Native to Lebanon and now residing in Paris, Yasmine Hamdan is easily an underground icon in the Arabic world and a bridge between diversity through the melting pot of music. Since her founding of the electronic duo, Soapkills, noted to be one of the first of its genre in Beirut, Hamdan’s structures and wordplay acted as support for postwar Lebanese adolescents. Following up her 2013 debut, Ya Nass via Crammed Discs, Hamdan returns with Al Jamilat (The Beautiful Ones), which is taken from the Mahmoud Darwish poem to which Hamdan explains is an “ode to womanhood, celebrating beauty in multiplicity and contradictions.” Embracing each component that creates Hamdan, Al Jamilat is more than a collection of stories, but more so true beauty through the pain and relief that connects us all on a human level translated through the language of music.
The 11-track album is a deeper developed thought than Ya Nass, which is not to say isn’t worth the listen (“Aleb” is a must hear), and centralizes musically and lyrically what Hamdan is aiming to get across. Opening with “Douss” the track gently opens against an acoustic guitar while Hamdan’s airy vocals glide across. Hamdan’s vocal delivery is rooted in traditional Arabic styling, while her modern approach strips certain pieces and gently blends Western influences. It’s an extremely simple song that holds a heavy heart, speaking of the “war” thrown upon and “lies, and deceits” that stem from the government- ironically pairing these two elements (music and lyrics) for a lasting feeling. Moving from a political standpoint to a personal level, “La Ba’den (Until Later)” exhibits ambiance and peaceful weightlessness that subsides under the bliss of not knowing and postponing the inevitable.
“Assi (Grim)” is a musical experiment that begins with similar structures and sounds of Arabic-pop and scuttles through a distorted and darker, electronic soundscape. Heavier, living up to its name, “Assi” begins to transition the album to a deeper level and effortlessly flows into “Choubi.” One of the best things about Al Jamilat is its vast amount of musical influences that appear throughout the album; subtle, strong, yet not armed. Ranging from Western styling within indie-electronic, and Middle Eastern and Asian instrumentation, Hamdan’s arrangement are one of the best assets heard on this album.
By “Balad” Hamdan comes back to the destruction and current mindset of war that engulfs the Arabic world with lyrics that state Hamdan’s fear and own outcast. Despite her direct standpoint of “I fear for my own country” there is a worldly commentary that Hamdan speaks on and displays it on her most recent video.
Yasmine Hamdan’s Al Jamilat is truly a conscious collection rooted by stories of loss, self-reflection, love, and hope that connects us all through an array of beautiful musical arrangements.
Discover Yasmine Hamdan in person, Tuesday, November 14th at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles.
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