Lucid

Lucid: Arabic Classical Music from Israel

Lucid

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This album cover is fitting since the music of Israel’s Lucid, especially “10,” sounds as timeless and beautiful as a night full of stars. There is only one EP out so far, and the first single, November’s equally grand “Winter Path,” is also worth checking out. “10” takes me to a world like the open plains of The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and I never want to leave. There is little other information to know or find regarding this group except to seek them out and be ready for them when they hopefully release new music soon.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Nadah El Shazly

Nadah El Shazly: Abstract Mythological Sounds from Egypt

Nadah El Shazly

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Think of anything that sounds as strange and avant-beautiful as Egypt’s Nadah El Shazly. The closest I get is early Björk, though she hasn’t made anything sounding this urgent in years. Portishead too, but there’s more color in Shazly’s voice and Miles Davis-like cut-and-paste instrumentation. Maybe it’s what this photograph sounds like. All are true to me, and I believe Nadah El Shazly is one of my new favorite Egyptian musicians.

From Bandcamp (also check out this great interview with Bandcamp Daily):

“Starting out singing Misfits covers in a local punk band, then moving onto producing her own electronic tracks and making a name for herself in Cairo’s underground scene, Nadah El Shazly’s backstory is not that unusual. Her debut album on the other hand, is an entirely unexpected story.

Two years in the making, Ahwar (Arabic for marshlands) is an otherworldly record, not unlike an abstract mythological story-tale. Opening with the mangled and filtered vocals of the album’s lead track Afqid Adh-Dhakira (I Lose Memory) like an alien dream, the drones of a bowed double bass lead us into a drum groove that lays the groundwork for El Shazly’s sultry and captivating presence, singing: “(I am) coming, from a time far away. Going, escaping. Alone in the wilderness”.

The Arabic prose lingers over interjections of slap-back delayed guitar twangs and an avant-garde arrangement of dissonant winds, horns and seemingly random drum fills, ending with an eerie soundscape that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Giallo classic. A daring and potent statement that sets the foundations over which the rest of the album can unravel.

Composed, written and produced by El Shazly herself in collaboration with The Dwarfs of East Agouza’s Maurice Louca and Sam Shalabi on co-composition and arrangement duties, the album was crafted across two continents, between Canada and Egypt, and features the crème of Montreal’s contemporary-classical and improvised music scene, most of whom are members of Shalabi’s own Land of Kush ensemble.

In between El Shazly’s five original tracks, we are treated to an abstract cover version of Sayyid Darwish’s classic Ana ‘Ishiqt (I Once Loved). El Shazly’s haunting vocal floats over broken Kalimba and Harp arpeggios which slowly intertwine with a free, bowed double bass improv to nestle within the breaks between Younes Al-Qadhi’s early 20th century verses of love and betrayal.

More than that, it is difficult to really describe, but imagine the worlds of Nico, Björk and Annette Peacock with the Arabic language as their mother tongue, re-approached through acoustic avant-jazz harmony and re-constructed with a dash of Kamilya Jubran’s modern styling of Arabic maqam and you may be somewhere close.”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Mu Zein Wallah

Mu Zein Wallah: Ambient Desert-Like Sounds From, Uh, The Desert?

Mu Zein Wallah

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I can’t tell you much about Mu Zein Wallah or this Semuta Music release, mostly because I couldn’t find anything. A total mystery. There seems to be a sort of connection to Dune (never read or watch it). In any case, and freaky album cover aside, I really dig these ambient sounds that could inhabit the same desert as the monster on the cover. The music makes me feel dry and uncomfortable, which I’m sure was the intention. Only five tracks, but they seem to go on forever. Listen to more on Bandcamp.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Lokal Affair

Lokal Affair: Experimental Sound System Music from Tunisia

Lokal Affair

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Lokal Affair is a Tunisian producer with a new EP call Seremunia out now via the experimental sound system label Boomarm Nation. This short collection is something I can put on and get lost in – random sounds are sampled over steady, groovy beats that take me to Tunisia.

The EP is getting some rightfully good traction, especially with a shout out by Tiny Mix Tapes: “[The EP] contains the soothing everythingness of daytime city noise, and the echoes of the blacklight nighttime stars blotted out by the rising sun during the walk home from the club.”

From Facebook:

“Ethnic – Hypnotic Sounds – spiritual – Melodic – MultiCultu – Downtempo”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Project Youth

Project Youth: Punk Rock Istanbul

Project Youth

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Sure we all want to be The Clash and Sex Pistols, but how about actually sounding like them? To have that same sense of urgency and smirk? That’s the classic British punk sound and feel I hear from Istanbul’s Project Youth. I really enjoy all of Middle East for its politicalness and its desire to sound fun and alive. It feels like this group is on a mission to do something, even if that mission is just to destroy or declare that nothing matters. How punk.

From Facebook:

“Veins of ’77 punk and early British Oi! Featuring members from two local punk bands; Poster-iti & Sabotage.”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Stormtrap

Stormtrap: Beatmaker and Rapper from Palestine

Stormtrap

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Palestine rapper Stormtrap, also known as Asifeh, takes me to a Cowboy Bebop-like world with distorted beats carrying jazz-like grooves and asserted rapping. I’m especially drawn to 2012’s Iradeh, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve heard so far.

From Bandcamp:

“[A] beatmaker and rapper from Palestine. Experimenting with old samples, instruments, and field recordings, and combining all that with hip-hop beats. His lyrics deal with different themes inspired mainly by his personal experiences in Palestine. [He] played a fundamental role in forming the band Ramallah Underground, with which he has performed worldwide.”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Racha Rizk

Racha Rizk: “Diva of the Damascus Opera”

Racha Rizk

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What a voice. Racha Rizk is a singer from Damascus now based in Paris. “Sakru Shababîk” is my current favorite Rizk track for that soulful, powerful voice and bonus electric guitar – something I don’t hear too often in Arabic pop. Check out her interview with Onorient from earlier this year, and check her out via Facebook.

From Onorient (translated):

“Passed far too unnoticed, the first album of the Syrian diva, “Malak” released early 2017, deserves to be widely presented on new scenes.

The compositions of Racha Rizk tell with troubling softness the destructive consequences of the war in Syria. Her past of prima donna at the Opera is guessed in the elegance of her phrasing and the amplitude of her melodies. With the freedom of the great artists, she sings in Arabic on oriental music tunes, tinged with jazz, pop suspicions, or a few rock riffs.

His enveloping voice has already charmed several generations of moviegoers in France. A few years ago, she had lent her voice to the films of the Lebanese director Nadine Labaki Caramel and And now we go where?  From now on, its homage to Syria and the Syrians is a tribute to the web, beyond the borders.”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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Hoodna Orchestra

Hoodna Orchestra: Israeli Afrobeat

Hoodna Orchestra

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Afrobeat from Tel Aviv? When it sounds this good, yes.

Hoodna Orchestra is a 14-piece group that plays all types of Afrobeat styles, and they play them all well. According to their bio, the group’s mission is to study and investigate the African origins of western popular music.

From Bandcamp:

ALEM (world in Amharic) is the 2nd release in a series of collaborations between The Hoodna Orchestra and artist and performers from Ethiopia. The song was written and sung by The singer and poet DEMISU BELETE to a tune by Ilan Smilan. It is an intense love song describing one’s love as a cure to all pains and woes. BELETE’s singing style is heavily influenced by the great singers from the golden age of ethiopian music, especially Mahmoud Ahmed and Tilahun Gesesse. BELETE’s deep voice, alongside the dynamic and groovy performance by the Hoodna orchestra, creates a powerfull composition that sweeps the listeners away to a different time and place.

The Bside is an Ethio-dub version of the song, that features members of ADYABO Ensemble, a group that specializes in traditional Ehiopian music and Folklore. The song titled ALEM-DUB is an attempt at fusing old and new, tradition and Modernity. The result is a hypnotically groovy track, heavily painted in Bright psychedelic colours. The single will be released in a 7″ vinyl format.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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The Wanton Bishops

The Wanton Bishops: American Blues-Influenced Rock ‘n’ Roll in Lebanon

The Wanton Bishops

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The Middle East has an established Tuareg blues scene, but American blues-influenced rock ‘n’ roll isn’t as easy to find throughout the Middle East from the states. The Wanton Bishops is one of those rare finds that catches me off guard by how American it sounds and how strong it is; Delta harmonicas, bluesy riffs, and mournful howls are all here, but there’s also a very modern drive and light electronic touch that makes this more than just “American rock.” Listen to the whole album and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

From Bandcamp:

“The Wanton Bishops is the vision of one very eclectic man – Nader Mansour. A cultural anomaly, considering the fact that he was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, Nader as lead singer is the very epitome of a howling blues man. With a wide range of influences, Nader’s music draws from blues, psychedelic rock, classic rock to the sounds of the Tarab.”

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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RiFFRaFF Rap From the Working Class

RiFFRaFF Rap From the Working Class: Socialist hip-hop from the Middle East

RiFFRaFF Rap From the Working Class

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Also known as “the human megaphone,” RiFFRaFF Rap From The Working Class is a Middle Eastern MC who is not that Riff Raff but raps in Arabic and English over steady beats, tasteful saxophone, and sometimes banjo. Socialism and class politics is the name of RiFFRaFF’s game, which he backs up with plenty of energy. Check out more RiFFRaFF via Bandcamp.

Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber

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