DJ’s, Drag And Downright Funky Grooves – The Hottest Talent from The Middle East Making Their Way To The UK
Reform The Funk has been keeping an eye on the whirlwind of talent coming out of the Middle East. With The Shubbak Festival (of contemporary Arab culture) currently underway in London, we thought it was perfect timing to pay attention to some of the vibrant artists working their way across the globe. Here are some of our favourite acts heading this direction.
Leading the way is Palestinian DJ and Producer SAMA’ (previously named Skywalker) who punches out powerfully rhythmic techno beats. Recognised as the first techno DJ inside of the West Bank, SAMA’ has moved throughout Europe and the MENA regions, delivering her repertoire of sounds. Having been described as dry yet musical, dark and addictive, she’s one to watch and listen out for on the electronic music scene. Continually pushing the boundaries of techno and encouraging listeners to indulge in the soundscape that she creates.
Stepping into the world of performing arts, one particular act is drawing our attention - multi-disciplinary performance artist Mo Khansa. Growing up in Lebanon and currently based in Beirut, Mo Khansa melds together a phenomenal mixture of styles to explore ideas of identity, gender and emotional vulnerability. Using contemporary belly dancing, drag, aerial work and middle-eastern avant pop electronica, Mo Khansa’s performance is recognised for its intense, vibrant and physically diverse production.
Cosmic Analogue Ensemble
Turning our attention towards the music lovers of Northern African beats and buzzy melodies, we have Cosmic Analogue Ensemble. Cosmic Analogue Ensemble is the brainchild of producer and multi-instrumentalist Charif Megarbane, a musical powerhouse who has released no less than 80 albums over the last 10 years. His Lebanese heritage and decade long stay in Kenya can be heard infusing the funky, energising sound of Cosmic Analogue Ensemble. A combination of symphonic soul, grainy North African funk, free jazz and Saharan blues makes Charif’s music as hypnotising as it is exhilarating to listen to.
DJ Ernesto Chahoud
DJ Ernesto Chahoud is considered legendary amongst his peers. Having been labelled ‘Lebanon’s guerrilla vinyl guru’ after working his way around the globe, hunting for gems in flee markets and expanding his record collection to be one of largest in the Middle East, Ernesto Chahoud seeps out a love for deep funk and soul. His monthly show on NTS Radio, Beirut Daze, reflects his taste in music, guaranteeing sessions filled with northern soul and African funk tracks. A DJ with a personality and love of music that will tingle your senses.
From the Middle Eastern underground and electronic scene, we have Shkoon, three individual musicians who have coined the phrase ‘Oriental Slow-House', a combination of traditional folk songs, Arabic scales and classical harmonic structures all lying on top of seamless beats. With a raw, driving pulse, this trio create a one-off atmosphere pushing and pulling your emotions through their ambient creation of sounds. The mixture of these three voices continually improvise during their live sets to create a harmonic vibe like no other.
Another one to watch from the Underground Scene is producer and percussionist, Nuri, who is as mysterious in presence as he is in his sound. Coming from Tunisia and never showing his face, Nuri’s heritage plays a large part in the melodies and rhythms he creates. Recognised as one of the most promising musicians of African futurism, his music mixes deep bass, organic percussion and poly rhythmic grooves with tribal melodies. An upbeat fusion which is hard to resist.
Our final focus goes to eleven-piece ensemble Kabareh Cheikhats, a team of actors and musicians from Casablanca, led by theatre director Ghassan El Hakim. Drawing on Moroccan material heritage in their use of costumes, make-up, musical instruments and traditional texts, songs and rhythms, Kabareh Cheikhats are inventing a new narrative for drag and gender ambiguity. Guaranteed to make you feel like you are stepping into a party, the performance collective provoke a frenzied anarchy by being outrageously fun, whilst making space for a political edge.
All of these artists can be found performing during The Shubbak festival. You can catch the program here - https://www.shubbak.co.uk/