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Including Lebanon’s oud master

Lebanon’s oud master

The musicians making the global headlines

The musicians making the global headlines

February/March 2017

Happily ever after
In “Andalusia of Love”, the latest album from Lebanon’s master oud player, Marcel Khalife (above) weeps for a lost medieval kingdom. He sets to music the verse of the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, an old friend and one of the Arab world’s great writers. The result is a brooding lament for al-Andalus, the fallen realm of Islamic Spain often romanticised for its ethnic pluralism and religious tolerance, a place where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived in relative harmony for centuries. Whether there is more myth to this than fact doesn’t matter; the album has mesmerised Lebanese who crave an end to the sectarianism that divides their country and fans the region’s wars.

 

Encore, encore
Step aside Bocelli. Sorry, Pavarotti. The two bestselling Italian musicians of all time are Adriano Celentano and Mina (pictured). Their heyday was the 1960s, when they regularly starred on a number of glittering variety shows, but they continue to record today. In the turbulent wake of the referendum last December, Italy has greeted their latest album – “Le Migliori” (The Best) – with slightly hysterical joy. But the duo are not offering oblivion in nostalgia; the diverse cast of the video for the hit “Amami Amami” (Love Me, Love Me) reflects the fast-changing face of modern Italy, which many still struggle to accept. The king and queen of Italian pop still reign, and their heavily kohled eyes are fixed upon the future.

Body politic
Abortion restrictions in Poland are among the tightest in Europe. Some women get abortions illegally or travel abroad; most rarely talk about it afterwards. Natalia Przybysz decided to sing about hers. The painful lyrics of “Przez Sen” (Through a Dream), which tell of travelling for “five-minutes of disappearing to reverse fate”, are ultimately empowering; “[my] body is mine”, she sings huskily. It was first recorded last autumn when an estimated 100,000 people protested against a law that would ban abortion except to save the mother’s life. Przybysz’s “protest song”, as she calls it, has reminded thousands of women that they are not alone.

Notes from the underground
To be a rocker in Iran is to ask for trouble. Since the 1979 revolution, any music deemed anti-Islamic has been forbidden. “[The Revolutionary Guard would] take our cassettes and step on them...That’s why our generation went underground,” says Arash Sobhani, lead singer of Kiosk, which formed 14 years ago in the basement-studios of Tehran known as “kiosks”. For Sobhani and his band-mates, rocking out in Iran eventually became more trouble than it was worth: in 2005 some members left for Canada and the US. But Kiosk lives on. “Like a Bulldozer”, from their ninth album, is an insistent battlecry entreating listeners to destroy everything that’s wrong with the world and begin again.

Dancing while Caracas burns
If the smooth baritone of the latest salsa DJ oozing across the airwaves in Venezuela sounds familiar, that is because it belongs to the president, Nicolás Maduro. He has launched his own twice-weekly radio show, “La Hora de la Salsa” – what appears to be a clumsy attempt to make him more popular, even as he oversees a precipitous recession. His critics deride it as appallingly mis-timed. “It’s like listening to the orchestra on the Titanic,” quipped one. Maduro seems to relish his new role; the show is meant to last one hour, but usually drags on for four. Listening figures had not been released at the time of writing.

Getting out el voto  
Colombia
can be a pressure cooker for insecurities: there are parts of Medellín where men and women are practically bursting with machismo and implants. In this context, “Soy Yo” (This Is Me), an infectious hit by the electro-pop duo, Bomba Estéreo, became an anthem for self-acceptance and tolerance. The sassy 11-year-old Latina star of the music video, with her giant specs and quirky dance moves, took the internet by storm. She then returned for a second video, “Be You y Vota”, in which she bounced along to the same tune, rounding up Latino voters for the US election. Given the result, her message is more pertinent than ever.

To listen to a selection of songs from these pages, search “spotify:user:1843mag” on Spotify

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