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Yasmine Hamdan isn’t like most other Middle Eastern female singers. In a genre full of cookie-cutter pop princesses, typically garbed in high fashion and traipsing among luxury cars and yachts while wailing over unrequited love, backed by generic Arabic drum and keyboard sequences, Hamdan not only stands out, but burns those tired and overwrought conventions down. While her music is of course deeply rooted within Arabic musical traditions, she’s taken it and put an indie spin on it, which is not only daring, but even more daring for a woman. By working with U.K. producers Luke Smith (Foals, Depeche Mode, Lily Allen) and Leo Abrahams (Brian Eno, Carl Barât) and recording with Shahzad Ismaily (Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, John Zorn, Marc Ribot) and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, Hamdan proves herself to be a musical adventurer at heart, successfully merging Middle Eastern and Western styles.
Her latest single “Balad” is a paean to her homeland of Lebanon, and a lament about the endless frustration that comes from living in country robust in beauty and culture, but also chronically crippled with strife, corruption and war. Shot in Beirut by renowned Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman, Hamdan speaks for the everyday citizen, trapped in the endless of frustration and violence with no way out. Her lyrics are sadly prophetic given the current situation in Lebanon, where once again rumors of war are in the air amid the Lebanese Prime Minister fleeing to Saudi Arabia, fearing for his life while Saudi Arabia, Iran and Hezbollah rattle their sabers once more.
||| Watch: The video for “Balad”
||| Live: Yasmine Hamdan performs tonight at the El Rey Theatre. Tickets.