BEIRUT: Zeid Hamdan, a softly spoken pioneer of Lebanon’s underground music scene, may be in lockdown in Beirut but that hasn’t stopped him kickstarting Bedouin Burger, a bold and energetic new collaboration with the Syrian singer Lynn Adib.
A dynamic blend of classical Arabic poetry, Egyptian pop, analog synths, acoustic recordings and old drum machines, Bedouin Burger has married Adib’s Bedouin vibe with Hamdan’s vibrant underground sound. The end result? “A painful scream turned into a release of steam,” says Hamdan of their inaugural release, “Taht el Wared” (Beneath Roses).
“I think the song resembles our existence today. Surviving chaos and death through an intense celebration of life and love,” he says. “I think we both put into this project what we love most and were open to each other’s ideas.”
“I think Zeid and I meet on an intellectual level,” says Adib, who once sang with the Church of Our Lady of Damascus choir. “We are right on point and pragmatic, but also dreamers and sensitive. I needed to work with someone who knows what he wants to say in music and definitely knows how to do it on a technical level. We meet in the middle between our two worlds. I’m very much into experimental and improvised music and Zeid helps me put my ideas in a more readable way.”
The duo first met at the home of Tanjaret Daghet, a three-piece Syrian band with whom Hamdan has been working closely for a number of years. “We immediately clicked,” says Hamdan, who is arguably best known as one half of seminal trip-hop duo Soapkills. “Lynn has an energy that charms you completely. She is beautiful and funny and doesn’t show off her immense talent. She’s very humble.”
Much of the power of “Taht el Wared” comes from Adib, particularly her lyrics, which are drawn from a visit she paid to her husband’s grave a year after his death. “I felt strange leaving him there by himself (beneath rocks and roses),” she explains. “As if he’s still alive and waiting for us to entertain him. At that time I used to often listen to ‘Nantes,’ a song by the French singer Barbara, and she described how her dad was equally left alone asleep ‘en dessous des roses.’ After that day, I felt this song had to be brought to life.”
The project’s artwork, with its distinctive psychedelics and pop-culture imagery, is also the work of Adib, who studied flute at the National Conservatory of Damascus before discovering jazz at the age of 19. She moved to Paris in 2009, studying at the American School of Modern Music before pursuing studies in vocal jazz at the Conservatory Regional Influence De Paris. Throughout her career she has sought to blend traditional Arabic music with jazz and the religious songs of ancient Syria.
“The ‘look’ of the Bedouin?” she asks. “It’s the challenge I want to express. The challenge of me as an Arabic singer wanting to do bold things and not being afraid of judgment. An invitation for others to learn more about me through my music. The Bedouin choice is also this desire to belong to no specific place or country, to be ‘free’ and move around, to be primitive, to look at life in a rawer way yet apply our experience and knowledge to it.”
Since Adib’s move to Beirut last year the duo have been inseparable, bouncing ideas off each other, setting up recording sessions, jamming, laying down tracks, and producing “crazy harmonies to classic songs.” The lockdown has given them the time they needed to focus on the project, with the plan being to a release a track every month, as well as accompanying videos and visuals for each release.
“I would like for this project to take on an artistic and musical level that includes even more research on a personal and musical level,” says Adib. “I want us to dig more into our childhood, past loves, unachieved dreams. And whatever makes us both leave our comfort zone would be, for me, the higher aim for both of us. To grow and push people to grow and change themselves to a better version.”