German-Syrian duo Shkoon release new live album, ‘FIRAQ’

German-Syrian duo Shkoon release new live album, ‘FIRAQ’
Influenced by electronic downbeat, deep house, dub and hip-hop, Shkoon established themselves as one of the most thrilling breakthrough acts of the Arab electronica scene with their 2019 debut. (Supplied)
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Updated 20 May 2022

German-Syrian duo Shkoon release new live album, ‘FIRAQ’

German-Syrian duo Shkoon release new live album, ‘FIRAQ’
  • Fresh from a successful Ragheb Alama remix, Thorben Beeken and Ameen Khayer prepare to tour sophomore release

BELGRADE: “I like the idea of not having too many chances.” Thorben Beeken, the German half of electronic music duo Shkoon, relishes the visceral and spontaneous nature of live performance.

His bandmate Ameen Khayer, who met Beeken in Hamburg in 2015 after seeking asylum as a refugee from the civil war in his native Syria, echoes the sentiment. “We’re not afraid of making mistakes on stage… it’s more important to be authentic — that’s what keeps things interesting, and our audiences respond to that.”

Indeed, this organic, collaborative formula serves as the foundation for the pair’s new live album, ‘FIRAQ’ (Arabic for ‘division’ or ‘split’), released May 20 via WTR/MDLBEAST Records.

Influenced by electronic downbeat, deep house, dub and hip-hop, Shkoon established themselves as one of the most thrilling breakthrough acts of the Arab electronica scene with their 2019 debut. “Rima” was a riveting experiment in the fusion of Arabic music-styled instrumentation and Western electro, featuring an ‘Oriental Slow-House’ medley of compelling vocals, keys, strings, synth and percussion.




Ameen Khayer met Beeken in Hamburg in 2015. (Supplied)

On the heels of tours ignited by the international acclaim and excitement around their first LP, Shkoon are following “Rima” up with a 15-track showcase that includes live renditions of popular, previously released singles such as “Ala Moj Al-Bahr” and “Letters.”

The new record, “FIRAQ,” also lifts the veil on eight brand new tracks. Driven by meandering, melancholic piano, hypnotic synths and Khayer’s emotive vocals, lead single “Mulajia” is a reinterpretation of “Fog Al-Nakhal,” the classic by Iraqi legend Nazem Al-Ghazali. There’s also “A03,” Shkoon’s unique take on Arabic folklore song “Digi Digi Ya Rababa,” as well as “QQQ,” a reimagining of “El Helwa Di” by the visionary Egyptian singer and composer Sayed Darwish.

The journey to the realization of their sophomore release came together as a consequence of both personal tragedy and Shkoon’s collective willingness to follow artistic impulse.

“Only a couple of days before we were due to record the performance, I lost a close family member,” says Khayer. “I was in a completely different world, but I insisted we go ahead.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Shkoon (@_shkoon)

“We weren’t doing shows at the time because of the COVID lockdowns, so it was a way to stay connected to playing live, and also express everything I was feeling in a raw and emotional way,” he explains. “It meant a lot to me.”

The album artwork is also a tribute to Khayer’s late relative, whose drawings were adapted by artist and designer Hadeer Omar.

“To be honest, when we first recorded it, we didn’t know we would release it as an album,” Beeken admits. “We thought of the performance as a story we were telling in a live environment, which is where Shkoon really shines.”

It is also where the two musicians flesh out their ideas. “A lot of the writing happens when we are jamming, even while playing live. We like to take sketches and then build on them; there’s no set formula for how we write, really.” Beeken adds.

“Sometimes, I hear some beats, or elements of a melody that remind me of an old song I grew up listening to and it sparks an idea,” says Khayer. “I bring it to Thorben, we start grooving on it together until it becomes something more — it’s very organic.”

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Shkoon (@_shkoon)

That’s not to say Shkoon always stay within their comfort zone. “We got contacted by the management of (Lebanese pop superstar) Ragheb Alama,” Khayer recalls. “They asked us to do a remix of anything from his catalog.”

Settling on Alama’s “Ya Rayt” was only the beginning of a not-so-straightforward process.

“We really had no idea about how to approach the remix at first. All we had was the master recording from the 1980s — nothing that would help us isolate individual tracks, so we had to get creative,” Beeken says. “It was more like a bootleg style of remixing, and I have to admit, I was feeling a little insecure about how it would come out because it’s not the sound that people expect from us.”

“In the end, though, the response was really positive,” Khayer says. “Everyone was surprised by the result, including us. It took us almost a year to finish it, but it paid off.”

The next step for Shkoon is focusing on where they feel at home most. While Khayer awaits the conclusion of the long bureaucratic process regarding his immigration status in Germany, they’ll be taking “FIRAQ” on the road over a summer packed with live commitments.

“We do shows together as much as possible, but if there’s somewhere I can’t go because of my papers, Thorben plays alone,” Khayer explains.

Shkoon remain optimistic about the future, but in the meantime, he stresses, “we have to be flexible.”


Model Shanina Shaik kicks off wedding season in style

Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)
Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)
Updated 03 July 2022

Model Shanina Shaik kicks off wedding season in style

Model Shanina Shaik has starred in a number of fashion campaigns. (File/ Getty Images)

DUBAI: Part-Saudi model Shanina Shaik kicked off wedding season in style by attending the nuptials of fellow Victoria’s Secret model Nadine Leopold and tech entrepreneur Andrew Barclay.

The pair tied the knot at an undisclosed location and while Shaik respected the couple’s privacy and did not post shots of the wedding, she did take to Instagram to show off her wedding attire and shared a short video of fireworks at the reception.

Shaik opted for a cream-colored silk shirt that grazed her baby bump and captioned the photo of her outfit, which she shared on Instagram Stories, “bestie’s wedding.”

The growing baby bump is not news to Shaik’s 2.9 million Instagram followers, who learned of her pregnancy in May.

The catwalk star took to Instagram on Mother’s Day to share the happy news followers, posting three images of her bump with an extended caption in the form of a letter.

“To the new love of my life, thank you for choosing me to be your Mum. I have always wanted you for as long as I can remember, and at times my patience was tested. The timing had to be right, and I can say with confidence that I am ready to be your guide, your protector and your best friend,” she said.

The 31-year-old model, who is of Saudi, Pakistani, Lithuanian and Australian descent, is expecting the baby with her partner Matthew Adesuyan, the head of a record label in Los Angeles.

“As each month goes by during this precious journey of pregnancy, I am learning what the role of being a mother entails. I worry a lot, especially about your wellbeing and development. It’s a feeling that I’ve never experienced before, not even about myself. I would do anything for you, be anything for you and sacrifice anything for you,” she added.

She praised her own mother mentioning that she was raised by an “amazing woman” who taught her a lot about motherhood. “She has set the bar high and I don’t want to disappoint you. I want to raise you as she raised me.”

The mom-to-be ended the lengthy caption saying: “Sharing you with the world today is the most precious gift I could possibly receive on Mother’s Day. Mummy and Daddy can’t wait to meet you!”

Since sharing the news, Shaik has treated fans to regular updates about her pregnancy, including a post late last week that she captioned “baby kicked,” as well as her prenatal stretching tips and skincare routine.


UN report with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture spotlights pandemic’s effect on arts scene

The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)
Updated 03 July 2022

UN report with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture spotlights pandemic’s effect on arts scene

The report’s findings were unveiled in Abu Dhabi. (Supplied)

DUBAI: While lockdowns, postponements and cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic seem largely in the past, the socio-economic upheaval is still being reckoned with — and the international arts and culture scene is just one of many sectors that has been left reeling.

A new report released by UNESCO in partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DTC), titled “Culture in Times of COVID-19 Resilience, Recovery and Revival,” explores the major global trends that have reshaped the cultural sector due to COVID-19 and provides solutions for its revival.

Research for the report began in September 2021 when the DCT partnered with UNESCO to publish the first global assessment of the impact of COVID-19 across all cultural domains since the advent of the pandemic.

The findings were released during an event late last week in Abu Dhabi where both the DCT’s Chairman Mohamed Al-Mubarak and Ernesto Ottone Ramirez, UNESCO assistant director general, were present.

“Lockdowns experienced by many countries destroyed jobs and business in the culture sector,” Ramirez told Arab News. “This had a severe impact on the sector with more than 10 million jobs lost in 2020 alone and a 20 to 40 percent drop in revenues across the sector.”

Venue-based activities such as theaters and museums — as well as World Heritage sites — were hit hard.

“UNESCO reported that about 90 percent of museums and cultural institutions closed worldwide and about 90 percent of countries saw their World Heritage sites fully or partially closed in 2020,” he added.

“Many artists and cultural professionals have lost their livelihoods; pre-existing inequities have been deepened — including for women and girls — further amplifying social and   economic insecurities. These impacts have brought leading decision-makers and cultural professionals to further rely on the social and economic role of culture as a road to recovery,” stated the report.

Cultural and creative industries, as well as artists, also suffered greatly, emphasized Ramirez and the report. “The estimate is that in 2020 there was a $750bn contraction in the Gross Value Added generated by the cultural and creative industries globally, relative to 2019,” he told Arab News. “We need strong policies that support these industries and the artists. Artists and cultural professionals should not only be adequately recognized henceforth but appropriately credited for their work and contribution.”

Recognizing the importance of museums, cultural institutions and heritage sites is also vital. 

“They not only preserve heritage but offer equal access to culture and provide vital education, social inclusion, cultural diversity and well-being,” said Ramirez.

While the culture sector is beginning to recover, what the pandemic has taught those in the field is that it cannot move forward in today’s world without developing and sustaining a collective ecosystem.

“This includes data-driven policies, inter and intra-sectoral collaboration, economic investment, infrastructure, regulations, socio-economic support and capacity-building,” explained Ramirez.

Crucially, he emphasized, “if we are to preserve our culture, we must ensure the continuity of its creation by supporting artists and professionals in adapting to a changing world; providing equal access and opportunities across the cultural value chain; ensuring social protection and fair retribution for all; harnessing technological change to support innovation and facilitate a diversity of cultural expressions.”

The cultural sector, even in its weakened state, caused many to question what they value and prioritize. Culture in that light is often a source of comfort, connection and beauty for many. Take it away and we lose a vital part of our wellbeing and our communication with others.


US actress Lindsay Lohan calls Arab fiance ‘husband’ in surprise Instagram post

US actress Lindsay Lohan calls Arab fiance ‘husband’ in surprise Instagram post
Updated 03 July 2022

US actress Lindsay Lohan calls Arab fiance ‘husband’ in surprise Instagram post

US actress Lindsay Lohan calls Arab fiance ‘husband’ in surprise Instagram post

DUBAI: US actress Lindsay Lohan this week called her fiance Bader Shammas her “husband” in a heartfelt message she shared on Instagram, sparking speculation that the pair have married in secret. Fans flooded the stars account to find out more about the famously private Shammas — read on to find out just who the lucky man is.

The “Mean Girls” star, who is based in Dubai, shared a picture of her and Shammas, a financier, with her 10.9 million followers and wrote: “I am the luckiest woman in the world. You found me and knew that I wanted to find happiness and grace, all at the same time. I am stunned that you are my husband. My life and my everything. Every woman should feel like this every day,” the singer and songwriter wrote. 

Shammas, whose Instagram is on private mode, is a financier who previously worked as an associate at BNP Paribas Wealth Management up until 2017, according to Elle magazine. Educated in the US, he reportedly holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Finance degree from John H. Sykes College of Business, which is connected with the University of Tampa.

 

 

The Hollywood star announced her engagement in November, posting a series of snaps that showed off her diamond engagement ring.

Lohan and Shammas were first spotted together at a music festival in Dubai shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020.

In May 2020, Lohan’s mother, Dina Lohan, spoke about Shammas, saying: “Lindsay is dating a wonderful guy right now, but that’s neither here nor there. When she’s ready to talk about her personal life, she will.”

 

 

 


Actress Naomie Harris shows off pink gown by Tony Ward at grand prix ball

Actress Naomie Harris shows off pink gown by Tony Ward at grand prix ball
Updated 02 July 2022

Actress Naomie Harris shows off pink gown by Tony Ward at grand prix ball

Actress Naomie Harris shows off pink gown by Tony Ward at grand prix ball

DUBAI: British actress Naomie Harris this week stepped out in a hot pink gown by Lebanese-Italian fashion designer Tony Ward at London’s Grand Prix Ball 2022.

The “Small Island” star turned heads in a one-shoulder chiffon draped dress that was tight at the waist with a subtle cut-out bust. It featured a long train and a thigh-high slit.

The ball is an annual charity gala held in the lead-up to the British Grand Prix in support of the charitable organization the Prince’s Trust.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONY WARD (@tonywardcouture)

For her jewelry, Harris, who started her career by appearing in the 1987 TV series “Simon and the Witch,” opted for sparkly Swarovski hoop earrings and a simple glitzy bracelet.

Her dark hair was styled in raven braids, and the actress kept her makeup simple with a neutral lip and blushed cheeks.

Ward’s clientele list includes Chrissy Teigen, Lori Harvey, Sharon Stone, Bella Thorne Naomi Campbell, who wear the designer’s pieces to events such as the Oscars, the Grammy and the Critics Choice Awards.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONY WARD (@tonywardcouture)

In May, Ward dressed a number of stars on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival, including  Indian actress Urvashi Rautela, US-Indian actress and social media star Liza Koshy, Danish model Josephine Skriver, US model Jasmine Tookes, German blogger Leonie Hanne, US-Somali actress Sabrina Dhowre Elba, Belgian model Rose Bertram and TikTok star Jessica Wang.

Last week, US singer and songwriter Mary J. Blige wore a two-piece white gown by the part-Arab designer to the BET awards in Los Angeles.

The couturier, who has worked with such high-profile designers as Gianfranco Ferre for Dior and the late Karl Lagerfeld for Chloe, will unveil its fall/winter 2023 collection during Paris Haute Couture Week on July 4.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by TONY WARD (@tonywardcouture)

Meanwhile, Harris’ most recent work is “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” She stars in the sci-fi show, released in April, alongside actors Chiwetel Ejiofar, Sonya Cassidy and Jimmi Simpson.

Harris, whose father is from Trinidad and mother from Jamaica, has won multiple honors from the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, Hollywood Film Awards, and the Independent Spirit Awards.

In 2017, she was nominated for best performance by an actress in a supporting role award in the 2017 Oscars for her part in “Moonlight.”


Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram teases collaboration with US DJ Marshmello

Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram teases collaboration with US DJ Marshmello
Updated 02 July 2022

Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram teases collaboration with US DJ Marshmello

Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram teases collaboration with US DJ Marshmello

DUBAI: Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram this week teased an upcoming collaboration with US music producer Marshmello.

The superstar took to Instagram to share a picture of herself with the DJ, who was in his usual custom white helmet resembling a marshmello, in a recoding studio.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Nancy Ajram (@nancyajram)

Ajram captioned the post: “Sah Sah,” meaning “true true” in English. This hints that this could possibly be the title of the duo’s new song.

Marshmello shared a short clip on Instagram of him playing the stringed qanun instrument. His post was also captioned “Sah Sah.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by marshmello (@marshmello)

Ajram shared Marshmello’s reel and wrote to her 33 million followers: “Soon.”

Fans quickly responded to the stars’ posts and expressed their excitement for the new track.

“What a collab,” wrote one fan on Instagram, while another said: “Can’t wait!”