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- 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.
- Published on Monday, 04 July 2011 17:02
- Category: Artist Profile
Resurrected from the ashes of conflict, Lebanon and Afghanistan face unprecedented challenges in rebuilding their war-torn nations. Among the long to-do list is PR: how to reshape negative images of conflict and destruction across the global community? With the manifesto of placing “Arabic language at the center of pop culture,” DJ Mirwais Ahmadzai and Yasmine Hamdan address the issue in their latest project, Y.A.S., a collaborative effort that pioneers the genre of Arabic electro-pop.
The duo released their debut album, Arabology, in 2009.
To understand the Y.A.S, it’s important to understand the each artists’ individual background. Mirwais, a producer who gained international acclaim for his work with Madonna and Daniel Darc, is the child of an Afghan father and Italian mother. He now resides in France where public debates about Islam and Arab immigration often capture the daily headlines. It is no surprise, then, that his unique identity manifests itself through the fusion of intricate melodies and complex techno beats; just as his life is a mix of various cultural pulses, so too is his music.
Mirwais’s counterpart, Hamdan, a seductive vocalist formerly of the Beirut-based indie band “SoapKills,” shares an equally complex personal history. Her family moved from country to country across the Middle East during the tumult of the Lebanese Civil War in search of peace and stability. Life on the move has unequivocally influenced Hamdan’s persona by bringing a panoramic vision of what music should be.
- Published on Thursday, 30 June 2011 23:46
- Category: Artist Profile
San Francisco, CA—The sound of a sole string instrument illuminates a note, piercing the silent dark room, full of people hushed with anticipation. The notes multiply as the ensemble begins to slowly coalesce into harmony, tuning into the concertmaster. The stage then goes silent. Echoes fill the air through the crowded hall and then suddenly the unmistakable sound of dress shoes on a wooden stage breaks the silence as the conductor, Omar Abbad, walks across the stage to lead his musicians.
This was the start of this year’s ASWAT Spring Concert. For over eleven years the ASWAT Middle Eastern music ensemble has been the largest ensemble of Middle Eastern musicians in the Bay Area. Sponsored by the non-profit Middle Eastern group Zawaya (based in San Francisco), ASWAT has created rich tapestries of music from the Middle East to critical acclaim, and to the enjoyment of many diverse audiences.
- Published on Monday, 27 June 2011 16:59
- Category: More About Music
Driven by technology, today’s post-MTV music world seemingly revolves around the need for instant gratification. This culture of quick searches, clicks, and downloads causes many artists to abandon songs of content for the banal club anthems that colonize our iPods. As a result, the pop genre appears to have lost a certain philosophical vigor that once made it playful but serious, hip yet smart. You know, the stuff that the Beatles and Pink Floyd would sing about —the stuff that caused a deeper self to wonder what it all means. Yeah, that “stuff.” Religion.
But right when it appeared endangered, religion in pop music has experienced a revival spearheaded by Lady Gaga, a glamorous icon whose mainstream appeal lends negotiating power to radio hits that simultaneously confront meaningful issues in today’s society: individuality, insecurity, and, at times, clubbing.
Unexpected as it may be, the 25 year-old diva, whose bold fashion statements and singles have pretty much defined the last three years of pop music, uses her latest album, Born This Way, to explore themes ranging from Judas’s betrayal of Christ, to a black Jesus, to incarnation. As expected, the album created a a stir among conservative groups who not only feel threatened by Gaga’s use of gyrating Euro dance beats but are also at odds with the artist’s vocal advocacy on LGBT issues. The controversy behind her music brings about an important question: who gets to use religious imagery in pop culture?
To focus solely on this question, however, is to misinterpret Born This Way. Despite every inclination to assume otherwise, the album’s appropriation of Christian images is not directed towards the criticism of religion; instead, religion is celebrated as a cultural middle ground, one with stories rich and shared in our society, from which common issues like self-esteem and regret can be examined under a different light. In other words, Gaga uses biblical imagery to conjure a symbolic vocabulary that dives into everyday life much like a boss that uses sports metaphors to motivate his unproductive employees.
- Published on Monday, 20 June 2011 08:00
- Category: Artist Profile
Music can achieve for a nation that which no nuclear weapons or an abundance of natural resources can. It can give a sense of ownership and pride to its people and be a cultural representative across borders. This is certainly the casein Pakistan, where amidst chaos and political instability, Coke Studio manages to give Pakistanis something to proudly call their own.
Coke Studio started as an international franchise in Brazil, but it didn’t have the same infectious appeal among Brazilians that the Pakistani version has had since its inception in June 2008. Now in its fourth season, Coke Studios has been giving a platform to musicians in Pakistan from all genres and regions to come together for jam sessions and to create rich musical collaborations. The show has reinvigorated some of the best Pakistani folk songs, which lost their appeal over the years in favor of mainstream music. It has introduced the youth to the lost treasures of their country, while also building an international fan base for itself.
Many artists in previous seasons have also performed renditions of non-Pakistani songs. An emerging pop singer, Amanat Ali, sang an Urdu version of the popular French song Aïcha, originally performed by Algerian artist Khaled. Female duo Zeb and Haniya also performed various soulful Afghan folk songs and a cover of Turkish song Nazaar Eyle by Barış Manço.
- Published on Sunday, 12 June 2011 20:00
- Category: Artist Profile
The last time we met Azad Right, a young Iranian-American Hip Hop artist from LA, he had just released his debut album “A Piece of Mine” and was tirelessly working to spread his stylistic words and upbeat tempos to the music community at-large. After months of promotion and years of fine-tuning his craft, Azad Right’s ambitions came to fruition last Wednesday night when he delivered his first major performance, opening for international Hip Hop star, Tinie Tempah, at Hollywood’s well-known Key Club.
The concert marked a significant achievement for the up-and-coming musician, whose lyrical talent and on-stage swagger introduced audience members to Hip Hop rooted in authenticity, reflection, and determination.
After the concert, Azad Right chatted with Aslan Media to share his thoughts on the performance, his recent success, and what the future holds for the rising artist.