sat 29/07/2017

CD: Yasmine Hamdan - Al Jamilat | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Yasmine Hamdan - Al Jamilat

CD: Yasmine Hamdan - Al Jamilat

Globe-trotting electropop from Beirut's original underground icon

A dreamy, lyrical foray into the shifting soundscapes of contemporary Arabic and Western music
Yasmine Hamdan, 'a Bedouin Lady Gaga'?

Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan founded Beirut’s groundbreaking 1990s electro-duo Soapkills with Zeid Hamdan – the first Middle Eastern electro band to garner a cult following across the Arab world. More recently she featured in Jim Jarmusch’s 2013 movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, the same year she released her debut album, Ya Nass, on the hip Berlin label Crammed. Her latest is a dreamy, lyrical foray into the shifting soundscapes of contemporary Arabic and Western music.

For Al Jamilat (The Beautiful Ones), she turned to UK producers Luke Smith and Leo Abrahams, who between them have worked with the likes of Depeche Mode, Brian Eno and Lily Allen. Hamdan herself has been variously hailed as “a Bedouin Lady Gaga” and  the sultry successor to Oum Kalthoum, while her voice has been compared to Algerian singer Souad Massi.

Album opener, "Douss", does have the Massi style of acoustic guitars and languid vocals, plus a floating raft of electronica, eased through the mix under the deft hand of Smith and Abrahams. The title track draws its lyric from the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and for the music, there’s an eclectic range of Middle Eastern and Asian instruments as well as harmonium, violin and vintage loops. It's all blended together through a range of Arabic grooves, alongside pop synths and Western rhythms, to create a shape-shifting sound world shot through with shades of Indian, Asian and Tuareg desert melodies.

It was recorded in Sonic Youth’s Hoboken studio, and later in Paris and Beirut, where she reunited with her Soapkills partner Zeid before completing the album in London. Al Jamilat is an album from a nomadic artist who’s travelled a long, wide road away from where she started out. She’s performing at the Scala, King’s Cross, in May – her only UK date – and Al Jamilat promises to raised her standing as a strikingly original and compelling world pop-electronica artist. 

 

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