Photo’s by Hassan Hajjaj – http://hassanhajjaj.blogspot.co.uk/
(Artwork adapted by me)
2 KINDS OF ARABIC MUSIC
The thing u need to understand when it comes to Arabic music consumerism, is that there’s 2 types of Arabic audiences:
1 – One is where Arabic music is appreciated by people from those territories and a minority other;
2- The other appreciates a diluted form of Arabic music which is made palatable for a Western audience.
Of course within these 2 broad & general categories, there are many other sub-categories!
1 – ARABIC MUSIC 4 THE ARABIC AUDIENCE
You know Arabic/Middle Eastern/Persian music is a funny thing. When I started my club nights in the UK, I was expecting & hoping to play the kind of underground westernized fusion sounds that you find on the mixes which are featured below. However, I was in for a big shock!
The club nights I ran in Birmingham drew in crowds of bellydancers and peeps from, or with origins from, Turkey, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, Syria, Algeria and Iran/Iraq and some other territories too including UK peeps. They didn’t want to hear the music that features in the mixes below, to them, it wasn’t Arabic music!!
These crowds wanted me to play “their” music!!!
So, the Egyptians & Lebanese would want Arabic Pop…The Algerians/Moroccans would want Rai, Chaabi & Hip Hop and the Persians would want Persian Pop….the Bellydancers would want a mixture of things and so on and on…..
After the first few fairly disappointing nights to a packed venue but an empty dancefloor and people leaving early and asking us what the f*** are you playing? lol, I had a lot of soul searching to do. I spent hours on-line researching this music and talking to people.
Eventually importing music from the Middle East, Turkey and Persian music from the States. I would then try out various things. Some would work and some wouldn’t and some would work on some nights but not on other nights.
It was a hard uphill struggle!
But in the end we got there and the amazing thing is that after a few months we somehow finally managed to keep everybody happy!
So instead of playing the kind of stuff I was into in the mixes below, I ended up playing a variety of different music from all these Middle Eastern, Turkey, Iran & North African territories, a mix of Arabic pop, Persian Pop, Rai, Chaabi etc etc etc. It was a great educational experience for me as a DJ. It was also the first time I was learning to mix at tempo’s around 136-144 BPM and I learned so much during those years and the memories will stay with me for a long time too.
Out of all the crowds I have ever played to, House, Dubstep, Lounge, Transnational Bass, Electronic etc etc, the crowds at our Arabic nights were definitely the hottest, wildest and most appreciative crowds. They use to go absolutley ape-shit to the music!
And it all meant something to them too. Some of them were students in a foreign land or just people who had migrated here and I’m sure some were illegal too. They did not get many opportunities to hear “their” music in clubs in the UK. So I suppose that added to the anticipation that they would have for our nights and it made them look forward to them each month and they would make the most of it on the night.
Although I am not Arab, I do have strong ties with the Arabic language, I didn’t have a clue what the people were singing about on these records, some told me that some of the lyrics were pretty raunchy though!
My profile during that time in this small scene grew massively within months!!! It also led to International bookings and also playing some of the most exclusive joints in the world too.
I didn’t feel this music initially, as a DJ, albeit I enjoyed it as a listener. I found it hard to understand/translate to a dancefloor UNTIL I played it out and witnessed how people reacted to it, that shed an altogether different perspective on it. Some tracks that I initially hated, ended up being some of my faves because of the memories of how people reacted to them!
In the end and up to this very day, I feel “Arabic music for Arabian people” in my blood, it occuppies a very, very special place in my heart!
Some of this ^ music will be posted later in the coming weeks in some new mixes that I’ve laid down to demonstrate it.
2 – ARABIC MUSIC 4 THE WEST
Anyway, in addition to our club nights above and as result of their growing infamy, I also did get the opportunity to play some of the sort of Arabic “inflected” Dance music that I initially wanted to play out as a DJ. It was more like the sort of stuff that is normally associated with dj’aying, 4 on the floor beats/Electronic.
It was more underground and was basically House and Techno but with strong Arabic flavours. It was suited for European audiences and so this collection below, which goes back to 2005, represents this sort of stuff.
It is the sort of stuff I’d play mainly to Western Audiences at Festivals in the UK and at gigs abroad in exclusive “tourist” clubs in places like Marrakech, Egypt and Dubai.
I then discovered that these more Western audiences would ALSO go nuts but not to the Arabic Pop or Rai but to House inflected Arabic beats. I would have peeps coming up to me saying that they never thought in a million years they would like Arabic music but that I’d made it happen for them!
Of course, I could not play Arabic Pop or Rai at these gigs cause that would be going too far, they wouldn’t understand it. But as long as it was Housey or Western sounding with Arabic strings/inflexions, they would go for it and dance all night in fairly commercial House tents at Festivals!
So for me, Arabic music, whether it is authentic or westernized, always worked for me, whether it was an Arab audience or a Western audience.
Arabic music rocks!!!
So the following mixes below are the kinds of things I would play to audience No.2 – The Western Audience.
The stuff on these mixes below isn’t even the BEST stuff that I use to play out!!!
I did these mixes as promo’s that I use to hand out or give to peeps to give them an idea of the kinda sound this Underground Arabian thing was representing and so obviously I NEVER included my best stuff on it!!!!!
But it serves to give you a feel for the stuff!
UNDERGROUND ARABIA VOLUME I
2005 – I can’t remember tracklist but it includes a healthy dose of stuff by Lebanese House master Said Mrad and REG Project and also stuff from Caravan Records, dudes like Petrol Bomb Samosa.
UNDERGROUND ARABIA VOLUME II
The second Underground Arabia mixes also going back to 2005!
Again I can’t remember tracklist but it includes a healthy dose of stuff by Lebanese artists and loads of obscure Arabic House that I just stumbled upon in those days, it was very short in supply, as u can imagine and so pretty rare stuff too. Samples and stuff by me live on the fly (lol)!
Funny thing is that I finish this mix with a track that I would use again 4 years later but in a dubstep style, which formed the opening track to the mix below:
UNDERGROUND ARABIA VOLUME III
This final instalment of the Underground Arabia also goes back to 2005.
Must have got a bit fed up of the Arabic House etc etc and this shows a much more darker and sinister mood, which in parts to my ears still sounds surprisingly very good and pretty cutting edge!
Goes a bit wonky at the my name is Kirpi bit but oh, well, I was just starting out and there’s some interference and a jump towards the end cause the CD was pretty f****d but this was best quality upload…just about managed to upload it after 3 attempts from the cd.
Mixing is a bit wobbly overall..lol
Huge debt owed to MOSHIC for inspiring this one back then..