At first glance even to those unfamiliar with the Middle Eastern music scene and the history of its origins, one can still deduce that the sound of these four young men is something unique. Sending shockwaves throughout the underground Arab music scene 47SOUL have amassed a fan base spanning well beyond the Middle East across Europe and Australia in a considerably short space of time. Innovative as there music is on the surface what is more astonishing is the culture and tradition deeply woven into their sound and the hurdles they have overcome to be able to produce what many would class as a new genre of Middle Eastern music.
The four members that make up 47SOUL all originate from Bilad Al Sham (Land of the North), or more commonly known as the Levant, an area which now is made up of Syria, Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon. To understand there music it is important to first understand them as individuals with their own musical identities, their collaboration came from unlikely beginnings with each of the four members preforming as solo artists. Tareq Abu Kwaik aka ‘El Far3i’ born in Amman, Jordan was described as having an “Arabic mountain voice mixed with Bedouin desert style guitar and hip hop poetry”. ‘Z The People’ a Palestinian/American describes himself as playing gospel and soul music. Hamza Arnaout aka ‘El jehaz’ brought his skills as an autostrad player and the 4th member Walaa Sbait with his Dabke, folk reggae sound and stage presence completes the group. Knowing this it will become clear, when listening to them, as to how their music has become a complete fusion of their individual sounds and personal identities as musicians.
Their first show was played in Amman after only three rehearsals together from the date of their formation. The logistical challenges of travelling between borders kept them separated for the vast majority of time before there first live performance, but with that being said their first show was a huge success judging by the response of the crowd, they electrified their audience so much so even the waiters and valet serviceman found themselves succumbing to the infectious dance music resonating from the stage. It was in Amman where they realized the true potential of what they had created as a collective thus giving birth to a new generation of Palestinian street music.
The struggles they have faced to collaborate has been a journey of its own proportions and these challenges have transcended into the lyrics of their music as they sing about the need to break down border checkpoints and their desire for freedom of movement, this provided much of the lyrical inspiration in their first EP. They widely regard their ability to perform shows around the world as victories in the face of the challenges they experience in trying to unify there sound, almost as if each show is a milestone reached and is to be celebrated as tribute to their successful bout against the constraints of passports and borders.
The origins of their sound as a group is deeply rooted in Arabic Dabke a type of dance synonymous with joyous & celebratory occasions originating in Palestine & the Levant. The traditions behind Arabic Dabke run deep into Palestinian history and culture, at a time a when the roofs of houses were made of wood, straw and dirt it was common practice to stomp on the roofs to compact the dirt evenly, this activity was usually preformed in groups and was referred to as Ta’awon meaning ‘help’ and from this Ala Dalouna ‘let’s go and help’ music began to develop, Dabke being the type of dance Ala Dalouna being the type of music Dabke was performed to.
Another cultural influence to their sound comes from the Mijwez which means ‘dual’ this traditional instrument of the Levante, commonly accompanied by belly dancing and Dabke, is similar in design to that of a flute its origins are deeply embedded in Palestinian culture and it is an instrument present in most of the music 47SOUL produce. The sound of the Mijwez is replicated using the synthesizer to reach a wider variety of notes adding new dimensions to there already unique sound.
Eventually Arabic Dabke found itself as having its own identity and became a celebration of history, the cultural connotations of Dabake has evolved more so particularly in the last 50 years where not only does it represent proud Palestinian heritage but it has become a symbol of cultural resistance in a time when much of the culture and traditions associated with Palestine are being suppressed and erased from history under the ongoing Israeli Occupation of Palestine.
Even the subtext of their name 47SOUL pays homage to their history with regards to the struggles their families faced and continue to face as natives of the Levant, 1947 being the last year in which their grandparents were able to move freely within their homeland, this year was subsequently the same year the UN partition plan of Palestine was introduced.
There shared history has strongly influenced the foundations of their sound but it is the addition of their own personal influences which has placed them into this new generation of Palestinian street music. The culmination of synthesizers, drum machines and guitar have drawn inspiration from an array of unlikely sources such as American hip hop, Arabic folk and even the reggae sounds of Bob Marley. The group have named this new mix of traditional Arabic folk music with electronic and urban influences ‘Shamstep’, which there first EP is also named after. Captivating crowds and bringing together music lovers from across the spectrum these four young men are taking their new genre of music to the mainstream with the intention of immortalizing the sounds of the Mijwez on the international stage.
We are confident in saying we should be expecting to see them on bigger stages and at more prestigious venues within the very near future (Glastonbury 2015 to name the latest), as the momentum they have gathered in such as short space of time, fuelled by the overwhelmingly positive response they have received from all who have had the privilege to experience Shamstep live, shows little signs of slowing down.
Welcome to 47SOUL