‘Semitics’ — 47Soul return with another genre-defying blast of angry energy

47Soul have evolved greatly since four disgruntled underground musicians gathered in Amman, Jordan, with a shared vision. (Getty)
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Updated 28 August 2020

‘Semitics’ — 47Soul return with another genre-defying blast of angry energy

MUSCAT: Once hailed as an “Arabic supergroup,” 47Soul have evolved greatly since four disgruntled underground musicians gathered in Amman, Jordan, with a shared vision — and shared Palestinian heritage.

The early buzz was fuelled by debut single “Intro to ShamStep,” a potentially hubristic audience primer for the group’s deliberately disjointed mix of traditional Shaabi street music and Dabke dance, with block-rocking beats and blazing rhymes. “Is Shamstep a Made-Up Genre For Hipsters?” Vice’s music subsidiary Noisey was compelled to ask after the group landed slots at the UK’s Glastonbury Festival and Womad.

Any suspicions of faddery were dispelled with the wider distribution afforded 2018’s international breakthrough “debut” album “Balfron Promise” (2015’s “Shamstep” having been excised from the band’s official biography) — while name-breaking sessions on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert and KEXP broke 47Soul stateside. Too much, too fast? After six years, guitarist/vocalist El Jehaz announced he was leaving earlier this year.




“Semitics” has the vibe of tracks shaped and shared over broadband, rather than jammed in a bedroom. (Supplied)

Perhaps naturally, the band’s new album, “Semitics,” feels both streamlined and simplified. With the three remaining members — vocalist and synth player Z the People. plus MCs and percussionists El Far3i and Walaa Sbeit — now spread between Palestine, London and the US, “Semitics” has the vibe of tracks shaped and shared over broadband, rather than jammed in a bedroom — full of militant beats aggressively targeted towards a post-global dancefloor, with Arabic scales and flourishes battling to be heard.

There are some stellar assists from collaborators too. “Border Ctrl” — a reggaeton-tinged repeated plea to dissolve “this Mexico-Bethlehem Wall” — is spiced by two ferocious female MCs, British-Palestinian Shadia Mansour trading rhymes with German-Chilean MC Fedzilla. Meanwhile, on “Hold Your Ground,” British-Iraqi grime artist Lowkey spits a pointed vignette — name-checking both “Trump” and “Boris” — astride desert drumming, spiralling synths and a grating auto-tuned chorus.

The use of English feels both more pointed and more potent on “Semitics,” issues of identity smouldering to the surface. “Hold on look what we created / Refugee overseas still I’m a native”, runs the swaggering, sun-kissed single “Dabke System”. “If you wanna play in my hometown / you better come play for the right crown,” threatens “Arab Arab” over menacing trap-ish beats.

The “shamstep” conceit may no longer be novel, but that inner tension between genres, traditions, ideas and languages remains as assured as it is effecting. “Semitics” captures a band that has evolved beyond early hype and regional exoticism to embrace a global audience and ethos. Was something lost along the way? Not more than was gained. 47Soul are making music as vital, urgent, angry and original as ever.


Meet the hijabi fashion blogger redefining modest style

Updated 19 October 2020

Meet the hijabi fashion blogger redefining modest style

DUBAI: With their chic, modest style and unprecedented flair for makeup, a new crop of Instagram stars are irrevocably redefining the hijab. Rana Ellithy, who recently popped up on our radar, is certainly one to watch. 

The 21-year-old became an Instagram sensation in less than a year, garnering almost 100,000 followers in mere months after uploading a styling video on Instagram in April. “I was really not expecting that video to blow up like that,” she shared with Arab News. “I did it just for fun, but I got some really positive feedback,” she added, stating that some young women even messaged her to tell her they felt inspired to wear the hijab because of her video.

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Do I look tall?

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Ellithy was born in Egypt and brought up in the UK. The business consultant, who graduated last year, now splits her time between London and Cairo. It was in the former where the stylist and influencer decided to take blogging more seriously. “I was bored during quarantine in London,” she explained. “So, I started taking more pictures and videos and uploading them on Instagram.”

The stylist believes the reason that her videos and photographs were able to resonate with so many people so quickly is because of her ability to effortlessly take readily-available pieces and basics from Zara and H&M and create chic outfits that her Gen Z followers can easily reinterpret.

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Rare pic without my sunglasses

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“I always felt like there was a gap of modest bloggers around my age,” Ellithy shared. “Their fashion taste is very good, but it’s not personally what I would wear. I try to stick to everyday basics because that’s what girls my age like,” she said, adding that some of her go-to brands are Egyptian labels Emma, a headscarf brand, and Zoella. 

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Bright Bright

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Fortunately, Ellithy’s foray into the world of social media has been smooth, with her only obstacle being balancing her full-time corporate job with blogging. “It’s really hard to balance the two,” she admits. “There’s a lot of expectation on me to post consistently, so I try to film as much content as I can on the weekends,” she said.

However, she revealed that she will eventually pursue her love for fashion full-time and even has plans to roll-out her very own online concept that focuses on everyday basics for modest dressers.