Poetry is not just written pieces with a certain numbers of syllables following a strict scheme. It can also be about making yourself heard in other ways, whether about love, politics, the environment or working class struggle. Hip-hop is this kind of poetry. Fareeq el Atrash is one of many Lebanese active hip-hop crews in the scene, but what sets them apart from others is the fact that they are a live band. The hip-hop tunes and lyrics are mixed with groovy and funky bass lines, for an innovative touch. They deal with issues as diverse as love, war, social and political matters, change, racism, dreams, corruption or stereotypes about hip hop.
Current members are Edouard ‘Edd’ Abbas and Nasser ‘Chyno’ Shorbaji as The Emcees, Fayez ‘FZ’ Zouheiry is the beat-boxer and John ‘L’Bass’ Nasr as the Bass Player. Fareeq el Atrash include extra session musicians in their live Performances, such as Fouad Afra on the Drums, Raffi Mandalian on electric guitar and Arthur Sathyan on the Keys and Synth. Mashallah News had the chance to meet Edd to talk about the band and its relation to poetry.
How did it all start?
Before us, John had a collective band called Fareeq el Atrash. They were friends who used to jam together, until some of them traveled and others went separate ways. I met John early 2006, whom he continued to produce beats, so we started working on a project. In the meantime, FZ and I went to the same university, after hearing him beat-boxing in one of the classrooms, I asked him to join us in the process. The project took us almost a year to finish and another year trying to put it out on the shelf. It was released in the “pre-album launch party” at basement and ended up online for free to download after the launch of our official Fareeq el Atrash album with the current formation through forward music. Nasser also joined after. We were in the same play with director Nidal Ashkar. In other words, we are used to working with each other on stage.
We’ve been working on our set list since 2008, when Nasser and I started writing new songs with the ‘modern’ Fareeq el Atrash, if I dare say. We signed our first deal with Forward Music in January 2010. The album was released at La fête de la Musique at the Roman Baths in Downtown Beirut on June 21st 2010.
Do you see yourself as being the new type of Arab poets, with just a different style of saying things?
Yes. Hip hop is modern time poetry. Before, there was classical poetry like zajal, which had rules, basics and the certain type of flow it had to follow. The beauty of the old was the rules. With the evolution of time, poetry didn’t become easier, but it came closer to people and got more straightforward. The wording now is simpler, using the spoken language rather than the written one. Also, even though there are different dialects in the region, Arab emcees, as well as the public, can relate to each other because of the common causes and problems we face.
What do you think of when you hear the word poetry?
I think about 7keeleh. Journalist and photographer Simba Russeau created “Taste Culture” in 2009. This was made to fight racism and to encourage the mix and understanding of the African, European and Arab cultures. We both launched 7keeleh, which is part of Taste Culture. It is a poetry night with different genres, let it be classical poetry, rap or experimental music. Most of the poets who come are rappers. The participants are those who had something to say. At the end of each evening, there is an open mic, in which any member of the audience who feels like reading poetry can do so.
How do you see the future for Fareeq el Atrash?
Things are going pretty well for us these days. We are offered several opportunities to increase our exposure, not only on the local scene but also in the Arab world and internationally. For example, we had the chance to participate in the program Arabs Got Talent last month, which was a great way advertise our music. We performed songs that truly represent us, without thinking about censorship or wondering whether it would bother some people or not. This is usually how we work. Our second piece criticized the rusted and corrupted regimes of the region. We believe in never refusing anything or any opportunity. You never know what’s behind that door. In addition to that, our fans are our priority. We do the music because we love it, but also to keep pleasing and never disappointing them.
This article is published with the courtesy of Mashallah News, Babelmed’s Partner