Ecoute: a sketch of slow and melodic Israeli jazz
What starts out as slow, Sketches Of Spain-like jazz turns into a twisting dance of Arabic melodies and grooves. That is the power of Ecoute‘s music, aided by a whole string and horn section and Inbal Jamshid’s beautifully sung poetry.
Luna Abu Nassar: Dawame sounds like a dream both calming and sinister
Dawame, Luna Abu Nassar’s second album, sounds like a dream on the banks of a Tel Aviv river, with echoes of different voices and instruments coming in and out as sounds of nature set a calming scene. Her extra touches add a somewhat sinister, deep blue feel that’s very compelling. She could easily be one of the musical artists at the end of the new Twin Peaks episodes.
Yasmine Hamdan: Lebanese singer-songwriter brings a Western approach towards Arabic pop
Yasmine Hamdan is a Lebanese singer-songwriter who approaches Arabic pop with a Western electronic, pop, and folk mindset, someone who has been immersed in enough styles to blend them all into something unexpected, something familiar, and something quite stunning.
“With her debut solo album Ya Nass (2013), Hamdan introduced her personal, modern take on Arabic pop. In Al Jamilat (‘The Beautiful Ones’), she pursues her musical exploration, while taking a look at the mutations at work within the Arab world. While Yasmine’s vocals are definitely connected to traditions of Arabic music (to which she takes an unconventional and fresh approach), the structures and arrangements of the songs are very remote from its codes, and take in elements from contemporary Western electronic, pop and folk music.”
El Morabba3: independent Arabic music from Jordan/Palestine
An oldie but a goodie, El Morabba3 has been making some of the most consistently interesting alternative music in Jordan for a couple of years. “Asheek,” a personal highlight, wouldn’t sound too off on the new National album.
“The more an artist attempts a truthful reflection of the human condition the more conflicts and paradoxes will appear in their work, that’s why the music of El-Morabba is euphoric and deliciously dark; it fills you with an acute sense of elation while the lyrics crash down on you with their intense reality and truth.
It is rebellious music that lends a voice to the thoughts, concerns and anger of the people towards the reality they are living today, yet most of all it lends a voice to a dream that is dormant within us all, nudges it sometimes, or shocks the hell out of it onto the surface in other instances of pure intensity. All of this is translated through music that is uniquely structured; the rhythm, while always holding a firm base of ergonomic structure with the simple yet efficient heartbeat of the bass, it manages to float within it’s own spheres alongside the heavily transformed guitar expressions like two astronauts floating individually away, or towards their shuttle, winking at each other in the realization that they will always reach their destination simultaneously because they’d timed it that way, and they’d done it a billion times before.
And during this dance of rhythm and atmosphere between the drums, percussion and guitar, the vocals of either Muhammad Abdullah or Tareq Abu Kwaik floats massively on the surface giving purpose and clarity to a dreamlike state without awakening the listeners, they come with the intensity of words half sung or half spoken, sweet and sour melodies doubled by indistinguishable screams of ecstasy and anguish.
The combination defies definition, yet is awash with purpose, it is also uniquely vulnerable and holistic, very human.”
Midnight Peacocks: Israeli stoner metal that embraces its Arabic roots
I don’t often hear violins in stoner metal, so Midnight Peacocks quickly grabbed my attention from “Tzar Bomba” and kept it throughout their entire new LP, ‘Katastroffa,’ which is out now.
From Bandcamp bio:
“The Midnight Peacocks are:
Eitan Radoshinski: Vocals & bass
Guy Shemi: Guitar & Backing Vocals
Yoav Zohar: Drums
Yoni Silver: Violin, Alto Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Keyboards & Piano
Hezi Shohet: Poetry”
Midnight Peacocks: Facebook
Al Massrieen: Arabic funk via the essential Habibi Funk Records
Al Massrieen, this gem of a band, came onto my radar when I was introduced to Habibi Funk Records, a Berlin sub-label of Jakarta Records that specializes in reissuing Arabic funk and jazz music from the ’70s and ’80s. Al Massrieen was an Egyptian band that played groovy Arabic funk from 1977 until the group’s end in 1988.
The full release, titled ‘Habibi Funk 006: Modern Music,’ will be released online April 28th.
From Habibi Funk’s SoundCloud:
“[This] was one of the first bands I learned about once I discovered the tape format. They were really popular in Egypt in the 1970s and the more of their music I found on either tapes or Arabic pirate mp3 sites, the more I was becoming a fan. Only very few bands from the region can match the band’s versatility as well as their strive for innovation. Hany Shenoda is the man behind the [band]. He is a reknown figure of the Egyptian music scene and has worked with everyone from Abdel Halim Hafez to Mohamed Mounir. Al Massrieen was his attempt to introduce his ideas of modernizing Egyptian music, heavily encouraged by Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt’s only winner of the Nobel Price for literature) after discussing his ideas with him.”
Baharat: vintage Israeli surf rock
Baharat is one of the many exciting bands on Batov Records, a London based independent label with sounds from all over the world. I’m drawn to this Tel Aviv three-piece because the music sounds psychedelic but tight, a kaleidoscope sound that doesn’t get in the way of itself. If you like Tame Impala or any music that would fit well in an Urban Outfitters, you’ll especially like this group.
“In middle eastern cuisine it’s well known – ‘don’t forget to add some Baharat to the dish! It always brings the magic!’ We are very pleased and excited to add a special new spice to the Batov Records kitchen…a band of 3 of Tel-Aviv’s finest hipsters, mixing the flavours of middle-eastern sounds with the vintage vibes of surf music. This tasty EP was recorded at home with minimal equipment, superb musicianship, lots of humility, a tape machine and no drugs. It is still a hallucination of timeless tunes.. and if you don’t think we’re objective about it, you are definitely right.”