Acid Arab: Destroying the Barriers Between East and West
Talking ٣ (Trois) with the Parisian electronic outfit
Acid Arab is an EDM group from Paris, France that blends a wide spectrum of Algerian and Middle Eastern styles with samples and melodies composed by the group’s founders Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho and their collaborators.
They started as a duo, enchanted by the international sounds they heard all around them in Paris.
“We live in the multicultural heart of this city,” Minisky and Carvalho said, speaking as a unit via e-mail. “We grew up in an environment where music from around the world was being introduced by Actuel magazine [a jazz, pop and counterculture publication] and Radio Nova [a station that plays underground artists in the fields of electro, reggae, hip hop and world music]. We also knew those styles from our neighborhoods, where these genres were very popular.
“We love all genres of music, so it’s not only about French dance music and Western electronic music, and not only Algerian and Middle Eastern styles, but also Turkish, Moroccan, etc. We started a decade ago, blending electronic music records with Arabic records when DJing at a party in Tunisia. We loved the result, at least as much as the crowd did, so we kept on.”
After getting a positive reaction from so many dancefloor crowds, they decided to start a band and compose new songs based on the fusion of Eastern rhythmic structures and Western dance beats. “We certainly do not superimpose different cultures,” they said. “We try to merge them into one, with the help of some incredible friends, musicians and singers we met along the way. We heard this nice formula and we liked it: it’s more an infusion than a fusion.”
With the aid of Pierrot Casanova, Nicolas Borne and Kenzi Bourras, they created a collective and began playing gigs.
“Playing live and composing was a natural step for us,” they said. “Very quickly, we wanted to do our own tracks, so we did studio work with our friends Pierrot, Nico and Kenzi. We started writing and recording our own tracks and did two albums with Crammed Discs.”
Their third album, ٣ (Trois), came out this month. “With the Great Lockdown, we almost forgot how good it feels to be back in the studio, producing new sounds and beats. We were happy to get back to work.”
Like their previous efforts, the music on ٣ (Trois) covers a lot of musical and geographic ground. “Leila” is introduced by a combination of doumbek rhythms, drum loops and a melody played on the ney (flute). Special Sofiane Saidi, known for his adventurous work reinventing rai for the 21st Century, sings lead. A muted funk beat and a mixed down voice, chanting a vocal refrain, opens “Döne Döne.” The music is based on a ritual from Turkey’s Alevi tradition, a blend of Islam, Sufism, Christianity and shamanism. Cem Yildiz, an artist known for his psychedelic folk approach to Turkish music, sings the verses, ornamenting the words with ululating melasmas. Dub effects send the catchy tag line – “Döne Döne” – skittering off in unexpected directions.
The backing track of “Halim Guelil” sounds like an R&B dancefloor hit for the 70s, with icy synthesizers, a solid backbeat and a popping bass line. Cheb Halim, a Rai star, composed the song with the Acid Arab collective. The rhythm is based on the Aroubi tradition, a genre that blends poetry and folk music. Halim sings/raps, trading solos with synthesizers playing brief melodic hooks. “Rachid Trip,” features vocals by the late French/Algerian singer Rachid Taha. Taha became a star in France by blending Arabic music with punk, rap, techno and rock. Before they started composing their own songs, Acid Arab spent some time with him discussing music before he passed. This track rides a propulsive EDM groove, with waves of atmospheric synthesizers, while Taha’s singing is treated with dub effects as it drifts around the mix. Minisky and Carvalho met Taha and hung out with him several times. “One night, we played an instrumental track and he started improvising, while we were recording his voice on our smartphone. He was like an Algerian crooner version of Moodymann. Almost six years later, we can pay him tribute, with the approval of his son.”
No doubt, the band is eager to start playing gigs again.
“Live shows have this special energy coming from the crowd,” they said. “For some special shows, we’re able to invite some of the people we created the tracks with to come and perform with us. We like to make people dance and feel the vibe.”
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