47Soul - Semitics (Cooking Vinyl, 2020)
There has long been a link between music and resistance in Palestine – with hip hop playing a major role in recent years – but there has never been a band quite like 47Soul.
Originally formed in Jordan, and with members now scattered between Palestine, London and the USA, they have pioneered a unique style that they call Shamstep, in which hip hop and electronica are fused with Middle Eastern-influenced melodies and styles, including shaabi, the pop music of the Levant and dabke traditional dance music. Semitics, their third release (and second full album) mixes stomping, no compromise dance music with powerful new songs and challenging, thoughtful lyrics in both Arabic and English.
Semitics is never predictable, with each song constantly shifting between different textures and tunes, as different band members provide the vocals. And this time round there are an impressive array of special guests adding to the mix.
The album was recorded in London and it includes a cast of London-based artists from around the world, from the German-Chilean MC Fedzilla to the British-Iraqi rapper Lowkey and British Palestinian rapper and singer Shadia Mansour. Then there are musicians based in the Middle East including two of the best-known Palestinian rappers; the Jordan-based The Synaptik represents the “new school”, while hip hop veterans are represented by Tamer Nafar, who was one of the founders of the massively-influential DAM over two decades ago.
The music is adventurous but the bi-lingual lyrics are even braver.
After all, the album is titled Semitics – one of the most emotionally-charged words in the English language, especially when preceded by the word Anti. Tareq argues that “the term is used in a strange way, and in so much propaganda. People need to know that semite doesn’t just mean Hebrew alone – Arabs are included”. After all, ‘semitic languages’ include both Hebrew and Arabic “and all the people who spoke those languages mixed a lot – it was one of the most metropolitan areas in history. The album is titled Semitics because it has a lot of these theological/historical/geographical themes – but it’s a dance album!”.
The collective, formed of Tareq, Ramzy Suleiman and Walaa Sbait, have toured the world since releasing their debut album “Balfron Promise” two years ago, building up an impressive following across the Middle East and the global Arab diaspora. In 2019, they performed for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, KEXP session and Youtube Dubai Space during a stint of over 160 live shows internationally.
NMR (photo: press 47Soul)