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After-race Arabic night

Crowd Concert

Abu Dhabi was full of high profile concerts during the Formula One race weekend, November 20-23. The concerts were part of an entertainment festival called Yasalam, organized by the Abu Dhabi-based live events company, Flash Entertainment. The festival culminated during the race weekend with huge, simultaneous concerts in different parts of Abu Dhabi. I went to the opening Arabic night of the after-race concert series at du Arena on Yas Island (where the race circuit is also located), a half hour drive from downtown Abu Dhabi. The Arabic night featured four singers—Palestinian singer Mohammed Assaf, Lebanese artist Carole Samaha, Emirati Fayez AlSaeed, and Egyptian Tamer Hosny.
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Friday, February 27th, 2015 Thoughts, Video No Comments

Saga Fest Update

The Sagas of Icelanders are narratives about 10th and 11th century Iceland, when communities would gather around winter fires to share stories and music.

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FTER A PERSPECTIVE-CHANGING TRIP TO PETRA, Jordan, I started to learn as much as I could about the Sagas of Icelanders. I spent my free time researching facts about the country and even started attending an Icelandic language MeetUp group at a library an hour away from my house. Given my background, I was specifically fascinated by the country’s vibrant music scene. I discovered dozens of festivals that took place in Iceland each year, a surprising finding given the country’s population is barely over 320,000 people.

But even with such a saturated market, I couldn’t find a festival that combined music with the Sagas.
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Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 Thoughts, Video No Comments

Journeys Underground with Ryo Kuramoto of DREAMPV$HER

Since embarking on this journey into Tokyo’s underground, the experimental electronic duo DREAMPV$HER kept appearing in my orbit. To recap, DREAMPV$HER is Ryo Kuramoto on synthesizer, and Michael Suwa on an 80’s-era beat maker. I first saw them perform back in September and briefly wrote about them in a previous post as a group whose sound challenges notions of a generically bound underground. At that point in my fieldwork, though, having only been in Japan for about a month, I was still trying to figure out where — and what — the heart of Tokyo’s underground music was. I was essentially a total newbie, going to any show that seemed promising on fliers I gathered at venues around town. There were many nights where I struck out, having paid upwards of 3000 yen to enter the club only to immediately realize that it was absolutely not the kind of music I was hoping to hear (I’m talking trite EDM remixes of top-forty from the States). When I heard DREAMPV$HER for the first time, though, I was literally stunned: their sound jolted me out of my consciousness into an uncharted, alternate sonic universe that was so fresh, yet somehow familiar. It also marked a turning point because I instinctively understood at that moment that this was the music I had been looking for.
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Monday, February 2nd, 2015 Audio, Thoughts, Video No Comments

Gospel Hits and Explorations at Eastpoint Nightclub

I arrived in Zambia only a few days after the news of President Sata’s death. While international media focused on the fact that Sata’s temporary successor was Vice President Guy Scott, a white man, this obviously didn’t come as much surprise to most Zambians. What I found more interesting than the political gossip following Sata’s death was that only gospel music was permitted to be played in public places until the mourning period was officially declared over.

On my first Friday in Lusaka I accompanied some friends to a club called Hollywood City. I had actually been to Hollywood City during my visit to Zambia the previous year and although the club looked the same as before, there were far fewer people.
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Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 Thoughts, Video No Comments

A Poem for Umm Kulthum

In early November, I went to an open mic for local poets at an Abu Dhabi venue called The Space. It was the fourth event in a new Rooftop Rhythms series for Arabic poetry, organized by Rooftops founder Dorian “Paul D” Rogers.

The event featured about fifteen poets, who combined elements of Arabic poetry with spoken word. They were multilingual UAE residents from a variety of Arab backgrounds—Palestinian, Lebanese, Emirati, and Sudanese. Many were regulars at Rooftop events but usually performed in English. They reminded the audience of this since the connotations of writing poetry differ from one language to another. Arabic poetry is associated with mastery of Classical Arabic and a deep knowledge of the Arabic literary heritage, while spoken word favors poetic prowess that is grounded in lived experience. But the audience was open-minded, receptive to hearing Arabic poetry in a variety of dialects, registers, and styles. The evening had a warm, familial vibe, with listeners snapping fingers supportively from their bean bag chairs.

The Space
Poets and friends at The Space in Abu Dhabi. Photo Farah Bushnaq.

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Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 Thoughts, Video No Comments

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