MANAMA: Fearing the deterioration of Bahrain’s music scene, the guys who launched Museland back in 2006 are staging a three-day conference, which will include live performances, to begin the fight back.
Running from December 5 to 7 at Bait Al Salmaniya and the Alliance Francaise, Sound & Fiction aims to shed light on the local and regional music scene through a program of talks, panels, workshops and film screenings to community activities and live sets. And, best of all, it’s free and open to all.
Conference director and founder, Ali Al-Saeed, told Arab News: “Sound & Fiction is a response to the current trends in the local music scene. I felt there was a desperate need for an alternative forum, one that will delve into the often-neglected aspects of music. My philosophy has always been to deinstitutionalize the arts, and music is no different.
The event will bring together artists, experts, producers and musicians from Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the USA, including US artist Christopher the Conquered, Paxico Records founder Chris Hudd, Kuwaiti psychedelic rock outfit Galaxy Juice, the Bahraini Khaleeji electronica duo Arabstract, experimental sound artist Hasan Hujairi, and more.
Sound & Fiction will address topics including the state of the music scene in the region, the importance of community building, developing an original voice as an artist, and the rise of Arab hip-hop.
“We might have a scene, but we don't have a movement,” Al-Saeed said. “A few years ago, we didn't even have a scene. Museland (record label and all-round music collective founded by Al-Saeed) helped create one, when it began over 12 years ago. But there's been a big shift, as more corporate and commercial influences took hold. We just need to refocus, collectively, and make things about the music again.
“Evolving the music scene only happens when there is a thriving music community that is independent, and critical,” he continued. “It's time for musicians to ask big questions. This conference aims to simply create an alternate narrative, and offer a different perspective.”
US-Egyptian jewelry label Jacquie Aiche snaps up celebrity fans
Updated 24 July 2021
DUBAI: From British actress Emily Blunt, to US stars Justin Bieber and Khloe Kardashian, Egyptian-American jewelry designer Jacquie Aiche’s celebrity fan base expanded this week.
The label has quickly managed to emerge as a A-lister-loved brand, with stars like Kylie Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski and Shanina Shaik adorning themselves with the Los Angeles-based jewelry house’s signature diamond-encrusted body chains, anklets and stacked gemstone rings on the red carpet.
This week, Blunt showed off an ornate ring by the label while doing press interviews for Disney’s “Jungle Cruise,” her latest film in which she stars alongside Dwayne Johnson and Edgar Ramirez.
Blunt was dressed by Hollywood stylist Jessica Paster, who made sure to get mileage out of the ring by featuring it in several ensembles on the press tour, including outfits by Gabriela Hearst and Zimmermann.
For her part, Kardashian opted to show off a dainty body chain by the brand during a photoshoot for her label Good American’s latest swimwear release. She paired the jewelry, which wrapped around the torso, with a neon yellow swimsuit.
To wrap things up, Bieber showed off a pair of small hoop earrings by Aiche, which he paired with a red visor.
Aiche, who was born to an Egyptian father and an indigenous American mother, launched her eponymous label from her garage in 2008. She has since amassed an impressive celebrity client list that includes the likes of Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Katy Perry, whose stylists flock to her Beverly Hills showroom in droves to adorn their clients in her signature delicate earrings, finger bracelets and chokers ahead of red carpet events. The jeweler is also the brainchild behind Chrissy Teigen’s bespoke engagement ring from John Legend.
The part-Egyptian jewelry designer’s store in Los Angeles is full of jewelry items made from delicate raw quartz, tourmaline, moonstone and countless other special stones. Her pieces often feature Arab influences like hammered gold, amulets and the evil eye talisman, as well as natural elements such as turquoise, fossils and precious gemstones, which are a nod to her indigenous American ancestors.
New exhibition in Manchester explores nature through British-Arab eyes
Manchester-based installation highlights stories of migration, diaspora
Lead artist: ‘After the year we’ve just had, this project and exhibition is the lightness we all need’
Updated 24 July 2021
LONDON: A new mixed-media exhibition exploring the history, achievements and experiences of Arabs in Britain through the lens of people’s relationship with nature and green space has launched in the north of England.
Free to visitors and run by the Arab British Centre, the Manchester-based installation highlights stories of migration, diaspora, and the intricacies of the Arab-British experience in all its intersections and diversity.
Themed around the idea of nature and named “Jarda” — “garden” in Moroccan Arabic — artists will give audiences a chance to “walk in nature through Arab eyes.”
English-Moroccan creator Jessica El-Mal, lead artist and one of the co-producers of the installation, said her inspiration for the project came when the UK was still in lockdown and when parks, fields and forests became people’s only outing.
The women-led exhibition encourages visitors to appreciate the green spaces available to them, while also exposing audiences to the Arab experience in modern Britain.
“Working with this group of amazing women has made me appreciate Manchester, myself and my femininity in a whole new way. After the year we’ve just had, this project and exhibition is the lightness we all need,” El-Mal said.
Amani Hassan, program director at the Arab British Centre, said: “Since it was first launched in 2019, our Arab Britain theme has set out to explore the history, achievements and experiences of Arabs in Britain.”
The program aims to overturn preconceptions, challenge prejudices, retrace the ways the Arab world has influenced and shaped British culture and society, and celebrate the contributions of Arabs in the country, past and present.
“Jarda highlights the universal comfort and connection we can all find in nature through intimate and personal reflections on home, belonging and the power of community,” Hassan said.
“We hope that visitors to the museum enjoy their walk in nature through Arab British eyes and are encouraged to reflect on their own connections to it.”
The physical exhibition will be accompanied by a digital offering that will give people free access to a host of creative activities that aim to encourage people to reflect on their own connections with green spaces.
“Jarda” is open now, and will run until Oct. 10 in Manchester’s People’s History Museum.
Art installation ‘Beirut Narratives’ is a testimonial from a traumatized city
Text-based installation offered residents ‘a silent, anonymous way of protesting’ after the devastating port explosion
Updated 23 July 2021
DUBAI: “I burst into tears.” “I was shaking.” “My chair flew me right above ground.” “No right to dream.” “Bitter feelings.” “Apocalypse.”
These are some of the brief-but-harrowing testimonials from survivors of the catastrophic Beirut Port explosion of August 4, 2020, which are now being publicly displayed on the streets of the Lebanese capital as part of the text-based installation “Beirut Narratives.” The installation was conceived by Lebanese sisters, architects and co-founders of Architecture et Mécanismes, Celine and Tatiana Stephan.
From the banking crisis to price inflation and fuel shortage, it has been a surreal year of lows for most Lebanese civilians. On the day we had arranged to discuss the sisters’ latest project, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri resigned after failing to form a new government.
“Each one of us is thinking: ‘How can people still be so adapted to such a situation, in terms of the economic crisis and the socio-political situation?’ Everything is happening all at the same time,” Celine told Arab News. “People are, I believe, tired and frustrated. What we’re trying to do, as architects, with this urban installation is to rethink the city.”
Unlike many young professionals who are hoping to migrate or have already left the country for better opportunities abroad, Celine and Tatiana have decided to stay for now, for better or for worse, in their home country. “Beirut is like a parent to us,” said Tatiana. “When your parents are getting old, you just don’t leave them behind and go. You help them, support them and push them to be better.”
Continuing the theme of family, Celine added: “I have two daughters. I would like them to live in Lebanon and see change happening and be part of that change. Despite its misery, chaos, and lack of infrastructure, it’s a city that inspires us at all levels.”
In recent months, the pair turned their attention towards buildings and spaces in the neighborhoods of Gemmayze, Karantina and Mar Mikhael, which have been damaged and stand empty in the aftermath of the blast. In a commemorative manner, these silent and neglected buildings are given their own voice.
“We wanted to make those buildings talk, because it’s somehow like a new way of manifestation,” explained Celine. “It’s a silent, anonymous way of protesting,” added Tatiana.
The Stephan sisters gathered testimonials from a diverse group of people, including friends and family, firefighters and healthcare workers, all of whom were releasing pent-up anger and sadness and were willing to share their experiences of that horrific day. Children also contributed drawings to the project.
For the Stephans, it was all an emotional and healing experience. “We sat with those people, we talked to them, we cried, we heard every single story. I still have goosebumps now,” said Celine.
Divided into three categories — descriptions, emotions, and reflections — the testimonials were written out with red, black and white spray paint onto pieces of brown jute, later transformed by stitching into bold tapestries or “fragments.” According to the Stephans, who did the spraying and stitching, the use of jute was intentional, as it is accessible and serves as a reminder of the durable material used to transfer wheat into the silos at the Port of Beirut.
The sisters and their collaborator, the Lebanese-Danish creative consultant Mira Hawa, went to different sites, personally hanging the fragments, which is in itself a risky task. “We had to go to the edge of a high building, on the 11th floor, and the wind was extremely strong. We had to improvise, we didn’t know how to install it because it was huge and there was a lot of wind,” Tatiana said of one of their challenging experiences near the port.
Seeing the women lead the installation process on site was surprising for some. “Men were coming out in their sleeveless vests, with their big muscles, hanging over their balconies to see who these three girls were,” said Hawa. “One of the first comments we got was: ‘Who’s going to help you? Where are the guys?’”
Despite encountering difficulties in accessing some buildings, they persisted and installed the work on 13 buildings. For some, the fragments proved to be too intense — akin to rubbing salt into a wound.
“Some people were very disturbed when they saw the piece,” said Celine. “I remember one time we were not even installing; we were trying to talk to an NGO to discuss the possibility of installing. The owner of a building was there and he was really destabilized and he started crying. We felt really bad and asked ourselves so many questions: Are we making the right choice?”
Tatiana echoed Celine’s sentiments, highlighting how sensitive this whole project has been. “I felt that for some who were engaged in the piece, you feel in their eyes as if you put a knife into a wound,” she said. But overall, the project was positively viewed and embraced by locals. It brought out a sense of community, with many assisting the women during the arduous installation process.
“We were touched by everyone who wanted to help, who offered us coffee, or water. They barely have anything to eat and drink,” remarked Celine.
“Beirut Narratives” ticks a number of boxes, acting as a form of cultural activism, supporting the Lebanese people and offering them a sense of justice. The Stephans and Hawa hope that one day these fragments can also travel abroad, igniting empathy with the Lebanese diaspora. The project also tackles the notion of speaking up in an environment that often suppresses inner thoughts and feelings related to trauma.
“We have a very painful habit in the Middle East, that every time something (bad) happens we just get on with it. I think it’s about time we stopped and made some noise,” said Hawa. “When you see the pieces on the street, it’s very bold, it’s very raw and prominent. You cannot ignore it.”
DUBAI: From indie electronica to live performances, and adorable animals to wilting trees, these are the pop culture moments you might have missed from the region.
The Indian photographer was one of five winners of the Dubai-based Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Award’s (HIPA) June Instagram photo contest, the theme of which was “Your Pet.”
HIPA Secretary General, Ali bin Thalith explained the reason for the theme in a press release, saying: “The relationship between humans and their pets is deeply ancient. The quality of its emotions is complex; it’s rich in detail, situations and beautiful in its spontaneous reactions.”
Das won for this image taken in 2016 at the Sacribel Elephant Camp in India’s Karnataka state. “I was catching a scene in the distance when I suddenly noticed this little elephant playing with one of the caretakers near me. I wanted to capture this perfect emotional moment, so I had to use my 70-300 mm zoom lens. One of the reasons that I love this photo is because it was the baby elephant who approached and showed his closeness and interdependence,” Das said in the press release.
It's a major win for Das, who only began a full-time photography career in February last year, after quitting his job in IT.
The veteran of the Beirut indie scene (real name Miran Gurunian) pays tribute to his Armenian roots with his latest single “Partsratsoum.” The song is based on a poem by Vahan Tekeyan, an Armenian poet and activist, known as The Prince of Armenian Poetry.
“I related a lot to the story — which is a popular poem in schools,” Gurunian told Arab News. “I composed the music to reflect the theme, which is about the advice offered by a father to his son: Aim, reach, and rise high, but take along your loved ones, because the higher up one reaches, the colder and lonelier it gets.” The track has a jazz-y, folk-y feel, with Makram Aboulhosn’s double bass, Delaney Stöckli’s cinematic string arrangement and Dani Shukri’s stuttering drum beat underpinning Gurunian’s typically tasteful guitar work. And it was written in a single day. “Everything fell into place effortlessly,” Gurunian said.
“Born to a Kuwaiti father and Indian mother, I had the fluidity to straddle both cultures; navigating being bullied and feeling shame to find my (super)power,” the London-based multimedia artist wrote of his latest single, “Hindi Majnoon.” He described the track — auto-tuned vocals over a pounding Bollywood-style beat — as “a tribute to people who were ‘othered’ for being different in whichever way while growing up.” The accompanying video, shot between Kuwait and London, is, he said, “a journey through industrial crevices and societal tropes laced with nostalgia to bring you closer to the experience of migrant ‘workers’ living in Kuwait.”
The Arabic indie duo (singer-songwriter Ahmad Farah and producer and filmmaker Bader Helalat) have released a new two-track EP called “Khams Sneen.” The title track started out as a folk song, according to Farah, but has since morphed into a largely synth-driven indie-pop number. It’s heavily inspired by US duo MGMT, Farah told Arab News, because “they wrote a lot of songs that discussed childhood and also had a sense of absurdity.”
The Dubai-based photographer’s striking 2019 image “Broken Palm” is part of “Chemistry of Feeling,” a community exhibition of analog photography that runs until Sept. 21 at Dubai’s Gulf Photo Plus. “Drawing on the delicate connections between a tumultuous past year for human relationships and photography, this exhibition locates moments of slowness, micro- and macro- revolution, introspection, and the folding priorities of the present, captured in film format,” the gallery says of the show. “We invite viewers to engage with these varied personal stories, and in the process, meditate on what it is to feel, care, and see in a fraught contemporary landscape.”
The much-lauded, often-inactive Lebanese duo — Marc Codsi and Mayaline Hage — dropped the title track of their new EP “Eternity,” a four-track record written between 2019 and 2021 “while our home country Lebanon and the rest of the world went through unprecedented turmoil,” the duo said on social media. The record is “rooted in the feelings and emotions triggered by these strange times.”
On the title track, Hage’s dramatic vocals float over increasingly urgent instrumentation, which, they said, “resonates like an ode to transcendence, to what is above and beyond human experiences and resides inside of us, in a longing to stay connected to that energy. We find ourselves transported in a frenetic and delicious race, suspended between a wild and aggressive electronic rhythm and a transcendent voice coming from another dimension.”
REVIEW: ‘Gunpowder Milkshake’ — Navot Papushado’s thriller is all froth, no flavor
What could have been a celebration of female empowerment delivers condescension and confusion
Updated 23 July 2021
AMSTERDAM: “Gunpowder Milkshake” director Navot Papushado is clearly a fan of the “John Wick” movies, in which Keanu Reeves stars as a stoic, multi-talented assassin facing off against hordes of other assassins in a series of staggeringly executed, stylishly shot fights, set in a world with its own hierarchy and rules, and a few neutral zones where violence is prohibited. And why not? The three “John Wick” movies are great.
In “Gunpowder Milkshake,” Karen Gillan stars as a stoic, multi-talented assassin facing off against hordes of other assassins in a series of stylishly shot fights, set in a world with its own hierarchy and rules, and a few neutral zones where violence is prohibited. Sadly, that’s where the similarities end.
Unlike the “John Wick” movies, the fight scenes in “Gunpowder Milkshake” are not staggeringly executed. They are clunky affairs that feel overstaged — like an amateur-dramatics group’s interpretation of a Hollywood fight scene. And Gillan, so popular as Nebula in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” is disappointingly uncharismatic as this movie’s heroine.
She plays Sam, the daughter of legendary hitwoman Scarlet (Lena Headey) who was forced to forsake Sam 15 years ago to go on the run, having killed someone who was ‘off-limits.’ In the present day, Sam is herself a stellar contract killer working for The Firm — the shadowy cabal for whom Scarlet was a regular Employee of the Month.
When a contract goes wrong and Sam kills the son of the boss of another criminal enterprise, The Firm decides it can no longer protect her. So she must also go on the run, accompanied by a young girl whose father she has just shot and who has no other relatives to look after her.
Pursued by a plethora of angry men (none of them a three-dimensional character or a worthwhile opponent), Sam and the young girl, and Scarlet (who turns up when Sam needs her most), and three female “librarians” (actually arms dealers for assassins) must fight for their lives. Women vs. men, see? But the women are the better fighters, yeah? It’s so transparent that it’s kind of insulting.
The movie is supposed to be a fun 90 minutes or so of great action sequences. Certainly, the lack of effort apparent in the dialogue and character building backs that up. And that’s fine. But when those sequences are not particularly thrilling (at no point is there any suggestion that the women are in danger of losing), what’s left?