Arab street mu­sic fused with dub, synth and elec­tron­ica: this is dabke

Emirates Man - - CONTENTS -

It’s early Au­gust in London and four young men have just taken to the stage in Dal­ston. They have the tra­di­tional trap­pings of an Arab band – kef yehs, dar­bukas and a tabl baladi – but looks are de­ceiv­ing. Within min­utes syn­the­sis­ers, dub ef­fects and a hyp­notic reg­gae riff have merged with the en­er­getic sounds of Arab street mu­sic and the deep beats of the Fer­tile Cres­cent. This is not go­ing to be a reg­u­lar evening.

Wel­come to the ‘ fu­tur­is­tic sound of dabke’, a joy­ous fu­sion wor­thy of the 21st cen­tury. “We are try­ing to cap­ture the fes­tive spirit of a Pales­tinian cel­e­bra- tion,” says Z The Peo­ple, singer, key­boardist and elec­tron­ics con­troller with 47Soul. “At the same time, we want to take the mu­sic of the roots to a new place. That re­ally is our main ob­ses­sion. So we play the rhythms that have been bump­ing in the re­gion for cen­turies, the an­cient cha3bi beats, let’s say, and we take it in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, with ana­log syn­the­sis­ers, dub ef­fects, and mix­ing Ara­bic and English lyrics.”

47Soul are a snap­shot of the Pales­tinian di­as­pora. Hail­ing from Am­man, the US and the Galilee, the four mu­si­cians have been play­ing and per­form­ing to­gether since they rst met in 2012, dab­bling with Iraqi choubi, Le­banese mi­jwiz and var­i­ous sounds from around the world.

Cur­rently en­joy­ing a sixweek stint in the south­west of Eng­land record­ing their de­but al­bum, they are in many ways an ex­am­ple of the rude health of the un­der­ground mu­sic scene in Beirut and Am­man. Singer and dar­buka front­man El Far3i and gui­tarist El Je­haz had been ac­tive with dif­fer­ent bands in Am­man, while Walaa Sbait had a strong rep­u­ta­tion as a per­former in the Galilee. Mean­while, Z The Peo­ple, who has just bought out a crowd- funded solo al­bum, had been per­form­ing in Wash­ing­ton, DC.

“There is so much con­tent com­ing from Beirut and Am­man, not to men­tion un­der­ground scenes in Pales­tine, and so many artists from Syria inside and in refuge around the re­gion that are say­ing deep things through mu­sic,” says Z. “There is so much to say, and the chan­nels for ex­pres­sion are there.

“We were all search­ing for a fresh Ara­bic sound that we could claim as our own and give back to the peo­ple to cel­e­brate with. Mu­sic is our life, it’s our voice, it’s our life­style. It’s ev­ery­thing. Mu­sic is what makes our lives bet­ter. We want to put peo­ple in a place of cel­e­bra­tion and trance, and give peo­ple an ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing united that they can build upon after the con­cert ends and the amps are un­plugged.”

Of all their songs, Jahrusalem – an epic fu­sion of sounds and a telling play on words – sums up the ethos of their mu­sic and their pol­i­tics best. “This song came about while I was with Walaa in front of the Da­m­as­cus Gate in the Old City in Jerusalem,” says Z. “Many com­mu­ni­ties around the world ro­man­ti­cise Jerusalem as a re­li­gious or tourist des­ti­na­tion with­out un­der­stand­ing the re­al­ity of the bru­tal oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tine. We are fed up with this fan­tasy bub­ble. Jerusalem, like the rest of Pales­tine, is not free; the in­dige­nous peo­ple of Pales­tine are liv­ing with ba­sic rights on hold and homes are be­ing de­stroyed ev­ery day.

“We say it in a reg­gae way be­cause we want to break down terms like Jerusalem, Pales­tine and Zion that are com­monly used in a sym­bolic or bib­li­cal way in main­stream cul­tures, like reg­gae mu­sic. We want peo­ple to think about the real Jerusalem, the real Pales­tine, the real Zion, right now in 2014, and the truth of the tough re­al­i­ties we as Pales­tini­ans face there.”

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