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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 8 March 2021

11 Palestinian independent musicians you need to listen to right now: from The Synaptik to 47Soul

Palestinian singer-songwriter Rasha Nahas recommends an eclectic array of artists who represent the country's vibrant music scene

Palestinian singer Rasha Nahas has released her debut album 'Desert'. Courtesy Lara Khoury
Palestinian singer Rasha Nahas has released her debut album 'Desert'. Courtesy Lara Khoury

The Palestinian independent music scene is popping with talent.

Over the past decade, a variety of eclectic acts have emerged with their signature twists on established genres, from pop and rock to electro.

One of these is Rasha Nahas, who lives in Berlin.

In the past five years, the Palestinian singer-songwriter, 24, has steadily created a buzz in both regional and international indie music circles with her sound, which packs as much beauty as brawn. Such was the hype surrounding her 2016 debut EP, Am I, that she was invited to perform at the mammoth Glastonbury Festival in the UK the following year.

She has more than fulfilled that promise with the release of her debut album, Desert, on Friday. The nine-track collection finds Nahas at her most assured, with songs featuring driving, and at times delicate, guitars, emotive violins and sweeping orchestration.

With lyrics as poetic as personal, Nahas says the albums documents a young life on the move.

“The album represents a very important period in my life for me,” she says. “It represents my journey from Palestine to Germany, from the personal to the political, and back.”

The album is also the latest representation of the Palestinian independent music community, which boasts singers and groups flush with talent and a hunger for their voices to be heard.

With Nahas well and truly dialled into the scene, she provides The National with a handy guide to the country’s most arresting talents we should be listening to right now and why.

1. The Godmother of Palestinian indie music: Kamilya Jubran

"A real pioneer. For me, she’s the godmother of Palestinian music, from her days in the former group Sabreen, until this day with different projects and collaborations.

"She is an amazing musician, composer, singer and oud player and I was so lucky to work with her on the artist residency programme, the Sodassi Project, in which she invited artists from Beirut, Cairo, Ramallah and Haifa for a one-month residency in Paris to work together. It was one of the most enriching experiences I have had as a musician."

2. The smooth sounds of TootArd

"I have great appreciation for TootArd and their very smooth and organic sense of music. I remember being in school and listening to their album, Nuri Andaburi. One of my favourites is a later song of theirs, Trouble Watan, from their latest album Migrant Birds."

3. The vulnerability of Terez Sliman

"I feel that her voice is somehow so vulnerable and strong at the same time; so soft and sensual. Over the years she's done many projects and different collaborations. One of my all-time favourites is Betti Sahrana, as part of her side project, Mina."

4. Rock pioneer Raymond Haddad

"Raymond Haddad is one of the pioneers of Palestinian music. He cofounded the first Palestinian rock band back in the 1990s, called Shatea. He released several solo projects and albums – one of my favourites is Everything Changed, as well as his latest song, Dawn, which features a modular synthesizer."

5. Palestinian hip-hop originators Dam

"This is the first Palestinian hip-hop crew and their latest album is such a great one. Both the lyrics and the music exist on the thin line between sophisticated and critical, yet also very catchy, groovy and accessible. I highly recommend also checking out the solo projects of members Mahmoud Jreri, Tamer Nafar and Maysa Daw."

6. The singular talent that is The Synaptik

"I think The Synaptik is a brilliant songwriter. I just love how he writes and how he does these effortless melodies and contagious hooks. He has such a unique colour and sound that is all his own. I think there's no one like him in the rap scene."

7. The consummate songwriter Jowan Safadi

"Jowan, for me, is a big inspiration. From his early bands, Lenses and Fish Samak, until his latest album from few weeks ago (which I’m looping), Ijmad, he has such a unique way of writing songs and playing with the language and twisting it."

8. The electro-dabke sound of 47Soul

"I remember watching 47Soul in London in 2015, and I was blown away. Their energy on stage was fire. Their music is an electronic mix of shaabi and dabke, and the way they’ve managed to introduce that to a global audience is inspiring."

9. The original sounds of Shabjdeed

"Shabjdeed is definitely one of the most exciting acts in the region. This band have their own sound, own flow, own way of working and they manage to stay always fresh, raw and honest."

10. Local dance music pioneer Sama’ Abdulhadi

"I also met Sama through the Sodassi Project and we went to a party where she played. I was never really a techno fan, but something is different when Sama’ is behind the decks. She has a crazy aura when she’s performing that I just can’t explain."

11. The stylish cat Bashar Murad

"I love how colourful Bashar is. I love his delicate way of moving on stage yet completely smashing it at the same time. He somehow manages to sing very critically about political and social issues while completely grooving it, and elegantly so. I also love his work as a director, which brings something very fresh to the region."

Updated: February 1, 2021 06:52 PM

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