Show Review: Three Little Pigs – Live @ Zico House (September 7, 2009)

-Before the Show: I had first found out about this show from Zeid Hamdan himself, then on Facebook. I had known that the members were Zeid himself, the double-bass player Miles Jay, and his brother the drummer Ian Jay. There weren’t so many details on what genre they would play, whether Miles would play double bass or electric bass, and other little things I was curious about, but what I did know was that this was just a one time thing. Zeid had said that they would have to finish early.

 Once again arriving in my usual fashion, I found myself the only person there. I guess it doesn’t get that much traffic unless there’s an event going on? So after some waiting, someone asked me for the ticket money, which was 5,000 L.L, so I paid what I had to, but it would have been nicer to know what the price was beforehand, just saying…

 More waiting followed, and then, I spied a familiar face, or actually a hairdo. It was Nando Borges, protagonist of the internet video series “Flying Kebab”, and he was with some friends. I got up with the intent of just saying hi, they invited me to sit with them at their table, which was both really cool and nice of them, but also a regrettable move,  you’ll find out why later.

 We talked about a lot of things such as university plans (mine, he asked) and Nando’s dreadlocks (which took 3 or 4 years to grow), and Lebanese pop star, Elissa, and her video where she tries to get a guy with a big “car”. But I knew for a fact that the band Mashrou3 Leila have appeared playing live in an episode of “Flying Kebab”, so I really wanted to ask about that. So we discussed them for a while, like how I feel Raksit Leila is being overhyped (it really is) and how they seem to have really gotten the attention of both the die-hard undergrounders as well as the average listeners.

 Time passes, still no Zeid. They’re the ones who requested we be early, so why the tardiness? But then they arrive and they manage not to stall so much, only greeting some friends, and then hopping on stage to start their set.

 -The Show: Zeid was on electric guitar, Miles was on electric bass, and Ian was on drums, which consisted of just bass, snare, hi-hat, and crash cymbal. The first song started out with some acapella and beatboxing, and then faded into the music (if I remember correctly). I realized that this is reggae and ska that they’re playing! I love ska! They went on to do some reworked SoapKills covers, some reworked New Government covers, and some of Zeid’s own personal songs. For their cover of “Herzan” by SoapKills, they were accompanied by Zeid’s New Government bandmate Jeremie Regnier, who jazzed it up with his saxophone additions to the already ska-ed  up version of the originally synthesizer-heavy song.  Later, they were joined onstage by Lebanese Arabic rapper, RGB, who performed reworked versions of his songs that he usually performs with Zeid.

-After the Show: I had seen some of these songs performed acoustic in Walimat previously, but now they were amplified and brought to life, so that was nice. However, I could have gotten a better seat if I didn’t move to go sit with Nando and company, but hey, no big deal, it was fun.

 After the performance ended, I greeted Zeid and Ian and met Miles for the first time. I was always curious as to how exactly an American double bass player wound up in Lebanon, so I asked and he told me of how he came for his Egyptian oriental-jazz group, Bakash, but found the local scene interesting, and thus decided to stay. He disclosed that he is working on a solo record of double bass and buzuk that he is planning on self-releasing.

 Also present, Cristobal. I said hi.

 That was my first “ska-reggae-jazz-rap” show, but unfortunately the last of this kind, because Three Little Pigs was just a one-time thing, to my great dismay. Can’t wait for the reunion show.

 I said my farewells to Nando and his friends, and made haste…

 Fun Fact: The header for this very blog is an edited version of a photo I took that night.

 -Photos:

*Personal: http://www.facebook.com/omaralfil?v=photos&ref=profile#/album.php?aid=324250&id=842365214

*Other:

Courtesy of  Tanya Traboulsi:

http://photos-d.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs235.snc1/8220_292056020108_602430108_8986894_3080063_n.jpg

http://img63.imageshack.us/img63/2051/dsc5670.jpg

http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/8103/dsc5684.jpg

http://img2.imageshack.us/img2/3857/dsc5688.jpg

http://img7.imageshack.us/img7/3216/dsc5748l.jpg

-Videos:

*Personal: I have a video of their version of “Herzan” and I will post a link whenever I can upload it to Youtube.

Watch “Flying Kebab” here: http://flyingkebab.com/

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Artist Analysis: Rayess Bek

Photos of RBO by: Elena V. Gòmez (with collaging of two seperate photos into one by myself). Photo of Aks'Ser by: ??? Rayess Bek Logos by: ???

Photos of RBO by: Elena V. Gòmez (with collaging of two seperate photos into one by myself). Photo of Aks'Ser by: ??? Rayess Bek Logos by: ???

-Name: Wael Kodeih (Rayess Bek)

-Genre: Arabic Hip Hop

-Years Active: 1997-Present

-History:  Wael first started out as one half of one of the first, if not the first ever Lebanese Arabic hip hop group, Aks’Ser, which means “against the current/flow”, adopting his current stage name, Rayess Bek. His partner in Aks’Ser was his friend Houssam Fathallah A.K.A Eben Foulen. Aks’Ser made their public debut at the 1997 Fete de la Musique annual music festival. They had made a name for themselves with that show. However, some people respected their brand of Arabic hip hop, the likes of which had not been heard before in Lebanon, while others were not so open-minded, believing that rapping in Arabic would be tainting the language with American culture. Aks’Ser released their debut album “Ahla Bi Chabeb” in 2000 (it was on this album when Rayess Bek first collaborated with the Lebanese DJ, producer, and turntablist, DJ Lethal Skillz on the song “Saffeit Bi Aks’Ser”. He would go on to appear on Lethal Skillz’s own album “New World Disorder” on the track “Bi Fanneh Horr” with RGB many years later) and another album by the name of “Khartouch” followed it in 2002, both released under the independent label ChichProd.

 In 2003, Rayess Bek took a break from Aks’Ser to release his very own solo album titled “3am Behkeh Bil Sokout” through Incognito, touring in the Middle-East and Europe in support of his solo endeavor.

 In 2004, Aks’Ser were signed to EMI, and would later release their third self-titled album “Aks’ser” the next year (this album would be the debut of the Lebanese Arabic rap duo, Ashekman, and the first collaboration between them and Rayess Bek, being featured in the Aks’Ser song “Ele Min”. Rayess Bek would go on to be featured in a track on Ashekman’s debut album “Nasher Ghassil”). That same year, Rayess Bek would release his second piece of solo work, an EP of three tracks called “Nuit Gravement à la Santé” (Hazardous to Your Health) through Incognito. This release saw him working with a oud player. This element would later reappear in his sound in the future. Also that year, he would appear on Ghazi Abdel Baki’s debut album “Communique#1” on the track “What For” (To listen to a sample, go here, and click on the song title in the tracklist).

 In 2006, Rayess Bek was commissioned by the UN to make them a song for their campaign on disability in the Middle-East. The result was a song called “Ekhtilef Tabi3eh” (Difference is Normal). This was the first ever media campaign for the promotion of acceptance of the handicapped in the Middle-East and the song has been broadcast in over 20 countries in the Middle-East and Africa.

 In 2006, he was featured in a PBS documentary by the name of “Dissonance and Harmony” produced by Miles Copeland for the series “America at a Crossroads”. For this documentary, Rayess Bek collaborated with Nile Rogers, the producer, songwriter, and guitarist, RZA of the American hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, Shavo Odadjian of the American metal band System of a Down, who was playing sitar for the song, the Mexican rapper Malverde, and the Lebanese DJ Ceasar K. The product of this collaboration was presented in a show at the Roxy, but was never released due to legal/financial issues with RZA’s producer. Here is a clip from the series (featured in this video: RZA, Shavo Odadjian, Niles Rogers, and Tania Saleh): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5APioj1oueY

 In June 2007, Rayess Bek began work on another campaign for the United Nations; an anti-war campaign with American co-writer and producer Frank Fitzpatrick. The song and video is titled “Just Like You” and debuted throughout the Middle East and North of Africa in 2008.

 These days, Rayess Bek plays live with his new group the Rayess Bek Orchestra which consists of himself, a oud player, a nay player, a bassist, and a groovebox delivering the drums and some effects. An album with this line-up will be released some day.

Rayess Bek has been involved in a live project called Mix Up Beyrouth, which consists of French musicians Rudolphe Burger (vocals, guitar), Julien Perraudeau (bass), and Frederic Nevchehirlian (vocals, guitar) teaming up with some of the Lebanese alternative scene’s best: Fadi Tabbal (The Incompetents), Youmna Saba, Abed Kobeissy (The Incompetents), Ziad Saad (Pop Will Save Us), and Rayess Bek himself. In this project, Rayess Bek raps and operates electronics.

Currently, he is getting ready to release his first album with his group the Rayess Bek Orchestra. He has unveiled a short sample of a song called “La Min?” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Adp4SSXbM5U) and another for one called “L’Homme de Gauche” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOp0Xi8ZwKI).

 -Sound: Rayess Bek is more of a rapper than a musician, although he does play music. He raps both in Arabic and French. His lyrics are clever, edgy, and straight to the point. He is not one to sugarcoat delicate issues. All of this, he delivers in a powerful assertive manner, taking the listener to that bleak reality that he raps about. He sometimes swears, but in the song “Wara Dahreh” for example, he ingeniously censors himself by adding strategic beeps in time to the music on top of the few curses he resorts to.

 Though sometimes, his songs are not about the hardships of Lebanese life, but take on a lighter tone, being content with merely ridiculing certain social phenomena that he sees wrong in. In these songs, his demeanor changes from that of a stern teacher trying to deliver the message to his listeners into that of a comedian doing whatever it takes to make the listener literally laugh at how ridiculous the subject he wants to criticize really is. When I say “whatever it takes”, this includes speaking in a patronizing tone of voice, or in an exaggerated one, for example in “Amercaineh”, he criticizes Lebanese rappers that are trying too hard to imitate American rappers by saying “Hey yo yo pour tous mes freres et mes seurs, I’m fron New York! I’m from L.A!” in the typical “Lebanese trying to pull-off an American accent” manner. Also for example, in the song “Choufo 7alone”, he is not satisfied with just saying “btoftas min ri7t l’mazout” and shutting up to let the breakdown in the music play. He seizes the opportunity to spice it up a bit and adds a clip of himself coughing. These “comedy-tactics” are some of the ways he delivers his messages, doing it not only indirectly, but at the same time entertainingly. It’s not the kind of comedy that is equal to sampling fart noises for example. It’s witty and makes the listener contemplate it and it contributes to his song’s overall message. But don’t get confused here. Rayess Bek is not at all a novelty act, nor is he a constantly-depressed pessimist. He switches from one personality to the other whenever the topic he is tackling calls for it, but keep in mind that he is perfectly capable of  both attacking down to earth social injustices as well as criticizing day-to-day pet peeves, and he does both quite efficiently.

 He is not at all times the one who creates the music he raps to, but it ranges from electronic (“Amercaineh”) to hip hop fused with Middle-Eastern music (recent work with the Rayess Bek Orchestra). In fact, one who listens to the Arabic-Electronic group SoapKills may have picked up that their instrumental song “Dub4Me”, which can be found on their album “Cheftak” is the music that Rayess Bek is rapping to in his song “Choufo 7alone”. Zeid Hamdan has said that Rayess Bek asked if he could use it and that he agreed.

 One of the most appealing aspects of Rayess Bek and the Rayess Bek Orchestra is that they play their instruments live. I have great admiration for hip hop that is sung to live music as opposed to pre-recorded beats being played from a laptop. The drums are synthesized though, but it does give the music an electronic element.

 -Links:

-Rayess Bek Website: http://www.rayessbek.com/

-Rayess Bek Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/rayessbek

-Rayess Bek Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Rayess-Bek/30891699047?ref=ts

-Rayess Bek Blog: http://http://rayessbekblog.blogspot.com/

-Rayess Bek Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/kodwael

-Aks’Ser Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/aksserofficial

-Aks’Ser Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=2370275853&ref=ts

 

Show Review: The Crate Sessions: Zeid Hamdan – Live @ Walimat Wardeh (August 25, 2009)

-Before the Show:  This was the first of a still ongoing series of performances referred to as “The Crate Sessions”. The Crate Sessions is the brainchild of Serge Yared of The Incompetents, who also DJs at the restaurant/ pub, Walimat Wardeh, located on Makdessi Street (next to the Marble Tower building), Hamra. The idea is that, every Tuesday at Walimat, an artist will come and perform, but he/she must use an amp provided to him/her. That amp is a Crate CA15. The point of all of this is to see what happens when different artists are forced to perform under the same conditions, with the same method of amplification. Zeid Hamdan (Shift Z) of SoapKills and The New Government fame kicked off the series.

 This was the second musical event I ever attend, so I brought some friends along, who also accompanied me on my first ever expedition into the underground, The Incompetents at Daraj El Fann. We got there early. I like getting to these kinds of things early. You get to soak up the atmosphere of the venue before the show, as opposed to just arriving and diving head first into the situation. It was my first time ever there and I knew that it was somewhat of a hotspot for musicians and artists and such; A very “alternative” place. So, I brought some CDs along with a marker, just in case. ( :3 )

 We were greeted by Serge, behind the bar/ DJ workplace located near the door. I had made reservations, so we got a table and ordered some food (to my friends’ dismay). While sitting at the table, I spied a familiar face. It was Hamed Sinno of Mashrou3 Leila. I’m a big fan of Leila. I had taken this into account, and as luck would have it, I had brought along the “96.2 FM Modern Music Contest” CD, which is the only CD that features their material available for purchase (for now). I greeted him, and learned that Ibrahim Badr, bassist of Mashrou3 Leila was with him also. A quick chat about how recording is going, the Leka@Eka3 tour (who the rest of the band were on abroad), and the amusing fact that the most prestigious Deir El Qamar Festival people uploaded a video of Mashrou3 Leila performing “3al 7ajeez” on their Youtube account with the title “3akrout song”, followed by a signature and friendly handshake, and with that, we parted ways.

 More waiting followed, but then Zeid had finally arrived. I greeted him, got “Party Animals” signed, and he proceeded to start his performance.

 -The Show: Serge had told me that Zeid would not be performing alone, but with Hiba El Mansouri and RGB. Prior to that night I had never heard of Hiba, and had only known RGB by name. Zeid kicked off his performance, using Serge’s acoustic guitar, playing some of his own personal material and some New Government material, which included “The New Government” and “Murder In Slow Motion”. Hiba El Mansouri then joined him in performing some of her own songs, “Lola” was among those, and some SoapKills material, “Aranis” was played. Finally, the crowd was in for some acoustic hip hop, as Zeid was joined by RGB. They performed some of RGB’s songs such as “Ma3na L’Rap” and “Awwast El Sherif”.

 -After the Show: It was a good performance overall, very informative as well, because between some songs Zeid would give a little note, a tidbit, a piece of history behind that song. He said how Aranis was inspired by the activity of a certain street. How Zeid first discovered RGB  and his fomer group, Kita3 Beirut, beatboxing in a tree.

 I went back to the table. Oh, did I mention that my friends didn’t even bother getting up? They were too preoccupied with Bullshit. Yes, that’s right, they had been playing a card game called Bullshit, claiming that they could see and hear just fine from where they were. Brief personal remark here, but a live performance is all about seeing. If you’re not eager to get a good spot, or focus on the performer, just pop a CD into the stereo at home…

 So I got up to do some socialization. I spoke to Zeid again, and met RGB for the first time. I spotted Ziad Nawfal as well, but he had to leave. I went back to the table and joined in the card game my friends were playing (I learned it on the spot and sucked at it, like I do with many other games).

 And so, we departed. I had seen Zeid Hamdan, one of Beirut’s most well known alternative musicians perform, and was introduced for the first time to Hiba El Mansouri, and RGB. Walimat is alright in my book.

For information on past and future performances as part of The Crate Sessions, check this group: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=118734329783&ref=ts

For information on the restaurant Walimat Wardeh, birthplace and host of The Crate Sessions, check this group: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=2458771491&ref=ts