Indiana Road Trip


1. Dead Man – Nitin Sawhney
2. Line By Line – The Walkmen
3. Shwai – Yasmine Hamdan
4. Angels – The Xx
5. Enough Thunder –  James Blake
6. Adios – Zimpala
7. After the Fall – Norah Jones
8. Luna Y Sol – Federico Aubele
9. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
10. Hey Ho – Gin Wigmore

© 2012 Art by Faris Habayeb

Yasmine Hamdan Resurfacing

Yasmine Hamdan

The latest by Lebanese songstress Yasmine Hamdan is spearheaded by Nouvelle Vague’s Marc Collin.

Following 2009’s collaboration with the producing genius that is Mirwais Ahmadzaï, it appears that the urban, electro-bathed beats of Y.A.S. have been abandoned. Nonetheless, Hamdan continues to draw from her discography, retaining her haunting vocals all the while cultivating a new-found harmony with acoustic instrumentation.

In Kan Fouadi (If My Heart) is an extremely delicate, dainty ditty, expressive of heart wrench. What is most striking about Hamdan is her continuing ability to showcase the Arabic song in unconventional lights. Her formula never appears contrived, a malady of modern-day Arabic pop. Refreshingly, Hamdan has a beautiful tendency to serve idiosyncratic lyrics steeped with pan-Arab colloquialisms, set amidst a cosmopolitan range of musical styles.

Soapkills, Yasmine Hamdan, and Mirwais Ahmadzaï

Yasmine Hamdan

Building upon trip-hop and the sound that’s synonymous with ambient acts like Portishead and Lamb, Soapkills (الصابون يقتل) became Beirut’s riposte to electro-pop.

While you’d have trouble not thinking this would be tacked on the next Buddha Bar compilation, the result was a successful symbiosis of Arabtronica, Arabic electronica if you will, sans the neo-orientalist nuances that often taint many an ethnic beat.

Fronted by Yasmine Hamdan and Zeid Hamdan, the indie-electro duo formed in 1997 and then disbanded as each set to embark on solo projects.

Recently, I discovered Y.A.S., an electro-pop duo made up of Yasmine Hamdan and Mirwais Ahmadzaï. I could barely contain my underground music excitement. Mirwais is a production luminary, joining the caliber of other sub rosa virtuosos such as William Orbit and Moby.

Arabology (Y.A.S’s debut) is an attempt to catapult Arabic music and Yasmine Hamdan into the global sphere. It has Mirwais’ fingerprints all over it, and it’s hard not to make comparisons and see the record as a transliteration of Madonna’s post Ray of Light era.

“Get it Right”, the first single, is a delicious slice of electro pop served with a repeating enumeration of Arabic numbers. “Yaspop” is unlike anything ever heard before. It combines a dabke style Lebanese refrain with the most infectious of urban rhythms.

“Coit Me” is my favorite track on the album. Radiating with melancholy, the lyrics and music resemble the euphoric moment I experienced when I first heard Madonna’s “Paradise Not For Me.”