This is the first part of a series of articles that will take a look at up and coming musicians from the Middle East in various genres. As such if you’re familiar with the more established artists of the region’s independent music scene you most likely will not find them here. Rather, the featured artists are either those showing tremendous promise and are on the cusp of recognition, or alternatively might have flown under the radar.
Electronic music is a tricky business, not only because it contains a breadth of styles within it that are markedly different from each other, but also because of a dogged perception that it is the machine rather than the musician doing the heavy lifting. Factor in the uncategorizable nature of playing alternative music and matters get a bit more complicated. Nevertheless, here are five artists who shine in this particular field despite these pitfalls.
Palestinian artist Asma Ghanem uses this musical moniker to often appropriate experimental soundscapes in service of proferring the sound of life under occupation. A frequent collaborator with another standout Palestinian artist, Stormtrap Asifeh, tracks like ‘We Owned The Sky’ offer a chilling glimpse of the fear and impotence served up at the whim of the occupier.
Standout Track: T,…..Stormtrap & Shams Asma
Tunisian Oussema Gaidi is a master of pure electronic sound who combines an elegant compositional sense with high production values. No sound is superfluous and no melody added for its own sake. Recommended listening for fellow electronic musicians.
Standout Track: Mal-3-oun
A bit of a cheat on this one, because how under the radar could you be if you’ve already collaborated with luminaries such as Yasmine Hamdan, Mai Waleed and Badiaa Bouhrizi? Yet we’re so excited about this musical project we had to shoehorn it in. The Jordanian trio behind Zaed Naes have already sculpted an electronic sound that constantly varies, which is about as alternative as you can get.
Standout Track: 3onsor Falat featuring Muhammad Abdullah
We’re big fans of Egypt’s Omar ElKammar and his brooding sensibilities. The stark landscape he inhabits and by turn pulls us into is one of introspection coupled with a healthy dollop of nihilism. “I have nothing to say about anything” he tells us, but there’s a lot for him to show us if we have the stomach for it.
Standout Track: The Glass Factory
Also from Egypt, Seleit is already at the heart of some great music as the man behind the keys in El Manzouma – the psychedelic rock band that also includes Aly Talibab and Youssef Abouzeid of PanSTARRS – but his extensive solo work warrants close attention. Searing, ethereal, just plain beautiful.
Standout Track: Khalda