Revisiting the Third Rail: Arab rappers negotiate revolution

THIS WAS THE ONE AND ONLY EPISODE OF AN INTERVIEW SERIES ('On the Real') FEATURED ON WORLD HIP HOP MARKET (MARCH, 2013). THIS ARTICLE FEATURES AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SYRIAN-AMERICAN PRODUCER AHMED KHOUJA WHO PRODUCED THE ARAB RAP COMPILATION 'KHAT THALETH' ("THIRD RAIL") THAT WAS RELEASED WORLDWIDE IN THE SPRING OF 2013. IT WAS UNFORTUNATELY A SHORT-LIVED PROJECT THAT REFLECTED A GREATER DISCORD IN THE RANKS OF THE RAPPERS INVOLVED IN THE WAKE OF THE ARAB REVOLUTIONS. THE INTERVIEW STILL REFLECTS AN IMPORTANT TIME IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GREATER PHENOMENON OF ARAB RAP IN THE HISTORICAL LEVANT.

Kuwaiti music artist Zahed Sultan: Searching for the Blueprint

Kuwaiti electronic music producer and multimedia artist Zahed Sultan has finally launch his second full length album - eyeamsound - more than 3-years after the success of his debut release. This time around Sultan has expanded his live repertoire with a revamped set-up that has allowed him to present an entirely new interactive, live band-format, audio-visual experience for his fan base. We take you back to January 2014, and the Audio Kultur article written before a whirlwind 2014/2015 touring schedule for Sultan. The article marked the beginning of an entire year of artistic and documentary film collaboration between Zahed, Jackson, Red Bull, and Audio Kultur magazine.

Red Bull Music Academy Session Kuwait w/Bei Ru, Omar Offendum, Hasan Hujairi +

It was a dynamite weekend filled with the best musical prospects from Kuwait at the first ever RMBA Kuwait Session (January 30-31, 2015). Watch the short film directed/produced by Jackson Allers and edited/co-shot by Timothy Carr of TJC Films.

Back with a Vengeance: Lazzy Lung!

AFTER THE 2010 RELEASE OF LEBANESE INDIE ROCK BAND LAZZY LUNG'S DEBUT ALBUM STRANGE PLACES, UMEN FEATURED AN INTERVIEW WITH THE BAND'S FRONTMAN - ALLAN CHAARAOUI. SHORTLY THEREAFTER THE BAND BLEW UP, WINNING A LEGION OF REGIONAL ACCOLADES THAT INCLUDED THE ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE ME'S 'BATTLE OF THE BAND' CONTEST IN 2011; THE 2011 'MUSICIANS OF THE YEAR' AWARD IN ESQUIRE MIDDLE EAST; AND THE 2012 RAY-BAN/TRIPLEW.ME "HOMEGROWN TO HOLLYWOOD" CONTEST AND A TRIP TO RECORD AT CAPITOL RECORDS, LOS ANGELES IN STUDIO A WITH LEGENDARY ENGINEER CHARLIE PAAKKARI. NEARLY 4-YEARS AFTER THEIR DEBUT RELEASE, LAZZY LUNG IS PREPARING FOR THE OFFICIAL MAY LAUNCH OF THEIR SOPHOMORE ALBUM SAILOR'S DELIGHT. UMEN'S CULTURAL EDITOR SAT DOWN WITH CHAARAOUI TO DISCOVER WHAT WENT INTO THIS ALBUM - A RAUCOUS, FREE-WHEELING, HARD-DRIVING, KICK-ASS ROCK-N-ROLL ODE TO THE SEDUCTIVE NATURE OF BEIRUT.

Debut Solo Album: Palestinian MC – Muqata’a aka Boikutt – comes of age

Muqata'a aka Boikutt - has been at the forefront of the Palestinian Rap scene since the mid-2000's. One of the original members of the seminal rap crew Ramallah Underground, he has just released his long-awaited solo album, Hayawan Nateq; it's an album that was 2-years in the making, and BEATS AND BREATH is proud to present this exclusive feature and interview with Boikutt as he BEGINS his 2014 touring schedule!

Chico and the Man: reviving the vinyl tradition in Beirut!

Diran Mardirian is the owner of Video Chico, a dvd shop that was established as a record store in 1964 by his father Katchik. It was once a mecca for vinyl collectors that continued to sell vinyl up until 1982 when the shop "shook off the dust of the Israeli invasion and switched to videos. Now, after more than 30-years of serving the video renting community, Chico is aiming to once again be the mecca for vinyl sales in the region. Beats and Breath caught up with Diran, the man behind Chico's success, on the eve of an interior renovation that would transform the place into a proper record store. (*Note: This was published in November 2013.)

The PERCs’ perks – Production Equipment Rental Companies in Lebanon

BEATS AND BREATH FEATURES THIS HUGE PROFILE WRITTEN FOR COMMUNICATE LEVANT MAGAZINE (*AFFILIATED WITH ADVERTISING AGE) ON THE REAL ENGINE THAT MAKES THE REGION'S TELEVISION COMMERCIAL INDUSTRY RUN - THE PRODUCTION EQUIPMENT RENTAL HOUSES OR PERCS AS I TERMED THEM. MASSIVE THANKS GOES OUT TO JOSEPH AL KADAMANI (GAMMA ENGINEERING SARL), CHANT ETYEMEZIAN (PLATFORM STUDIOS), AND SAMER DADANIAN (FINAL CUT) FOR THEIR CANDIDNESS ABOUT THE IN'S-AND-OUT'S OF THEIR BUSINESSES.

Launch of Red Bull Music Academy Radio show: Quarter Tone Frequency Vol. 01

In October, 2013, Red Bull Music Academy Radio launched Quarter Tone Frequency. This was the first episode of season 1 - with eleven (11) monthly episodes following (*ending in September 2014). 4 hosts from Lebanon (Beats and Breath's Jackson Allers), Egypt (Mohamed Safi), Jordan (Tamer Gargour) and the UAE (James Locksmith, sound engineer: Mostyn "Megadon" Rischmueller) were tapped to help bring the vibrations of the independent music community from across the Middle East to wider audiences - regionally and internationally.

One Board at a Time: Mohammad Zakaria – Jordan’s skateboarding pioneer

MOHAMMAD ZAKARIA IS ONE OF THE PIONEERS OF JORDAN'S SKATE SCENE AND A VETERAN OF THE PAN-ARAB SKATEBOARDING SCENE. A PALESTINIAN-JORDANIAN WHO BASICALLY ADHERES TO THE FIELD OF DREAMS SCHOOL OF THOUGHT - "IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME" - ZAKARIA CO-FOUNDED PHILADELPHIA SKATEBOARDS IN 2009 ON A SHOESTRING BUDGET AND THE HOPE THAT IF YOU IMPORTED THE BEST BOARDS AND THE BEST HARDWARE IN THE WORLD, QUALITY WOULD DISTINGUISH YOU FROM ALL OTHERS THAT FOLLOWED. IT'S A FORMULA THAT HAS WORKED - WITH PHILADELPHIA BEING RECOGNISED AS THE GOLD STANDARD FOR BOARDS MANUFACTURED IN THE MIDDLE EAST THAT IN TURN HAS HELPED GROW A ROSTER OF TALENTED SKATERS BOTH IN THE ARAB WORLD AND IN THE WEST WHO CALL THEMSELVES PART OF TEAM PHILLY. THIS PIECE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER 2013.

Video: “History has found me” – Oak featuring Julia from Postcards (Lebanon)

Beats and Breath spent a day with two filmmakers (director/editor Tony H. Khoury & producer/director Karim Koleilat) and two extremely talented songwriters - Allen Seif known as Oak - and Julia Sabra from the Beirut Indy band Postcards. The result was the video for the song "History has found me" - shot and recorded on-location in the West Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. Below is a little description I wrote up detailing the magic we all felt on that day.

Beirut’s own: The Wanton Bishops Unchained, Part 1

An exclusive interview with the Beirut-based blues-rock-revival band The Wanton Bishops and Beats and Breath founder Jackson Allers. It's part 1 of an interview that was released in early 2013, and was conducted in December 2012 right before the launch of their first album - Sleep with the Lights On.

Is Qatar’s “Cultural Village” an artistic battleground?

IS QATAR'S ARTS AND PERFORMANCE COMMUNITY - THE KATARA CULTURAL VILLAGE - A NEUTRAL GROUND FOR THE ARTS IN THE 21ST CENTURY AS THE COUNTRY'S CULTURAL STEWARDS CLAIM? IR IS IT JUST A SHAM? BEATS AND BREATH TOOK A LOOK AT THE MISSION OF THE CULTURAL VILLAGE THROUGH THE LENS OF CONTROVERSY.

Beirut’s blues-rock revival – The Wanton Bishops

IN DECEMBER OF 2012 - BEATS AND BREATH SAT DOWN WITH WHAT HAS TURNED OUT TO BE BEIRUT'S HOTTEST MUSICAL EXPORT, THE BLUES-ROCK REVIVAL DUO THE WANTON BISHOPS - NADER MANSOUR AND EDDY GHOSSEIN. THE INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED RIGHT BEFORE THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THEIR FIRST ALBUM - SLEEP WITH THE LIGHTS ON. AS I RETROACTIVELY PUBLISH THIS FEATURE - THE BOYS ARE PREPARING FOR A STOP IN MY HOME STATE FOR THE SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST MUSIC FESTIVAL (*MARCH 2014). THEY'VE SINCE REPEATED MUCH OF WHAT WAS CONTAINED IN THIS INTERVIEW FOR OTHER SOURCES - BUT I THINK THIS ARTICLE AND PODCAST REPRESENTS THE FIRST (*SIGNIFICANT) CANDID INTERVIEW WITH THE BISHOPS. THANKS TO NADER AND EDDY FOR THE TIME! GOOD LUCK IN TEXAS FELLAS!

Interview with SHARE Foundation’s Vladan Joler and Filip Milošević

The following is an exclusive Beats and Breath interview with SHARE Foundation organizers Vladan Joler and Filip Milošević at online/cafe Radio Beirut in the lead up to the SHARE BEIRUT Conference last October. The SHARE Foundation is a Belgrade-based nonprofit organization which fights to protect civil liberties in the digital age.

Interview with Lebanese filmmaker Wissam Charaf

BEATS AND BREATH PRESENTS THIS INTERVIEW WITH LEBANESE FILMMAKER WISSAM CHARAF SOON AFTER THE LEBANESE PREMIERE OF HIS DOCUMENTARY FILM IT'S ALL IN LEBANON. WITH A CHRONOLOGICAL VIEW OF THE LEBANESE PSYCHE FROM THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR TO THE PRESENT, CHARAF'S FILM IS A ROMP THROUGH THE COMPETING MEDIA NARRATIVES OF THE COUNTRY'S THREE H'S – THE POP LUST CULTURE OF LEBANON'S VIDEO WORLD REPRESENTED BY MEGA-SEX KITTEN POP STAR HAIFA WEHBE; THE MEDIA GAMESMANSHIP OF THE SLAIN PRIME MINISTER AND BILLIONAIRE (RAFIK) HARIRI AND HIS ENDURING EMPIRE AFTER HIS DEATH; AND THE POWER OF THE PROPAGANDA COMING FROM THE LEBANESE RESISTANCE - HEZBOLLAH - AS TYPIFIED BY THE MEDIA STARDOM OF ITS LEADER SAYED HASSAN NASRALLAH.

Lebanese rapper El Rass ‘Unveils the Hidden’

In a sea of otherwise unappetizing pop-market Arabic musical fare, the alternative music scene in Lebanon has produced yet another artistic gem, this time with a collaboration that straddles the highly progressive but insular experimental works of the Beirut-based label Ruptured with the vocal skills of the poet, journalist, MC – Mazen el Sayyed aka El Rass. [...]

The Perfect Storm: Beirut’s Alt Music Scene

LEBANON IS A COMPLICATED PLACE. HISTORICAL ANTAGONISMS, BOTH INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL, HAVE SHAPED ITS POLITICAL AND SOCIAL LANDSCAPE. ITS DIVERSITY, ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS, IS UNMATCHED IN THE ARAB WORLD, AND SINCE THE 1950S, ITS CAPITAL CITY BEIRUT HAS BECOME THE FULCRUM BETWEEN ORIENTAL AND OCCIDENTAL, CREATING THE ‘PERFECT STORM’ OF INFLUENCES THAT HAS MADE IT THE MECCA FOR PROGRESSIVE MUSICAL TRENDS IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA).

Ziad Nawfal: Lebanon’s Indie Music Facilitator

IN MAY 2012 - BEATS AND BREATH SAT DOWN WITH ZIAD NAWFAL -THE FOUNDER OF THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC LABEL RUPTURED TO DISCUSS WHAT HE'S EXCITED ABOUT WITH THE NEXT-GENERATION OF ARAB MUSICIANS AND THE PROSPECTS OF WORKING AS AN INDIE LABEL IN THE MIDDLE EAST. (NOTE: THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN JUNE 2012)

Profile on Zeid Hamdan: “A musician without vision is no use!”

As Lebanese independent music pioneer Zeid Hamdan prepares for a long-awaited performance with African Harpist/Kora player, Kandjha Kouyate (Guinea) in Beirut on May 17, met Lebanese producer Zeid Hamdan, Beats and Breath has chosen to reblog this post that, while four years old, is equally relevant to discussions of the future of the independent Arab music scene – particularly as the Arab uprisings have opened up an unprecedented space for artistic expression in the Middle East and North Africa. Enjoy!

JACKSON ALLERS

Beats and Breath features this exclusive interview with Beirut-based musician, producer, composer, and arranger Zeid Hamdan, the pioneer of Lebanon’s alternative music scene. (Editor’s note: In the 2 years since this was published – it is still a relevant discussion of the future of alternative music in Lebanon.)

By JACKSON ALLERS

BEIRUT – Sitting in the confines of Torino (Express) – the bohemian stalwart of a bar in the east-Beirut, SoHo-like Gemayze district – I go through a mental preparation of what to ask Zeid Hamdan, the self-styled gardener of the Lebanese underground music scene.

For me, however, any preparation to interview Zeid Hamdan is less a technical exercise (“Who are your influences?” etc.), and more of a mutual exchange with questions drawn from the near 3 years I’ve known him and seen him work.

I remember the now legendary Mooz Records show (record label headed by Zeid at the…

View original post 2,193 more words

Rolling Stone Magazine ME article for ‘Voice of the Streets’ event

CAIRO - Last month, 12 of the re­gion’s best-known Arab rappers were set to per­form together at a public youth center in the swanky central Cairo district of Zamalek. Or­ganizers billed the Voice of the Streets event as a concert to re­mind people about the contin­ued struggle for freedom of ex­pression in the wake of the Arab uprisings. But the event was prematurely shut down by the Interior Ministry, who ordered organizers to shut the gates of the municipal youth club where it was set to take place.

Another Arab Revolution Arabic Graffiti Reclamation of a Canvas

Beats and Breath/Jackson Allers talked to legendary German graffiti writer and publisher Don Karl aka STONE, fresh off the release of his newly published book Arabic Graffiti authored by Lebanese typographer Pascal Zoghbi, with essays from a host of calligraphers, graffiti artists, designers, photographers and academics.

Live from Beirut….Lazzy Lung the Arab alt-rock Olympians!

BEIRUT - The 4-piece Lebanese alternative rock outfit Lazzy Lung released their debut album in late 2010, and by all accounts they’re the hardest working crew in the Arab alternative rock scene looking to win their fans over – one listener at a time. Beats and Breath sat down with the band’s co-founder and frontman – Allan Chaaraoui to find out more about Lazzy Lung and their future plans.

Soul II Soul’s Jazzie B: These are the breaks – Jazzie B’s sermon in Beirut

Trevor Beresfor Romeo aka Jazzie B, the legendary DJ, music producer and founding member of the musical collective Soul II Soul was in Beirut in March for a musical workshop with 44 musicians and producers from around the Arab world. BEATS AND BREATH sat down with Jazzie B to discuss music, his life philosophies and [...]

‘Life from the BBC’ – has its NYC premiere

BEATS AND BREATH is proud to announce that our documentary "Life from the BBC" is an official selection of the HBO New York International Latino Film Festival and will screen TODAY, Sunday, AUGUST 21st @ the AMC EMPIRE 14 in Manhattan.

Middle East’s Lyrical Bomber: Author, Actor, Husband, MC – The Narcicyst

Beats and Breath continues to look at the Arab uprisings and the rise of Arab hip-hop, releasing uncensored interviews with key members of the Arab hip-hop massive -much of the material archived during the production of the 30-min Beats and Breath/Free Speech Radio News radio documentary Rhymes and Revolution that aired on July 4. In [...]

Arab Raps Theoretical Unification

Beats and Breath's interview with Egyptian rapper Mohammed el Deeb aka Deeb released in June contended that the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa had a galvanizing effect with Arab hip-hop heads worldwide. But has this been the spark for a Pan-Arab hip-hop movement? I put this piece out there in the context of the rap contributions to the current revolution(s).

Independent Lebanese musician Zeid Hamdan arrested over song – “General Suleiman”

Blogger and music scholar Angie Nassar writes on the Beirut-based website NOWLebanon about the government detention and subsequent release of Zeid Hamdan - the self-described "gardener" of the independent music scene in Lebanon, co-founder of the electro-Arab fusion act Soap Kills and his most recent musical venture Zeid and the Wings. (We featured Zeid in a Beats and Breath article in March 2010.) Hamdan was arrested for his song "General Suleiman" which the Lebanese government found was a direct condemnation of Lebanon's president. It's a law clearly enforced in a selective manner considering the amount of slander bandied about by politicians and political parties in Lebanon on a daily basis.

TIME MAGAZINE: Syrian Rappers Urge … Restraint? Protesters Find Little Support in Popular Music

This is an article written by Rania Abouzeid for TIME Magazine ©. I am reposting it here to frame the controversy that has erupted over this article, which was a spin-off to a post put on Greg Schick's website World Hip-Hop Market.com. The post was about the stance on the Syrian unrest from a good friend, Syrian-Lebanese MC Eslam Jawaad, that led to another conversation between he and I a short time later on this blog. I'm not sure I was prepared for the ripple effects that have occurred, and the strain put on the Arab hip-hop movement.

Movements.org – Hip Hop’s Responses to the Arab Awakening

WHILE SOCIAL MEDIA HAS GOTTEN MUCH OF THE CREDIT FOR GALVANIZING THE UPRISINGS SWEEPING THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA (MENA), A NEW RADIO DOCUMENTARY BY SOCIAL CRITIC AND MUSIC JOURNALIST - JACKSON ALLERS - IS PAYING RESPECT TO ANOTHER INFLUENTIAL MEDIUM IN THE REGION, ONE THAT HAS ARTICULATED THE FRUSTRATIONS OF THE MARGINALIZED AND INCITED THE YOUNG TO ACTION - NAMELY HIP-HOP MUSIC.

Egypt’s revolution also a Hip-Hop Revolution

As the Free Speech Radio News radio documentary  -Rhymes to Revolution: A Soundtrack to the Arab Awakenings-  makes its way across the United States and the world, we take this opportunity to release a series of articles, interviews, and commentaries that have informed the research and content that have gone into making this documentary. We [...]

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