time. Usually, Zico House has had a either stage set up or a table for the turntables and CDJ decks.This time however, nothing, just beautiful empty space. First up was Zeid and his new band, The Wings, which consisted of himself on lead guitar, Marc Codsi (of Lumi) on rhythm guitar, Bachir Saade on nay, flute, and bass clarinet, Yasmine Ayyashi and Gihan El Hage on backing vocals, and Rita Okais on keyboard. The drums and bass were provided by a CD being played on one of the CDJ decks. They started out with a song called “Hkini” which has a very “deserty”-type sound. That of course, coupled with Zeid’s electro-dub style. It was actually their only song in Arabic. Zeid’s voice melted together with the voices of Yasmine and Gihan. Bachir’s flute playing was kinda neat, because I don’t think I’ve seen flute playing live that many times. Rita added minimal tunes on the little keyboard before her. Marc just supported Zeid on guitar. Not Lumi, I still want to see them someday. Following it was a song called “Cowards”. This one was in fact written for one of his previous bands, 3arab. A very good ska-punk piece originally, now with a hint of electronica. They continued with a more political number called “General Suleyman”. Zeid wanted some audience participation. Yes, there were enough people for it to count as an “audience”. He asked for a clap-along and for them to yell “go home” in response to various undesirable things mentioned in the lyrics of the song (ex. All the militiamen, etc..) They did indeed participate… To wrap up, they played Zeid’s own song “Castles of Sand”, a song about broken dreams. Bachir was on the bass clarinet for this one, which was quite interesting. I’d like to note that there were some technical difficulties with a microphone at one point… Is there never anything that goes off without a hitch in this city? 😛

 Following them was the guest of honor, Rayess Bek, who is playing several shows this week in three different locations in Hamra. Tonight, he would not have with him his flutist Nayssam Jalal from his band the Rayess Bek Orchestra and his groovebox, instead, a CD of instrumentals. He opened his set with a blast from the past, “Am Behki Bil Soukout”, the title track from his debut album. It was nice, especially because it gave us something to compare what was about to come next to; Before/after. He continued with a new one: “La Min?” As I’ve said once before, the beats on the new album are some of Rayess Bek’s best work yet, and back to the live show, a very nice delivery as well. He continued with another new one, and a personal favorite of mine, which would be “Samm”. Again, very powerful delivery. Finally came “Schizophrenia”, another oldie, but not as old as “Am Behki Bil Soukout”. This one is a more emotional and intimate one. For a portion of it, he sat down on the floor, becoming level with some of the audience members, making his storytelling more personal. With that, he concluded his set… or did he? RGB grabbed a mic and began beatboxing while Rayess Bek rapped the lyrics to his song “Amercaineh”. That doesn’t happen daily; very neat. I was glad to finally see Rayess Bek rapping live, but wasn’t too thrilled about the fact that the music was pre-recorded. Good news though, you and I may see him and his full band, the Rayess Bek Orchestra perform live for the official physical release of his album, on June 6th.

 Afterwards was someone I had wanted to see but had never got the chance before. It was electronic musician Faysal Bibi, who performs under the alias, OkyDoky. I wanted to see him because I heard some of his work on the CD distributed at 7keeleh Vol.1, and thought it was pretty remarkable. I was also curious to see how the “pros” did electronic music. His setup consisted of a laptop, a program running on it, and to interact with that program, various MIDI controllers. He started out with a very techno-y bit. Noteworthy was his use of voice alteration software to “robotize” his own voice (vocoder?) Following that was a piece that sounded like a fusion of drum n’bass and noise, and featured a memorable looped sample of a man yelling “shou ya’akho l’sharmouta?”. He wrapped up with a piece that sounded like “electronic death metal”, with distorted guitar samples and death growls and everything. The guy was very lively too. Overall, it was certainly something special and he’s been added to my list of “newcomers to the scene who are awesome”.

 I only managed to catch a bit of Ram6’s performance, but I had to leave because SOMEONE didn’t show up on time. By “someone” I mean “everyone”… well 70% of everyone.

 Let me tell you exactly what happened that night. It’s a phenomenon I will call “Confitardiness”. Confitardiness, a portmanteau   of the words “confidence” and “tardiness”, is when one is deliberately late, or tardy, with the knowledge, and confidence, in the fact that no activity whatsoever will go on while he/she is absent. Somehow, on this night, everyone got together before the show and agreed to display some confitardiness, by not arriving on time. Unfortunately, they usually get their way, but if I ever work on some musical project and have to do a live show, I will make them like bullets. You blink you miss it. It might be an utter crap performance, but by God, you would not have caught that utter crap of a performance from the start.

One time someone said concerning this issue: “Hey, it’s Lebanon”. Well… why can’t we take an initiative and change Lebanon for the best? Late-ic Pride! Go!

 -After the Show: I dunno what happened with the rest of the acts that were supposed to perform afterwards. The acts were diverse, the sound was good, but the time management could have been better, and that was a direct effect of low turnout for some inexplicable reason. Actually it is explicable: confitardiness.

 The whole thing made 3,509$ and hopefully the future fundraiser event to come will work out better.

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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

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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Artist Analysis: ShaBa

-Name:  ShaBa

-Members: Shaden Fakih, Bane Fakih, Aya Attar, Rola Najjar, Chloe Asmar

Years Active: 2009-Present

-Genre: Arabic-Folk-Pop

 This is still a band in progress, but it would be nice to capture a band at this early stage in their development and see where it goes.

 -History: It all started with bedroom silliness. The two sisters, Shaden and Bane Fakih, were fooling around one day, Bane with her guitar and Shaden with her vocal chords, when they decided to come up with a song. That resulted in a song that would be known as “Jawdat w Med7at”.

 A school project would provide them with a chance to display their talent to their friends, but finding “Jawdat w Med7at” a tad too absurd of a song, they decided to finish the second song they had been working on, “Kniset Mar Elias Battina”.

 They got very positive feedback from their peers, who could easily relate to the songs the sisters were writing. With their friends’ support, they decided to pursue their hobby, writing a third song entitled “Alla Bi 7ebba” and a forth would follow, called “Khazze2ni Ya Deek”, derived from a friendly inside joke.

 Later on, a friend of one of their parents would lead them to Fadi Tabbal (The Incompetents, XEFM, April Ash, etc…) and his studio, Tunefork, advising them to take this hobby to the next level. They would go to record their songs at Tunefork in a 30 minute session. Those recordings can be heard on their myspace page.

 The duo went on to perform in Fete de la Musique 2009, being entered by their close friends Ghalas Charara and Aya Attar, their manager, by submitting a video of themselves playing.

 They performed in 2009’s International Day of Peace event, also securing that gig with the help of Ghalas and Aya. During that performance they debuted Rola Najjar on electric guitar and Aya Attar on keyboards, further expanding their sound.

They have added violinist Chloe Asmar to the lineup and  debuted their new sound on the airwaves of Radio Liban (96.2 FM) on April 1st 2010.

 -Sound:  Last I heard, sound-wise, Bane Fakih provides simple acoustic guitar tunes that range from rock, to pop, to punk-ish, and I sense there’s a hint of flamenco in there somewhere.

 Aya Attar on keyboards and Rola Najjar on electric guitar generate a rockier sound.

Chloe’s violin additions folk it all up. 

Vocally, Shaden does not have a spectacular voice, but the simplicity of it fits with that of the songs. She tends to warble sometimes and roughen her voice. Bane does backing vocals as well.

 Lyrically, their songs speak of a variety of love/ relationship-related issues such as homosexuality (“Jawdat w Med7at”), inter-religious relationships (“Kniset Mar Elias Battina”), unfaithfulness (“Alla Bi 7ebba”), and sexual relationships (“Khazze2ni Ya Deek”).

-Links:

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

-Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=133924848778&index=1#/group.php?gid=130334239039&ref=ts

-“Sheftak Laziz” live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1RhMlsZ77I

Album Review: 96.2 FM “Modern Music Contest” – 1st Edition

Well, Mashrou3 Leila are releasing their long awaited debut album in a week, so before it’s too late, I’m reviewing their first ever album appearance: The CD of 96.2 FM’s first edition of the “Modern Music Contest” (or “Concours Musiques Actuelles” 1ere Edition). But wait there’s more! Also making their debuts are 10 other artists, whose contributions to this work I will be taking a close look at, but not too close…

First some background information. This contest was basically a callout for young musical talents in Lebanon. So anyone between the ages of 18 and 35 sent in demos before November 30th, 2008. Following that, a professional jury selected the tracks, whose performers (or some of them at least) would be brought into Tunefork, Fadi Tabbal’s studio, in order to professionally rerecord their tracks, which would go on to be featured in the CD I am about to review. The CD would come with a username and password. Each purchaser of the CD was to listen to all the tracks and then cast his/her vote online.

The finalists that appear on this album would then go on to perform in The Basement where a jury would decide on a winner, and the online vote counts too I guess.

So Mashrou3 Leila won the contest and this CD now serves as the album to purchase for Leila-holics to get their fix, as well as an echo of the other contestants who even though did not win, got the chance to actually have their work released.

-The Look: This is a very minimalistic little package, consisting of a cardboard sleeve, the CD itself, and a paper inside.

The front cover is of a black and white radio sitting on a black, white, and purple shelf with a stack of green CDs to its left and a black and white box of empty CD-Rs to its right, all in front of a blue wall. All are quite relevant as 96.2 FM would be a radio station, artists would have submitted their entries on homemade CD-Rs, and they finalists appear on an officially released record; this very one.

The back is a continuation of the front revealing more of the green CDs. There is the track list as well as a brief description which says: “All contestants were given 5 hours to record and mix their tracks, at Tunefork Studios, Beirut, with Fadi Tabbal, in February 2009. All tracks are the result of these recording sessions, except tracks 2,6 & 9 taken from the original demos.” That was insightful actually, since one would assume that they’ve all been rerecorded… Also, links…

The CD itself is a bullseye constituting (from the center outwards) blue, red, green, and purple. This release has quite the colorful theme. On its peripheries, the track list again.

The paper on the inside, which is hand cut by the looks of it, has a username and password on it, as well as instructions on how to use them, printed in both English and French.

-The Sound: Now, this is the first compilation I review, and I know that each track has a different style due to being performed by different artists, and in this case some tracks have a different producer than others. So I’ll do my best.

1- Sylvain Nassar – “Once”:

I like this one. It’s a very upbeat, very “pure” rock song. Sylvain Nassar sings of the struggles he’s faced in the past, the urges us to live life to its fullest since we only have one chance to do so. “We only live once”. There’s a nice guitar solo too. I like the fact that Mr. Nassar, an unknown musician, gets his big break singing a song about getting a big break and seizing the day. The track is very good, but nothing too radical.

2- A.Boxx – “Into the Night”: Some English rap now. This is one of the three tracks not produced by Fadi Tabbal. The beat features some distorted guitar, piano, and… handclaps. I’m not a huge fan of handclaps…  A lady sings the chorus, and then comes the rap. It’s very typical. He uses swear words unnecessarily. It’s too “gangsta” for me. Some strings are featured in the verses. A lady raps too. Same style of lyrics…  There’s better rap out there. Allow me to promote an international artist for a minute here: I present to you, the one and only, Busdriver: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32INdYsV2sU

3- Mashrou3 Leila (or Mashrou’ Leila as they are listed here, but I prefer it with the 3, it’s more Arabized) – “Raksit Leila”: Starts out pretty happy-go-lucky. “This could go either direction from here, but what direction will it be?” I ask myself. A violin joins in. “Aw yeah, this is going places!” I declare. The lead singer (who I’m not supposed to know is Hamed Sinno, but yeah, let’s face it, they won and they’re famous now) sings in Arabic, the only song in Arabic on the entire CD, in a Lebanese dialect too, about how tired he is with the state of the country and of people complaining about it. Hamed Sinno struts his vocal abilities, which are impressive to say the least. A short piano intermission that ends with a zalghouta leads into something that sounds like a blend of Latin and Gypsy music. There’s whistling too! Yes, it definitely did go places, and that’s why it won wasn’t it?

4- Sandmoon – “Sea of Love”: This is opened by a keyboard tune that is joined by some percussion. I don’t like the vocals too much… Guitar joins in briefly, as well as saxophone. I don’t find it that interesting really.

5- Soul + – “Trust Me”: Starts out with some nice guitar, drums, and bass. It’s soul and funk. Two vocalists sing simultaneously, one with a higher pitch than the other, or maybe that’s just overdubbing; Sounds pretty good. He sings of people not seeing the truth and him just wanting to feel good about himself. I don’t like how it ends with a simple fade out though, it lacks closure.

6- Anthony Touma – “Mendiant”: My French skills are very poor, so I don’t think I’ll be able to actually understand what is being said but more how it is being said, so forgive me for that. This track was not recorded at Tunefork with Fadi Tabbal. A piano tune, strings, and ride cymbal hits. Frankly, too cliché for me. Whatever he’s singing, I don’t like the way he’s singing it… I dunno, it’s all too familiar. There’s a decent drumbeat though. An electric guitar solo plays for a while, it’s not too bad. No, just… no. I let the French thing slide, but the music is the straw that breaks the camel’s back for me… sorry, no.

7- Karimbo Zone Mixity Miracle Genius – “They Wanna Know”: Alrighty! The second rap song on this record! It has both French and English lyrics. It kicks off with a weird “aaaaaahhooh” that I find kinda neat. The beat is nice; guitar and drums, like it was sampled from an old record. I like old school hip hop… Behind that there is kind of some holy chant action going on. Weird, I like. The rapper reminds me of Rayess Bek when he raps in French. The chorus features piano, and the Arabic word for Lebanon, made to rhyme with “god damn”; clever. Then the English portion of the rap. The guy raps of his love and devotion for Beirut and his frustration with the situation in the middle-east. It’s actually pretty witty stuff I must admit. It ends with the same time of scream that started it out. This is THE hip hop song of this record, bravo.

8- Elyas – “Asile de Flux”: I’m not prejudiced against the French language or anything, but it just happens that this song isn’t that original, just like “Mendiant”. The best use of the French language on the CD is in the previous track. Guitar tune, synthy sounds, with the occasional cymbal taps. The guy’s voice isn’t that bad though. Then it’s just your run of the mill rock song for the chorus, plus some piano. I dunno, why did French get pinned with such average sounds?

9- Lara Matar – “Tempest”: This was not recorded in Tunefork.This is just piano and vocals. Not looking like my kind of thing already. The lady’s voice is nice and her lyrics are pretty good, they talk about her devotion to her lover. Overall very nice, but I’d like to hear it played with a band.

10- Stephanie Merchak – “As the Light of Day Slowly Fades Away”: The only instrumental track on the album. It’s electronic from the looks of it. A synth tune, joined by synth percussion and effects. Some of the sounds remind me of Munma, but this is something in a totally different neighborhood from him. There’s an acoustic drumbeat which is nice and percussive. More effects, more synth, yeah… Very original.

11- Cristobal – “Over Song”: Finally, a fitting end to this record, Cristobal, who has gone on to achieve some success, bids us farewell with this song. It starts off with an acoustic guitar tune accompanied by cello. There’s a second guitar too I think. Cristobal sings of things being over, and people being over. There’s some xylophone too. Now he sings of things that are over not being over. There’s some nice vocal chanting too. I feel like it’s Christmas time and the whole family’s having dinner or something, don’t ask me why. It fades out, leaving us with a sense of completion.

Well, this was it. As you may have heard the first 50 times I mentioned it, Mashrou3 Leila won, and indeed they did get the chance to record an album of their own and that will be released December 19th. See you there!

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/

Show Review: Halloween Horror Disco Extravaganza @ Walimat Wardeh

I know I know, I’m breaking the chronological order, but this show is still fresh and sizzling!

 This was a Halloween party where there would be DJing by DJ Basile and DJ Margot and live music by The Incompetents and Scrambled Eggs. There would also be some VJ’ing done during the musical performances by Rachel Tabet and Ramzi Hibri.

 -Before the Show: At first I took the event’s proclamation of “DISGUISE IS A MUST” lightheartedly, but I later discovered that indeed it is quite mandatory. So the Wednesday of that week I got to work on my costume. Since I knew the type of crowd that was supposed to be at this thing, I chose something a bit topical and witty. I would go as the cover of “More Songs from the Victorious City” by The Incompetents. Black cardboard and chalk were all I needed, then with some cutting and scotch taping, there you had it, a costume based on the piece Alfred Tarazi made for the cover and the concept that the band had created where you get to choose between 8 variable covers.

 A friend wanted to come, but she was tired. Early on, there was not that many people there. Sound-check was being conducted by The Incompetents. The costume got their approval. I greeted some people, one of whom was Abdallah Ko, the main character of the collaborative story “Beirut Police”, leader of a double life as a prophet, and member of the improvisational-noise group XEFM. The prophet, whose face was scratched and scarred, predicted that I should do a photo series with the costume. Read on and see if the prophecy was to be fulfilled… Serge Yared and Fadi Tabbal of The Incompetents had gotten into costume by that point. Serge was an 80’s hair metal rockstar, and Fadi was something in that same domain.

 The place had started to fill up, though it was still spacious. I was greeted by a gypsy, a detective, and girl from the future; a friend of a friend, and her friends. Some time passed, and indeed, the prophet’s prediction came true, a skeleton lady wanted to have her picture taken in the costume. She would be the first of many who would do such a thing, including Alfrec Tarazi himself, designer of the original piece, who was dressed as a mish mash of oddities (stripey stockings, tissue paper strips, white face-paint…), or as he said, he was simply dressed as “someone who doesn’t know what he’s dressed as”.

 Haig Papazian, violinist of Mashrou3 Leila, was present. I asked about how recording for their album is going, and he said that it’s almost done, so you should all expect something to be finished for sure by December. I also discovered that those videos/ short movies you see on Youtube that use their song “Raksit Leila” use it without consulting the band. I always had this notion that the band is approached with a request to use any of their songs and they force the film makers to use “Raksit Leila” to endorse it. But that turned out to be incorrect. “Raksit Leila” is the only song available for purchase in stores, so that explains why nobody uses “Zotrine” for example, unless they get it from the band themselves. He too liked the costume. I was glad to see Sharif Sehnaoui was there as well.

 -The Show: After a while, The Incompetents came on, and they were Serge and Fadi accompanied by the pianist Vladimir Kurumilian. They started off with a new song that I like very much. It is a very interesting song, bitter in a way yet cheerful in another. Then some more songs which included “Bullets Gently Flying Over My Head” and “Monster Song”. Serge sang all of the songs, Fadi played guitar, and for some songs, such as “Monster Song”, Vlagimir would join in on keyboard. For some songs, Serge would at points play the guitar while singing, while Fadi would be playing the drums, and sometimes Serge would play the drums while singing. Each also utilized some pretty neat instruments like Serge playing kazoo and somekind of percussion instrument which consisted of a stick with bells on it, and Fadi playing a mini-xylophone. They were briefly joined by Youmna Saba on drums for the last two songs I think. The last was “Urinal Blues (Part 2)”. I liked this performance, because this time they had some more variety in their instruments than the first time I had seen them. For some reason, I did not notice the VJ’ing that much.

 Scrambled Eggs hadn’t shown up yet, but did eventually. At this point there was less room than before. Tony Elieh was a pirate. Malek Rizkallah was a rabbi. Charbel Haber was Charbel Haber. They got the ball rolling with “X to Be”, then “Building A Nest” I think, which I have only heard performed acoustic by Charbel on Ziad Nawfal’s “Ruptured Sessions” CD, so that was nice, hearing it with drums and bass, all electrified like that. Then they played “Russian Roulette”, a crowd favorite and one of their most well-known. A song whose name I am not really familiar with followed, and the performance was wrapped up with “Girls On Fire”, as requested by a girl in the crowd. They were very good and very energetic, but too loud. It was the first time I saw them so I didn’t really know what to expect, how to prepare myself, but it did start getting painful at a certain point, physically painful. It was quite a contrast to The Incompetents’ mellow acoustic guitar-driven sound, but in the end, very raw and gritty. The VJ’ing this time was more noticeable to me. It included such visuals as women doing aerobics and scenes from horror movies, suiting the Halloween occasion.

 -After the Show: The performances did not disappoint, although they were conducted in this room that was cleared of the tables and chairs that would usually be there for the performance that was not fully open, but had a doorway, and a big opening in the wall, kinda like a huge window without glass. Thing is, for The Incompetents, Serge would sing in the doorway, and Fadi would stand behind him, somewhere in the rest of the room, with the drumset being in the back, and the keyboard in a corner, both easily visible from the big opening. This made keeping your focus on all musicians, or perhaps photographing them all in one shot, as it applied in my case, a bit difficult difficult. Same goes for Scrambled Eggs, except it was Tony who was out of view. But still, you have to take into consideration that Walimat Wardeh is more of a restaurant in the end than a place for musical performances and you can’t expect it to be perfectly suited for them, though don’t ask me under what conditions Ziad Sahhab and his band Shehdine Ya Baladna perform there every Thursday.

 By the end of the Scrambled Eggs performance, there was barely enough room left to move. The place was literally packed. I managed to squeeze out of there, bid farewell to whomever I could find in that sea of disguises, and be on my way…

-Photos:

*Personal:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=340688&id=842365214&saved

-Videos:

*Personal:

I have a video of The Incompetents playing “Bullets Gently Flying Over My Head” which I will edit it whenever I can upload it.