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.

Show Review: The Crate Sessions: I-Voice – Live @ Walimat Wardeh (December 22, 2009)

This was it. The penultimate Crate Session! It just happened that I was free that night, and since Walimat Wardeh was not going to be around for long, I decided to make the most of it while I still could.

 It was supposed to be White Trees tonight, the duo of Carl Gerges (Mashrou3 Leila drummer) and Paul Tyan, but for some reason they pulled out. So instead they managed to book the Lebanese-Palestinian rap duo I-Voice (I for Invincible). It would be the first purely hip hop act to take part in the Crate Sessions, because when RGB came with

Zeid Hamdan and Hiba El Mansouri on the very first of the sessions, it was a mix of acoustic-rock-ska-reggae and hip hop.

 But just so I get this out early on, I am not really a huge fan of I-Voice to begin with, so I wasn’t really expecting a certain quality of performance from them that they may or may not have delivered. I was just an unbiased spectator.

 -Before the Show: I got there a bit early, 9:15-ish, and I was surprised to find the place quite empty save for a couple people, among them were Serge Yared (The Incompetents) and the previous night’s guest on Ziad Nawfal’s radio show “Ruptures”, the Canadian producer of Lebanese heritage, Radwan Moumneh (both of whom will be playing at The Basement this Sunday).

 Yassine and TNT (I-Voice) were both there, but there wasn’t much of a crowd, so they didn’t go on until about half an hour later.

 -The Show: Eventually they started. The setup was a mixer connected to the Crate, and connected to the mixer itself, two microphones and a laptop.

 I’m not familiar with all their songs, but I happened to know that the first one was called “Malnash”. They were very energetic, and in general, I feel like they have “rap-voices”. What I mean by that is, usually a rapper has good rhymes and all, but doesn’t have the voice and personality. They however have good voices, each with their own unique one.

 Most of the beats were pretty good. Yassine makes his own beats himself and I like how he uses middle-eastern samples, though that’s not really so innovative anymore these days.

 The crowd was not a hip hop crowd per-se. In the past, when RGB took the floor, he tried to treat the people like a hip hop crowd, but the reaction too wasn’t that strong. The people that go to Walimat are there for mellowness usually. Some don’t feel the need to get involved with the music and just continue eating their meals, hip hop or otherwise. But it just happens that hip hop relies heavily on rapper-audience interaction, so that could be affected in this particular setting. Well, this applied that night. Though there was plenty of head-nodding and foot-tapping and they did get the audience to participate by yelling “ta7iyyati” whenever they were instructed to in the song of the same name.

 I know the reason for this next thing I’m going to comment on, but I should bring it up nonetheless: Every song was ended quite abruptly by Yassine having to stop the music manually. I later found out that they weren’t the final tracks and stuff like that, but it really didn’t help set a mood.

 -After the Show: It was far from terrible, yet short of spectacular. At least hip hop was finally represented at the Crate Sessions, but if you ask me, I would have preferred handing that duty over to someone like Fareeq el Atrash, because I feel like the fact that they play their music live would have gotten at least a handful of the patrons curious (like RGB did when he was rapping to Zeid’s guitar playing). They were actually offered to play a Crate Session way back, but were busy preparing for other things. They’re one of the many acts playing in the final Crate Session, so I would definitely advise you to stop by and check them and some of the other great artists out next Tuesday (December 29th) as each will cover 2-3 songs of their choice (it’s for charity too!).


*By Tanya Traboulsi:


-For more on I-Voice:

 -For more info on The Crate Sessions:

 -For more info on the final Crate Session: