Mideast mu­si­cal rise on dis­play at French fes­ti­val

The China Post - - LIFE - BY AN­THONY LU­CAS

From Pales­tinian hip- hop to Egyptian elec­tro to Le­banese blues-rock, artists from the Mid­dle East are mak­ing in­roads into Europe as wit­nessed at the lat­est Print­emps de Bourges fes­ti­val in France.

The lat­est edi­tion of the an­nual mu­sic event in cen­tral France fea­tures artists from the Mid­dle East as di­verse as hard-edged Pales­tinian rap­pers DAM to Asaf Avi­dan, the Is­raeli folk singer who has won grow­ing ac­claim with his unique, high-pitched, an­drog­y­nous voice.

The artists se­lected for the fes­ti­val’s 39th edi­tion, which runs through Wed­nes­day, show the “daz­zling and ex­tremely cre­ative scene” in the con­tem­po­rary Mid­dle East, said Elodie Mer­moz, who was in­volved in pro­gram­ming.

The six-day fes­ti­val also fea­tures plenty of stars from the broader mu­sic world in­clud­ing the Aus­tralian folk rock duo An­gus and Ju­lia Stone, gen­der-bend­ing singer Christine and French-Finnish Do.

But with a show­case of eight artists from the Mid­dle East, the fes­ti­val is hop­ing to high­light some of the tal­ent of a mu­si­cal scene that — much like the re­gion’s pol­i­tics — is fast-mov­ing.

Mer­moz said that the ris­ing in­ter­est in Mid­dle Eastern artists went hand-in-hand with the erup­tion of the Arab Spring.

The re­gion- wide re­volt “has wo­ken up the youth” and “from the mo­ment they left the streets, they needed an­other ground for ex­pres­sion and that was mu­sic,” she said. the Queens, and indie band The

Rise of Elec­tro Shaabi

Is­lam Chip­sky, an en­er­getic key­boardist from Egypt who brings an elec­tro di­men­sion to per­cus­sion­heavy songs, re­ceived an ec­static re­sponse when he per­formed Fri­day.

Chip­sky, whose trio has also played un­der the name EEK, had a ca­reer per­form­ing at wed­dings in Cairo and de­buted in the United King­dom last year.

He played down the sig­nif­i­cance of the Arab Spring on his mu­sic — part of the grow­ing Elec­tro Shaabi genre that com­bines tra­di­tional Arab forms with West­ern in­stru­ments.

“We were al­ways there in the un­der­ground scene be­fore the Arab Spring, but maybe for (the fes­ti­val) you started to look at young peo­ple in th­ese coun­tries be­cause of the Arab Spring,” he told AFP.

“Of course we get dif­fer­ent ex­po­sure right now — not only us but all the art scene in th­ese coun­tries —but that is not ex­actly that much re­lated to the Arab Spring,” he said.

Chip­sky said that the Elec­tro Shaabi genre had ini­tially been writ­ten off as “ghetto mu­sic” for the poor, but that the ap­peal has rapidly spread.

“Right now you can’t just ig­nore the fact that ev­ery­one knows about this mu­sic in Egypt — if not in the area, in the Mid­dle East,” he said.

Di­verse Styles

Such a mar­riage be­tween tra­di­tional and mod­ern forms is in­creas­ingly wide­spread in the Mid­dle East.

Among other artists who en­joyed a warm re­cep­tion in Bourges was the Le­banese band Mashrou’ Leila, who bring to­gether rock form with more tra­di­tional Arab vo­cals and vi­o­lin.

The group has al­ready won a loyal fol­low­ing in the Mid­dle East, de­spite lyrics that touch on some­times sen­si­tive top­ics such as ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, and will tour Europe in the com­ing months.

But some artists from the Mid­dle East are un­con­cerned about whether their mu­sic rep­re­sents tra­di­tional el­e­ments.

Sary Moussa, a Le­banese ex­per­i­men­tal elec­tronic mu­si­cian who goes by the stage name Ra­dioKVM, said: “Like plenty of Le­banese, I’m a mix of all the cul­tures around me, in­clud­ing on tele­vi­sion.

“I come up with a syn­the­sis of all of this cul­ture and I don’t nec­es­sar­ily feel a need to be rec­og­niz­ably Arab,” he said.

The same phi­los­o­phy holds true for an­other Le­banese act, The Wan­ton Bish­ops, whose blues songs in English come off as more from the banks of the Mis­sis­sippi than the Mediter­ranean. The band plans an ex­ten­sive tour of France through July.

Hip-hop has been a force for so­cial com­men­tary since its birth, and the Pales­tinian rap­pers DAM won a wide fol­low­ing a decade ago with “Meen Irhabi” (“Who’s the Ter­ror­ist?”).

DAM has in­creas­ingly found an au­di­ence out­side the re­gion, with tour­ing in re­cent years across Europe and North Amer­ica as well as Ja­pan.

Avi­dan is not the only Is­raeli singer at the fes­ti­val, with the French-Is­raeli star Yael Naim — who scored a top 10 U.S. hit with “New Soul” — also per­form­ing.


Le­banese al­ter­na­tive rock band Mashrou’ Leila per­form on stage at the 39th “Le Print­emps de Bourges” rock and pop mu­sic fes­ti­val in Bourges, cen­tral France, on Sun­day, April 26.

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