WELCOME TO ASLAN MEDIA MUSIC!
Bringing you the latest sounds from the Mideast and its global Diaspora communities.
For more music articles, try our subcategories at the bottom!
- Published on Monday, 15 August 2011 10:00
- Category: Artist Profile
Almost every generation has a hotbed of intellectual and artistic growth. Paris, London, San Francisco... the list continues. These places have served as the Petri dishes for society, providing an ephemeral glimpse at the times that, sooner or later, change. So it may come as a surprise that a city isolated in nearly every sense of the word — geographically, politically, culturally — has evolved into a hotbed for underground music: Tehran.
Nothing quite captures the mood of post-1979 Iranian culture like the rock band Kiosk. Founded by front man Arash Sobhani in 2003, Kiosk has long dominated Tehran’s underground rock scene with its authentic lyrics confronting Iranian cultural angst. “No need for cardiologists,” sings Sobhani with his understated, gravelly voice, in Love for Speed (“Eshgh e Sorat”), “just face lifts by cosmetologists.” Such wryness is the trademark of the band; it offers an honest opportunity for self-reflection in a society that has nearly seventy-percent of its population under the age of thirty.
- Published on Monday, 08 August 2011 12:39
- Category: Artist Profile
Somewhere amidst the devastation that lies between Tripoli and Benghazi resides Ibn Thabit — an anonymous hip hop artist whose anti-government songs have served as the unofficial soundtrack for the Libyan experience of the Arab Spring. Tracks such as “Tripoli is Calling” and “Dirty Colonel” not only threaten the Ghadaffi regime, they mark the evolution of a digital underground music scene in a country once unjustly represented by the world’s most boring flag.
Self-described as “an ordinary Libyan speaking the thoughts of many Libyan youth,” little is known about Ibn Thabit besides these census-like statistics: young, male, Libyan. He has been producing anti-Ghaddafi songs since 2008 despite not being affiliated with any political groups, according to his website. In superhero fashion, Ibn Thabit keeps his identity private in order to protect himself and his family from government reprisal. This anonymity produces a unique effect in his music: by not being claimed by a single individual, his voice can thus be shared by disenfranchised Libyans looking for a nonviolent way to express their political will, a dynamic as universalizing as it is empowering.
From Nasser’s radio addresses to Khomeini’s cassette tapes, Middle Eastern political movements have long used the technology-du-jour to reach the masses, often at low economic costs. Likewise, Ibn Thabit offers plenty of songs and mash-ups free on his website for download, thus exporting his potent lyrics outside Libya’s borders, to neighboring countries and across the globe. He has set up a PayPal link for donations to support his website and cover producing costs.
- Published on Monday, 01 August 2011 02:50
- Category: More About Music
For centuries, writers, intellectuals, musicians, and other artists have used images of contemporary figures to convey social messages that discuss the world at large. As a result, it’s a near-established rule of thumb that satire should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not personal, per se; it’s more than that. Satire, the smiling voice for the discontented, is as much a part of democratic cultures as free elections and pyrotechnics on national holidays. Think Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, and more recently, South Park. Now, think Zeid Hamdan.
Directed by the Italian director Gigi Rocatti, the video for “General Suleiman”—the 2010 single for Hamdan’s bilingual electro ensemble Zeid and the Wings—gave domestic fans and international audiences a glimpse at modern day Lebanon, a society all too familiar with war and its tragic consequences. The video which features the colorful faces of Beirut is enhanced by sonic simplicity, something which turns the listener’s focus toward the reggae track’s message to the country’s president, Michael Suleiman. “"General Suleimen," the lyrics follow, "Put your weapons down, put your weapons down, now it's time to leave your warlords behind.”
- Published on Sunday, 24 July 2011 20:00
- Category: Artist Profile
With today’s online music platforms — iTunes, Amazon, and Pandora — it seems almost natural to get lost in the limitless collections of tunes that shape - and are shaped by- our individual preferences. New media has encouraged many listeners to seek the newest music with the latest studio equipment, to maximize the listening “experience”. This is great; but it seems that in the search for what’s new, we often forget the old.
And the old, in my opinion, is what makes music music. The “old” gives us a sense of continuity with our past and builds bridges with distant cultures. This idea, in particular, resonates very much in the music of Mustafa Kandirali, a Turkish clarinetist, whom I first stumbled upon in the catalogs of a music library at U.C. Berkeley. This first encounter inspired me to purchase his self-titled Mustafa Kandirali on iTunes.
Maybe it was the fact autotunehad been dominating the Top 40 and had left me with a severe case of techno nausea, but for the following weeks, I was hooked on jazzy classical music. Although Kandirali lives in our era (his personal website, however, has yet to be found) and isn’t as old as one might suspect (b. 1930), his compositions unequivocally express nostalgia for what once was. This isn’t to say that his songs contain the melancholic undertones found in most other traditional forms. Quite the contrary. And, no song better captures this than Haydar Haydar. Kandirali transforms what would typically be a cacophony of various instruments into a coherent chorus, sustaining a nonverbal narrative for six and a half minutes.
- Published on Monday, 18 July 2011 13:54
- Category: Artist Profile
Native to the multicultural mélange that calls itself modern day Britain, ex-DJ turned singer-songwriter Yasmin strikes as a genuine star-to-be in the international Trip-Hop scene. Her music, like that of her contemporaries, synthesizes electronic house beats with graceful hip hop lyrics, creating a diverse musicality that blends a myriad of influences from Thievery Corporation to Tinie Tempah. This eclecticism, of course, should not come as a surprise given Yasmin’s personal story.
Born to an Iranian father and English mother, Yasmin spent her upbringing in the northern confines of Glasgow, a city renowned for its vibrant music scene which has produced powerhouse acts such as Franz Ferdinand, Belle & Sebastian, and Snow Patrol. But despite the plentiful opportunities on local avenues, she did not begin her music career until age seventeen, a decision that faced extensive deliberation from her family. As a result, Yasmin abandoned her university studies and moved to London where the unlimited horizons were well-suited to her musical talents. There, she created a name for herself, performing DJ sets in some of city’s hippest nightclubs, eventually capturing the attention of Levels Entertainment, which ultimately signed her to the label.
Her real breakthrough came in late 2010, when she performed the vocals on the hit single "Runaway" by the London-born rapper Devlin, introducing her to the British public at large. With that momentum, she released her debut single shortly after. Titled “On My Own”, the song discusses the tough decisions that have defined her young life.
“Could this be a big mistake?”, she opens the song, a brave interrogatory that evokes clarity and honesty; by song’s end, she finds comfort in her new-found independence and, despite the risk of failure, derives empowerment from her journey nonetheless.
- Published on Sunday, 10 July 2011 20:00
- Category: Music Events
The Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda took the stage last Thursday at Hollywood’s iconic Whiskey A Go Go, marking a brief pit stop on what has become an improbable ten-year journey. For the band members, the occasion provided yet another opportunity to spread their brand of adrenaline-pumping songs to anew audience. For the audience, it was a reminder that all too often we take life’s simple things (free speech for example), for granted and lose perspective of the world-at-large.
The heaps and ruins of a civil war did not stop this group of Baghdad-natives from pursuing their musical passion for electric guitars and thrashing vocals. Named after the Latin term for a species of black scorpions indigenous to Iraq’s desert, Acrassicauda’s unique style crawls upon a vast musical landscape, drawing notable influences from its metal forebears Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, and Black Sabbath. But the comparisons end there as the quartet’s path to international fame, highlighted in the 2007 documentary Heavy Metal Baghdad, bears no semblance to any of those bands.