Wasla Arab Music Festival in Dubai: Meet the Artists

Wasla, a new Arab alternative music festival, will hold its first edition in Dubai.

Popular artists from the Arab world – Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates – will perform on stage at the Dubai Media City Amphitheater on January 20, including Mashrou ‘Leila, Souad Massi, Jadal, Salhi and Shelter & The Funk Rayon.

Their styles range from pop, electronics and Sufi to pure rock, but they share one rebellious streak – an existence outside the homogeneous world of commercial Arab music.

Emel Mathlouthi, a Tunisian singer-songwriter known for her protest hymns, describes “the alternative” as a mark of resistance.

“[It is] being able to create our own independent scene without belonging to any restrictive cultural heritage of the past… or having to obey, or be oppressed by what the Arab commercial scene dictates, that does not allow [for] a different way of seeing music, ”she said. Tabloid Gulf News!.

Wasla organizers hope to capture the rest of the Middle East in due course.

“The idea is to immerse everyone in Arab culture,” said co-founder Amr Ramadan, citing the live mural, Arab street food trucks and pop-up retail stalls as arguments. of sale.

Ramadan, who has nine years of event management experience, previously founded 3alganoob, the first camping music festival of its kind in the region. He said the Wasla line-up came together for a reason.

“The music and lyrics discuss identity and what it means to be Arab through the political and social changes taking place in the region. The messages delivered by the artists, mainly of peace, acceptance and love, are so important in the current situation in the region, ”he said.

Wael Alaa, an Egyptian electronic musician also known as Neobyrd, will be one such artist.

“It’s important because everything is alternative these days. This is how people think, feel and live. This is the real picture of now, ”he said.

MEET THE ARTISTS

SOUAD MASSI is an Algerian singer of Berber origin, who was once a member of the political group Atakor and left her hometown for Paris after death threats.

What have you planned for your show in Dubai?

I chose five songs, one from each of my albums, to help people discover my music.

If your music was food, what would it be and why?

A fruit salad so that there is something for everyone.

What has been one of the most defining moments of your career so far?

I think it would be January 9, 1999, when I first arrived in France. This date literally changed my career.

What’s your favorite song at the moment to play live?

Dar Djedi. Because the older I get, the more I need to go back to my roots.

MASHROU ‘LEILA are a Lebanese rock band founded in 2008, known for their four studio albums and distinctive sardonic storytelling.

How would you describe your sound?

We like to think of ourselves as a pop, indie pop or alternative pop group.

How would you define alternative Arabic music, and why is it important?

Music that does not claim to be a commercial product. There is nothing wrong with music that caters to the mass taste, but when the goal is to sell, the methods become questionable. Any music that has a different purpose at its heart, I would consider it an alternative, regardless of style or taste.

What has been one of the most defining moments of your career so far?

Certainly having the chance to perform on legendary stages such as the Barbican and Music Hall in Willamsburg, but also small personal things, like recording with a symphony. Having professional musicians playing music that was written in your bedroom really puts things in perspective.

What’s your favorite song at the moment to play live?

Probably Falyakon. This is the song we use to go from part one to part two of our set and it changes the whole mood in the room.

NEOBYRD is Egyptian electronic artist Wael Alaa, who gained popularity after his songs With you again and my heartless sweet enjoyed the radio game.

How would you describe your sound?

I’m inspired by different styles of music like classical, 80s, disco and hard rock so I think my sound is a collage of all these minds.

If your music was food, what would it be and why?

Fish – it looks simple but has a lot of taste and character

What’s your favorite song at the moment to play live?

It is certainly Good things like chocolate from my album The king is dead.

What do you plan for 2017?

A new album which will be signed with a major French label. Exciting things to come.

SALHI is a duo composed of Tunisian and Sufi jazz singers Mounir Troudi and Imed Alibi.

What have you planned for your show in Dubai?

We have prepared a program of our next album full of Sufi, Tunisian tribal songs and some of his influences. [including] Turkish, Persian and Indian sounds.

What has been one of the most defining moments of your career so far?

My best moment was when Robert Plant helped and supported our project Safar in WOMAD Charlton Park in UK in 2014.

What do you plan for 2017?

We hope to find a label to support us and work on our next second album, Safar 2.

EMEL MATHLOUTHI is a singer known for her protest songs Ya Tounes Ya Meskina (Poor Tunisia) and Kelmti Horra (My Word is Free), which became popular during the Tunisian revolution of 2010-2011.

How would you describe your sound?

I would say it’s very cinematic, organic, and raw. Sometimes a little experimental, sometimes punk.

If your music was food, what would it be and why?

It might be the Tunisian dish Mloukhia. It’s very dark and thick but oh how delicious it can be spicy and it seems your plate never stops …

What’s your favorite song at the moment to play live?

The first song of my set is a hybrid creation born from live improvisation. I’m using sketches from one of my favorite Jeff Buckley songs, New Years Prayer. It starts: ‘Oooh, fall into the light, fall into the light…’ I think this is the most beautiful entry into the space between heaven and earth: the stage.

What do you plan for 2017?

The release of my new album, February 24, and the tour that will follow.

JADAL are a Jordanian group formed in 2003, best known for being one of the first contemporary artists to combine rock melodies with Arabic storytelling.

How would you describe your sound?

Each song has a different story so a different atmosphere, even if they are all interpreted in rock, pop or sometimes electro with a touch of oriental influence.

If your music was food, what would it be and why?

A lemon, or something sweet and sour.

What has been one of the most defining moments of your career so far?

Being able to make three independently produced albums with hits in each that crowds are happy to always listen to.

What’s your favorite song at the moment to play live?

Usually songs like Ashrar and Mish Hadol Nasak.

Don’t miss it!

Tickets for the Wasla festival are Dh295-Dh445, from Virgin Megastore.


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