Show Review: Your Mama Wants You Back @ Zico House (March 20, 2010)

I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to review this one. I felt so passive about it… But still, there were some new experiences:

 -Before the Show: The main reason I was going was for saxophonist, Stephane Rives and DJ, Ernesto’s performance for saxophone and turntables. The theme of the night was “funk”.

 I arrived and paid the reasonable fee of 10,000 L.L. Outside I had a chance encounter with the improvisor Raed Yassine, which was neat because I learned where the releases of his improvised music record label “Annihaya” are available (Music Now, Makdessi Street, Hamra, just ask and Youssef will hook ya up 😉 ).

 I entered and found Chyno and John of Fareeq el Atrash chillin. The place was almost empty, just a couple of people there. I found out that they would be playing in a project I was not that much interested in called The Mudbone which would supposedly fuse hip hop with drum n bass. Thus, I decided to stay longer in order to check that out.

 -The Show: So when I heard “saxophone and turntables”, I was expecting, “jazz and turntablism”, ya know? Well, boy was I in for a surprise.

 Stephane Rives was seated at a table with a laptop and a saxophone in his lap, while Ernesto behind two or three turntables.

 What followed was basically 30 or so minutes of Stephane blowing into his sax playing a single high pitch note, occasionally fiddling with his laptop creating clicks and hisses, while Ernesto played some vinyls of animal sounds, African chanting, and classical music, slowing them down and speeding them up manually. Accompanying this was THE BEST VJ’ING I HAVE EVER SEEN, done by Nadim Saoma (excellent job). This sort of completed my “Improv-Trilogy”. I had seen the three main kinds of improvised music: Acoustic (Sharif Sehnaoui), Electric (Scrambled Eggs), and Electronic/ Artificial (anything made by synths, computer programs, and turntables, though turntables are more physical than the other two)

 Following that, one hour DJ set by DJ Heavy G. Funky funky shit…

 After that, The Mudbone went on. John Imad Nasr was on bass as usual, Marcel Chalhoub on electronic drums, and Jeremy Chapman on saxophone.  Also, Chyno added freestyle rap verses every now and then. Marcel played some Latin percussion with a constant pounding bass drum accompanying. John joined in on bass, and Jeremy jammed along. It was all very on-the-spot sort of. Chyno would pick a phrase and repeat it over and over again. It was all too close to mainstream house music for me honestly. And then there’s the saxophone; oh the saxophone. Let me go on the record now for what I will say: The saxophone is an extremely controversial instrument to me. With it, the line between awesome and cheesy is EASILY crossed, one wrong note, and bam! Corniness… I left after three “jams”, though I heard that after that it got more hip hoppy, with Edd Abbas taking charge of the mic.

-After the Show: I went back home and gave my mama a hug…

-Photos:

*Personal: http://www.facebook.com/omaralfil?v=photos&ref=profile#!/album.php?aid=411747&id=842365214

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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:

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-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/

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”.

-Photos:

*Personal:

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

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-Videos:

*Personal:

-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/