Tunisia to Yemen, Kuwait to Egypt: The Lebanese singer and musician selects music from the multi-faceted Arabic music diaspora.
Spending her young life living between her native Beirut, Abu Dhabi, Greece, Kuwait and Paris, where she now lives full-time, it’s no surprise that Yasmine Hamdan has woven the multi-faceted and vast sounds of the Arabic diaspora into her energised electronic folk-pop. Writing songs in English during her university studies inspired by PJ Harvey and Kate Bush, she was searching for something more when one night, she heard a song by mid-20th century Syrian singer Asmahan in a bar in Beirut. Enthralled by Asmahan’s pulling of classical Arab musical tropes into a contemporary framework, Hamdan was inspired to start singing in Arabic – and it changed her musical journey. Forming the duo Soapkills in 1997 with Zeid Hamdan, using danceable electronic beats to make their classical and folk influences soar, she embarked on a career as a singer, musician and songwriter who has become a figure of joyous experimentation and social forthrightness in the contemporary Arabic music world, particularly in her ability to sing in Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Palestinian, Egyptian and Bedouin dialects of Arabic, as well as in her native Lebanese. With three albums as part of Soapkills in the late ’90s to mid ’00s, Yasmine broke out on her own to work with Madonna collaborator Mirwais Ahmadzaï as part of Y.A.S for their 2009 album Arabology, and has released two solo albums, 2013’s Ya Nass and 2017’s Al Jamilat on Crammed Disc.