Xilhu Ayebaitari will launch a new stream series this month, platforming Black & POC LGBTQ+ jungle and d&b artists.
Titled Queer Rave, the series is a community-based project which aims to celebrate queer, female and genderqueer Drum & Bass DJs. The first artists set to take part in the series will be announced on Friday 9th July.
Xilhu Ayebaitari is one of the recipients of AZ Mag’s 2020 creative grant, in collaboration with DJ Mag. As part the £1000 creative fund sponsorship, DJ Mag will be providing ongoing mentorship and facilities to Queer Rave throughout its development. Queer Rave will use its AZ Mag creative grant to create a live streaming platform for DJs, and to curate artist-based content and radio shows.
Xilhu is a DJ, video artist/editor, performance artist and creative, who aims to develop Queer Rave as an opporunity to “reimagine and and transform” the d&B scene as an inclusive and open space that is accepting of all genders and sexualities.
“Queer Rave is here to give a platform, recognition and empowerment to these DJs,” says Xilhu. “As well as a connected network of queer ravers and community.”
In a special partnership with the video hosting service Vevo, Doja Cat releases her official live performance of “Ain’t Shit” from her new album Planet Her. The new visual marks the first video release from her live performance series. Her 14-track album is a euphoric and extraterrestrial embodiment of the beauty of woman. Beyond the music, Doja’s undeniable talent to create memorable and unique visuals makes her music truly multi-dimensional. Collabing with Vevo, the video network made sure that her exclusive performances also fit the kaleidoscopic aesthetic of Planet Her.
Shot in a California desert, the pop-star is draped in all black while she delivers melodic bars about scrubs. Performing on top of an insanely huge gold structure, the visual represents her ruling of “her” planet. Synonymous with her album, the “Aint Shit” visual and following visuals will showcase varying themes of futurism and femininity. While fans anticipate the release of her visuals, they can become immersed in the first of many from Planet Her.
Experimental electro-pop duo STAR SEED return with two enchanting singles in the follow-up to their recent INNERSPACE EP. Established just last September, STAR SEED have since made waves in the industry with their boundary pushing production quality and sound design. Dueling singles “Chasing Stars,” released Tuesday via NCS, and Meggie York feature “U&I,” released Thursday via Enforce, chart a different sonic course than many of the tracklistings on their Ophelia Records-backed EP, flashing STAR SEED’s refreshing sense of sonic diversity. The Cincinnati-based production pair said,
Noah: “Experimenting with vocal production and manipulation is something that really excites us. I think our releases this week show that and tease where we are headed, stylistically.”
Drew: “We have had these songs finished for a while. They are actually pre-INNERSPACE creations. It feels good to finally get them out into the world.”
STAR SEED comprises two producers with a handful of experience in the music industry. The duo is a “collection of sounds built to merge the gap between sonic exploration, nature, spirituality, and the unknown.”
Both singles, available to stream below, continue STAR SEED’s hot release run, which counts “Chasing Stars” and “U&I” as their 18th and 19th official records, respectively, since the debuted their project with “Escape” in September 2020.
Music, the same as any art form is wholly open to an individual’s interpretation, even if the key focus is already abundantly clear. LA-based artist Boy Untitled has expertly used that concept to provide a new dimension to his brooding alt-pop cut “Losing Time,” with a bold, and cleanly executed visual that nods to iconic, turn of the century pop culture aesthetics.
Initially focussed on a personal narrative of a strained relationship, the visual urges the secondary focus to the fore, our relationship with the planet via a backdrop of dramatic shots of the four earth elements. The vexed lyricism seamlessly transfers, almost as if it were the secular focus, to begin with.
“‘Losing Time’ is one of the most personal songs I’ve written. It’s about my failing marriage, struggling during the throws of quarantine. It’s about the feeling that despite my husband and my best efforts, we were losing ourselves in a battle against time,” Boy Untitled confesses in an email statement. “This sense of ownership over finding solutions to the problem – this personal journey that feels like life-or-death – is exactly how I invite the audience to feel about the climate crisis. This isn’t some problem we can put to someone else. It is here, now. While the leap between these two topics may feel unusual, I believe that feeling into the personal emotion of a problem is one of the keys to solving it.
Recalling Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me,” Boy Untitled walks in a confident rhythm with the pulsating, darkly tinted beat of the metamorphic production. The softly textured atmosphere that introduces the track is paired with a tranquil shot of the desert but as the sonic anticipation builds, it swiftly shifts to destructive scenes of lava as the track slowly unfurls into an engaging coalescence of upbeat club and contemplative dark pop themes.
Undulating between the more enveloping verses and the addictive head-nodding choruses, the thought-provoking narrative retains its prevalence; delivering a cumbersome account on love, an important reminder regarding our planet and a standout hit, all in one articulate package.
YB releases a spiritual visual for “RUNNIN’ WIT GOD” — a track filled with guitar strings, drums, and heart-felt lyrics.
Earlier this year, YB dropped a 5-track EP titled Provision II, opening his heart and telling stories through music. Being one track from the album, “RUNNIN’ WIT GOD,” tells a story about how his faith interplays with his life as the visuals show YB driving, filled with guidance even when he is alone. There is one thing that we can’t deny when it comes to YB: the way that he raps about God is powerful all the way from his poetic wordplay to the sounds that are incorporated throughout the track. The guitar strings, snappy sounds, drums, and chimes are intertwined perfectly as YB utters every word with extreme passion. It is obvious that one of his strengths is most definitely storytelling, as he conveys the struggles that he has undergone yet lets us know that the higher power has not left his side. His delivery and tone beautifully screams of perseverance, especially because he accentuates every word that leaves his spirit. Press play, especially if you want to get closer to your spiritual side.
With the release of “Renegade,” 18-year-old yuma. cinches his fifth original production of 2021. Trailing April’s “Mean to Me” with LissA, February’s two one-offs, “Falling with You” with Jewels, SOMMA, and Faith and “OH MY GOD,” and January’s “Can U Feel It” with imallryt, “Renegade heightens the rising German talent’s stock of ambient house singles. A slow burn with a mid-tempo ebb and flow that would recommend it for placement on This Never Happened or Rose Avenue Records, “Renegade” arrives via Lilly Era as a component in yuma.’s compelling case for why his cerebral approach to house should be turning heads right at this very moment.
Singer/songwriter Mason Rose Gray releases her latest offering, “SURVIVE,” and there is a delicate aching felt throughout. The tender tune tells a powerful tale of soul-searching after the close of a nine-year relationship. The track touches you with its gentle acoustic guitar and velvety vocals so emotive you hear that break within her tone. We all know what it is like to deal with a difficult break-up, and this song perfectly encapsulates that feeling of immense pain while also showing us that we can endure.
Gray is a Florida based artist beautifully blending indie, folk and blues. Her raw, passionate sound and honest lyrics make her music so mesmerizing. “SURVIVE” possesses that rich, haunting quality she is known for. The singer is no stranger to fighting for survival. Raised in poverty, her family struggled to find the money for basic necessities such as food and clothes. On top of that, she had to deal with an abusive father. Though this release is a track of reclaiming your power after heartbreak, it is the perfect listen for whatever type of struggle you are facing. Hearing the single and resonating with her deep hurt makes us feel less alone. We all could use that connection right now.
In a time of crisis atop crisis, we’ve followed the diverse musical voices of Beirut artists as they found a way to keep making music. Here, assembled under the supervision of musician and tuning champion Khyam Allami, is a sampling of music from this past year.
I hope that as musicians and friends we don’t just blip along with news headlines to the latest event and then move on. We know from our own musical lives that sometimes what we have to say takes time to unfold. And making music is challenging enough in emotionally drained times, let alone when catastrophe can impact health, or home, or electricity.
So see the links below – thanks to our friends putting in some extended work, we’ve gotten to follow a longer narrative of Beirut’s scene – and that in turn as just one snapshot of all the many corners producing music that may or may not be on the radar of the splashiest news outlets. These are all artists, that being said, who have made extensive international tours and influenced countless people through their work and teaching.
Part of the Musicians Support Program we developed in response to the multitude of crises in Lebanon, Beirut 20/21 is a postcard of its time that represents a snapshot of Beirut’s widely diverse and varied musical landscape, without pretense, on its own terms.
A true sonic journey that showcases a variety of genres, featuring Aya Metwalli, Bonne Chose, Dani Shokri & Tarek Khuluki, Elyse Tabet, Jaafar Touffar, Jad Atoui, Jana & Scarlett, Khaled Omran, Kid Fourteen, Kinematik, KŌZŌ 構造, Liliane Chlela, Melmo, Perla Joe, Rust, Samah Boulmouna, Sandy Chamoun, Wonderland, Serge Yared, and Yara Asmar.
It starts with the chilling, powerful “Nitrate” by Jaafar Touffar, directly referencing the explosion of last summer. Jaafar is an established rap artist hailing from Hermel, Lebanon, who’s also teaching his skills in production and Arabic writing.
We’ve visited some of these musicians’ work together over the past year, so here are just a few personal highlights and works that connect to some of that recent coverage.
Composer Jad Atoui makes an aching, shimmering ambient piece that seems suspended in space, flows of color rushing in springs of sound. We have to talk to him more, as I’m curious about these bio sensors he’s using in his analog synth setup – and if you don’t know his name, you should, as he’s an established improviser and experimenter in both New York and Beirut:
BIOSONICS, anyone? (Yes, hope he can meet Leslie Garcia and Interspecifics at some point, too!)
Aya Metwalli, an artist between Cairo and Beirut (as I understand, at least) is back with an insistent, elegantly arresting track, and evidently she’s doing something new with her modern dance training, so more on that separately:
The duo Bonne Chose has an ambling, dreamy take that floats easily – it’s the work of a chance encounter of two session musicians, Abdo and Charbel Sawma, who have since come together to work on a full-length in their home studio:
The soft-shuffling “Dani Shoukri & Tarek Khuluki – Sari – A tribute to Rafeeq Shukri” is a duo of two Damascus-born artists working together in Beirut, interweaving classical materials and sharply-constructed electronic grooves. The sample, the description tells us, is from a mawal from the movie “Bint al Badieh”, 1958.
Kid Fourteen I wrote about last time, too, and here he’s a real one-man-band – credited as “Composer, Lyricist, Vocals, Synth, Guitar, Beats, Recording and Mixing Engineer”:
Liliane Chlela is one of the defining new voices in experimental electronic music, with a rich improvisational practice accompanying her productions. This sweeping creation “2025” seems to capture exactly this decade’s terrifying zeitgeist, futuristic and primitive all at once. Having a soundtrack to such emotions can be intensely cathartic, though, so have at it:
Elyse Tabet aka Litter is another electronic up and comer, here mixed by Jawad, and – I can’t describe this better than they do, it is “pulsing Ambient music that is both placid and disquieting.” And then in case those power outages and the general planetary apocalypse has you thinking about what machine music should sound like, they also note that her debut album ‘Newfound Grid’ “presents her music as a “machine running out of power.”
“We Slept Through The Day” is a favorite of mine from this release, in that it has that feeling of being in two conditions at once – not easy calm, not overly bombastic violence, but something dangerous and calming simultaneously:
For a blend of all this brilliant production with some pop vocals, here’s the spine-tingling poignance of Marie Abou Khaled, aka Beirut-native Melmo.
And the album ends fittingly with Hany Manja and Petra Hawi, who are seeking “transcendental” musical pathways combining Arabic musical tradition with the future as the duo Rust.
It’s all good, and I skipped over some of my favorites partly just so this article doesn’t last forever and somehow still fits on CDM. But it’s well worth listening closely, for some of the tuning and tradition that inspired Khyam’s projects to advocate for transcultural music technology. They should remind you – I hope – that tuning is not “microtuning,” not only an experimental venture, but a fundamental element of music cultures, plural, worldwide. Just like cramming everything into English (oops, sorry), missing out on those is simply an exercise in more colonialism in a world that really ought to say enough, already. Arabic traditions in this music flow freely with other international currents, past and present and future.
Or to say that more simply – do go listen, closely.
And some of what we’ve tracked in Beirut over the past year, reverse chronological order – realizing I can’t come close to covering everywhere, it’s at least one piece of a story thread:
And please, please do go read the interview with Khyam – from before the project won awards, no less! – as it’s worth bookmarking and coming back to, along with the tool. Arabic tuning and all its musical relatives are a major focus (Khyam is originally from Iraq):
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