the ruptured sessions vol. 5 CD release party, a photo by tsweden on Flickr.
I arrived in Beirut on March 15. It's now the 24th, and I'm about to leave.
I didn't get to see any live music but I did meet some cool people with connections to the music scene, and I learned a fair about.
1. I missed both performances that Ziad Nawfal was involved in, including the one above. But I did get hold of most editions of the Ruptured Sessions. Check out the Ruptured website -- Ruptured has produced a number of recordings, they put on radio shows and concerts. It's an important hub of music activity in Beirut.
2. I met DJ Sotosura my first night here, chatted with him a bit, and got my hands on his brand new mixtape, Al 3arabi Mo5. You can listen to it here. Very cool session, with def artists like boikutt (Palestine), Deeb (Egypt), El Rass (Lebanon), and El Far3i (Jordan). One of the very encouraging things I learned is how much collaboration is going on between rappers from these and other Arab countries. The rap scene is bringing back a kind of cultural pan-Arabism.
3. As far as Lebanese rappers, Sotosura (who is Palestinian) particularly recommend El Rass. And I highly recommend him to you.
4. I met someone actively involved in AMAR, the Foundation for Arab Music Archive and Recording. This is a fantastic project. They have just started producing podcasts; the first one, on Al-qaṣīda ‘alā al-waḥda, was released on March 21. Even more impressive is their first recording, a boxset devoted to Shaykh Yusuf al-Manyalawi, one of Egypt's great early twentieth century musicians. It includes 10 remastered CDs and a booklet written by Muhsen Sawa, Frédéric Lagrange, and the Foundation's president, Mustapha Said. It costs only $60, a real bargain. A collection of the music of Abd al-Hayy Hilmi should be out very soon.
5. I met Jackson Allers, who has been in Beirut for the last six years, and has been actively following and involved in the Beirut (and Arab more generally) music scene, and especially the rap scene. He's working on a book about Arab rap, which I look forward to eagerly. Meanwhile you can follow him on his blog Beats and Breath -- Iqaa3 wa Nafas. Essential reading.
And Jackson recently took over as managing editor of World Hip Hop Market, also a great website, dealing with global rap, but really, not from the point of the view of the capitalist market. At least not big capitalist.
Check out, for instance, his interview with Syrian-American producer dub Snakkr, producer of another pan-Arab collection of hip-hop, called Khat Thaleth (Third Rail). It's a great collection too, and you can find it on iTunes and emusic and all over. Go get it. (I blogged about it earlier: you can get a promo with 7 of the 23 tracks here.)
It was great to get a bit of an introduction to the scene in just a few days, even if I didn't actually get to see any live music. But I did collect a packet of CD's. And ma'leesh, I'll be back inshallah.