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: “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.


*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

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: 7keeleh Vol II – (November 20, 2009)

7keeleh is an open-mic session organized by Taste Culture and hosted by Fareeq el Atrash, where anyone is welcome to present rap, poetry, or anything else, and some pretty big names also present their work (Fareeq el Atrash, Cristobal, RGB, etc…). It is held in the Amadeus pub of the Hotel Mozart in Hamra.

 This was the second edition of these sessions. I did attend the first, but did not see any of the performances since I had to leave early. Luckily, this time around, I was able to stay for the whole thing.

 -Before the Show: I was feeling a little sick, but decided I felt well enough to go out. I was bringing along three guests (two friends and one of their cousins) who wanted to meet graffiti artist Fish, of the Lebanese graffiti crew, REK Crew. He was asked to tag the word “7keeleh” on a canvas outside. The three of them have tagged some graffiti themselves, and I’m thinking about trying it myself, will get back to you on that… The first time me and my two friends met Fish was at our school, where for some mysterious yet awesome reason, the school got him and a couple other members of the crew to come over and show us how to tag, not on walls, but on canvases, nonetheless still pretty neat. And my friend’s cousin would be Gup. If the name sounds familiar, then you’ve probably seen the walls in Hamra lately.

 Went inside, greeted all the good folks there. The first time I came, they were giving out this free CD that contained music by local acts. I liked that CD a lot, one of the reasons is for which is because it introduced me to Toffar. This time, there was no compilation CD, but instead there was Fareeq el Atrash’s pre-album (which they also had for sale at their Basement gig), as in, the pre-Chyno versions of the tracks that will appear on the upcoming album, as in, the tracks on their myspace plus never before heard tracks. All of this for the price of: as much as you feel like. I had to take a cab home, so I felt like 1,000 L.L.

 So we decide to go talk to Fish. We step outside where there is a canvas hung up and spray cans and stuff and we say hi and that we met at our school and he recognizes us, and Gup from some other place.

 After some graffiti-chat, he began with the tag, first spraying on the overlapping outlines of the letters. This helps one choose what letters to put behind what letters and what letters to put on top of what letters. He then started coloring in some green sections at the bottom of each letter, and yellow in the rest.

 Meanwhile, inside, they were about to get the ball rolling, so I went back inside and let my friends watch Fish spray. I would go on to see them intermittently for a while then not at all.

 -The Show: I will try my best to recall the correct order and not to forget about anybody.

 Edd and Goo kicked it off with Edd rapping and Goo playing electric guitar.

 This was followed by a musician named Ashraf. Armed with his trusty oud, he played it and sang some traditional Arabic songs. I’m not a huge fan of this stuff, but I gave it a chance, because seeing Rabea Beirut was the first step of a journey. The destination would be making up for my lack of Arabization. It’s a long story, but in brief: When I hear something that is a blend of several genres, I have to have an idea of each genre on its own to see how faithful it is to both genres separately, in their pure forms. One of the more popular strategies being adopted here is mixing a modern genre (hip hop, rock, electronica, etc…) with traditional Arabic music. So, I know enough about most of the modern genres, but ironically, I am slightly alienated from traditional Arabic music. Thus, it is my duty to expand what little I currently know of the music of our forefathers, just so I don’t get to the point where I find myself groping in the dark. So you remember that thing I mentioned in the Rabea Beirut review about mentally improving music that I don’t find 100% satisfactory? Well this time, FZ saved me the trouble and did it for me. He started adding vocal percussion. He wasn’t holding a mic, just standing with the crowd watching, and everyone could hear his contribution. That man can do some loud clicks dude.  

A lady read a poem after that I believe. It was a tribute to a friend, and was quite beautiful.

 Following that was a rapper by the name of Fahrass. He said that he’d do this more “storyteller” style than “rapper” style, so he took out a cell phone and read his verses revolving around two girls that each faced certain hardships as children and met one another in the present, while FZ provided some of his mouth-sculpted sound replications. Concerning the cell phone factor, I would have done the same thing myself. Actually I might have messed up a little while reading, so yeah, it’s all cool.

 I believe after him followed a poet by the name of Tina Fish. She recited two poems. One was about these “jagals”, the stereotypical Lebanese males. I share her loathing for that particular social group, so I could relate. Her style was more spoken word than poetry, releasing a sentence one time, a single word the other. She mainly spoke in English but sprinkled some Arabic here and there. The second was a response to a photography contest called “Lakom Hamrakom Wa Li Hamra2i” where photographers are encouraged to take photos of what makes Hamra special to them. She wrote a poem. It covered almost all the ingredients that blend and clash to form Hamra, which I consider my spiritual home. No seriously, this lady is something else… major kudos!

 Following her were 3/5 of Fareeq el Atrash. Edd, Chyno, and FZ. They started off with their introduction routine where FZ beatboxes then starts announcing a soccer game that the band are playing in. It was actually longer than usual this time. This routine comes with rapping by Edd and Chyno of course. After that, he treated us to another one of his Fareeq el Utrush routines, this one I had only heard once and was eager to hear once again, it was the movie trailer one! He did the whole deep voice announcer bit (fun fact: that guy’s name is Don LaFontaine. Unfortunately, he passed away last year, sigh…), where he declared “in a world, where the music industry is dominated by artists like Haifa-“Wawa!”- One band, Fareeq el Utrush, here to save the day (eh, I still haven’t memorized it). Usually this would have been it, but this time it was a revised version, which included some movie trailer-musts such as, cast list and excerpts from the actual (well, hypothetical) movie!: “Starring Edouard Abbas as, Edd”, then Edd said something, a line of his from the “movie”. “Nasser Al Shorbaji as, Chyno”, he said something that sounded like he was warning people not to mess with him. “John Imad Nasr, who isn’t here right now…”.”And Fayez Zouheiry as *vocal scratch vocal scratch* FZ!”. I don’t know how it ended, but I loved this version. Chances are the guys will read this, so I’d like to take a few moments to say: RECORD. IT. Including actual sound effects. Ooh ooh! Album intro! Album intro! ALBUM. INTRO.

 They performed some songs sans bass which included “Ana 7abib Balade'” and “Bteghlawa Ma3 L’Zikra”, as well as some other stuff. Some of the songs mentioned were performed later on, but I’m just putting it out there…

 After that, if I remember correctly, FZ beatboxed with Karim Mallak, another beatboxer, whose name I forget, but they were good together. They did a medley of songs similar to the beatbox routine that you’ve probably seen already on the web by that French-Japanese fellow on the French version of “American Idol”, as in “Beat it”, “Yeah”, etc…

 L’Fareeq went back on and performed one of the aforementioned songs.

 After them, Chyno performed some acapella rap in English.

 Following that was some more spoken word, this time by Becky Katz. She read two poems. The first was called “The Binary Serpent”. In it, she talked about a certain incident where she fell victim to social prejudice and gave us some philosophical insights, well Tina Fish did too, but Becky’s were more textbooky. She was briefly heckled by someone asking her to “read faster” whom she replied to with “leave faster”, and that was met with applause… oh those precious “bakh3a” moments…  She then read an untitled poem, a love poem dedicated to her boyfriend.

 This was followed by some Arabic rap by rapper Ramcess, which was pretty tight actually.

 Then Yassine from I-Voice also delivered some Arapic rap with FZ beatboxing and acapella too.

 I think there were a couple more rappers after that…

 That’s when it happened. FZ went on a killing spree. He did a nice kung fu movie style skit, then some more beatboxing with the beatboxer he performed with earlier that night, but then he shocked everyone by: beatboxing, and speaking, at the same time… At first they were skeptical, but he did it again slower, singing that line “if your mother ooonly knewww”. Mind boggling. As if he didn’t his beatbox prowess wasn’t established by then, he topped it all off by beatboxing and playing a pipa at the same time. The pipa in question is a little wind instrument that Edd brought FZ back all the way from Thailand. I’ve seen a guy play flute while beatboxing on the web, so seeing something similar live was nice.

 Two poets finished the night off…

 -After the Show: That was a pretty good batch of talent I’d say. Oh and by the way, this spans for like… 2 hours. While there, if not for the occasional smoking induced coughs (too much smoking going on), I had no idea I was even sick. It’s the healing power of music… It was inspiring too, seeing average people present their work, which turns out to be awesome. I might even present something myself if I have time to work on it and practice… But overall, this is a good concept and I hope it keeps going strong and people keep showing up and sharing their talents.


*Personal: http://www.facebook.com/#/album.php?aid=350494&id=842365214


*Personal: I have a video of FZ rocking that pipa. To be posted as soon as I can upload it.


Tatse Culture Blog: http://tastekulcha.blogspot.com/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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










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

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

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

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

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

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