This week we’ve compiled a list of music that…was frankly quite hard to categorise and create a title for.
As an Indian who was born and schooled in the Middle East until age five, I have naturally been around Middle Eastern, Arab and Muslim culture, food and music growing up.
People who are Arab, Middle Eastern and Muslim may fall into three different demographics with some overlap, so there is no way I could ever curate an all encompassing playlist.
For example I’m from the Middle East, but I’m not Arab and I’m not Muslim. A woman from Sudan may be Muslim, from the Middle East and not Arab. A child from Afghanistan may be Muslim but neither Arab not Middle Eastern.
Then the next hurdle that I always hit when making playlists; how was this going to be curated? What about genres within a culture? Do we go top 40 pop music, indie-Arab or pay homage to the greats that paved the musical path in decades of the past?
In my nerdy research holes I learn the same lesson each time – the more you know, the more you realise how little you know.
As someone who makes sense of the world through music and dance, my quest to learn revolves heavily around the significance of rhythms, instruments and traditional dance styles within cultures. Through this, I learn so much about other worlds. I learn about how people mourn, celebrate, pray and structure hierarchies around gender and class. I hope that this playlist simply opens your world up to a whole new genre of music that may prompt you to learn more about other music styles, other dance styles and other cultures.
A special thanks to all my friends and network for helping me create this melting pot playlist. I created an arch so that we get upbeat and dance before tapering off into beautiful and sometimes melancholy melodies to drink tea to.
Here is a synopsis of some of the music I’ve compiled for you:
This is a band made up of members from NYC, Uruguay and Tel Aviv but the lead singer, Ravid Kahalani, is a Yemenite Jew. His vocals are mainly in Yemenite Arabic, though sometimes in Hebrew or Moroccan. What makes this band so incredible is this connection between Arabic music, African music and the blues. I first heard Yemen Blues whilst in Berlin some 4 years ago and I was floored by the performance, aesthetic and the harmonious way in which these different worlds collided.
This Libyan-Egyptian musician is known as the leading Egyptian musician in ‘westernised-synthesised-pop’ or Arab pop. I first discovered this music through my babe who somehow has an incredible Spotify algorithm that would make the most well versed crate digger jealous. It’s really not fair because he literally puts zero effort into finding music.
This song is a nostalgic one for me and every Indian and/or Arab kid from the 2000s. Feras and I, both being from Dubai, have definitely bonded over this tune. The Arab pop singer made this banger that infuses Hindi (a language from India) and both Arab and Indian instrumentals alongside those classic pop loops that formulaically turn any work of art into a top 40 banger. Flared pants and glittery hip scarves were donned for a community dance performance to this song that I choreographed with my cousins in our rehearsal studio (my bedroom). I’ll have you know it was a huge hit.
These guys are Algerian Tuareg (which is a nomadic Muslim denomination of people that predominantly exist across the Sahara). These guys flawlessly epitomise what is described as ‘desert rock’ where rock represents the musical genre, not like…a desert…rock. To be honest I’ve put three of their songs in this playlist but the entire album is worth a listen with melodies that feel like the Sahara; sandy, hot, dry and uplifting all at once.
I asked my fellow Dubai-an and your weekly Groove Therapist, Feras, for some tracks and he introduced me to Abdel Halim. After digging into my usual research cave, I get the feeling that Halim is the Frank Sinatra of Egypt, a cultural icon of the 1950s-60s, and a timeless classic artist for the parents and grandparents of today’s kids. Of course, once you hear the Khosara Kohsara track, you will likely expect a a dirty bass beat to drop as Jay-Z famously samples this track in Big Pimpin’. The sample has evoked a huge legal battle that canvasses the obvious copyright issues but also brings up issues around cultural sensitivity and respect. A motion filed by the plaintiff in court this year takes issue with lyrics that, it is claimed, do not imply the respectful treatment of women. It’s such a reminder to me that I am constantly consuming and endorsing problematic media/products/services/ideologies and that learning is, once again, great for helping inform your consumption.
Without further ado, here is this week’s Arabeats playlist:
Groove Therapy is an organisation that focuses on dance as a vehicle for mental, physical and social change. Through an unrelenting obsession to learn, unlearn and contribute to the betterment of humanity, Groove Therapy teaches weekly ‘no mirror, dim lights’ classes across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia. For those who cannot geographically attend, Groove Therapy has a series of online courses. Get out of your head and into your body. Dance a little baby.