With Bandcamp donating their profits to ACLU in the wake of Trump’s #MuslimBan, we’ve rounded up artists from the seven banned countries worth supporting
It feels a little like time is moving in slow-motion right now. Having only withstood two weeks of Trump’s presidency so far, we’ve witnessed both the smallest and the biggest inauguration crowd in history. The image of a neo-Nazi being punched in the face has been carved into the landscape of time forevermore. We’ve had to bear witness to whatever the hell this fucking thing was, And then there was the #MuslimBan, which saw citizens from seven countries from entering the USA for 90 days. Those countries were Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq, all majority Muslim countries. From these seven countries, the combined total of citizens who have committed a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 is zero.
In a show of solidarity today (February 3), Bandcamp and over 200 independent record labels and artists have pledged to match and donate 100% of the day’s sales to the ACLU, a non-profit organisation who work to combat these sort of discriminatory and unconstitutional actions. Spanning Somalian hip-hop and Arabian pop to 80s Mogadishu and the hardcore sounds of Tehran, we’ve highlighted some of the best music coming from those affected by Trump’s Muslim ban – so dig deep, and discover what keeps these countries dancing.
Residing in Tehran, Sote (real name Ata Ebtekar) is part of a relatively new but niche scene that brings kaleidoscopic electronic music and techno to Iran’s capital. The piercing, almost claustrophobic tone of his music is oddly blissful in its madness. Orchestral-sized soundscapes sit atop 140BPM pneumatic drum rhythms, creating a form of music that, as Ebtekar puts it, “is not available anywhere else except (for) in his mind.” Ebtekar has been working towards creating a scene for his music within Tehran for over 20 years, aiming to showcase leftfield electronica in the city by any means necessary. Having already had his music published with the likes of Warp Records and Sub Rosa, on his 2016 release for Opal Tapes, Hardcore Sounds From Tehran, Ebtekar crafted an EP from six live shows within a two-year period. These performances often took place in DIY venues, makeshift spaces, and hidden basements across Tehran, mostly on unreliable sound-systems and in pitch black surroundings.
Re-issued on the incredible Awesome Tapes From Africa label in 2013, Dur-Dur Band formed in Mogadishu in 1980, later becoming one of the capital’s most popular bands throughout what became known as the ‘Mogadishu disco scene’. Before civil war took hold of the country in the mid-80s, the likes of Waaberi, Qadiijo Qalanjo, and Dur-Dur Band had been the poster boys for a golden age of Somali music, which expanded across the Horn of Africa. Mogadishu came to be characterised through a mix of traditional Somali folk, Arabic and African flavours, and the Western inspirations of funk, reggae, disco, and electronics. Michael Jackson and Phil Collins became as much an influence on their music as the then-burgeoning club scene within the capital. As the political climate in the country worsened, the 17-strong Dur-Dur Band lineup disbanded and left the country, but after the success of the Awesome Tapes From Africa re-release, the band later reformed for a single show at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2014.
With a deep-rooted love of jazz and a strong representation of the traditional music from his homeland, Syrian-born (now Berlin-based) producer Khaled Kurbeh fuses Middle Eastern instrumentation and musical dialects with downbeat jazz and hip hop. In his music, Kurbeh is just as influenced by the likes of Flying Lotus as he is jazz greats like Miles Davis, or Iraqi oud player Munir Bashir. On his debut LP Pieces From Exile, Kurbeh dedicated this deeply personal record for those who have become “lost, abducted and displaced” throughout the Syrian conflict. The words, “I am not afraid for myself anymore. Death became a normal thing to us in Syria,” run through “Syria Speaks”, the sample taken from the questioning of kidnapped Syrian human rights lawyer and activist Razan Zeitouneh. As a dedicated campaigner for human rights in his homeland, Kurbeh has become a prominent figure across Berlin, performing at benefit concerts, refugee camps, colleges, and cultural centres in the city. All money made from Pieces From Exile goes to Syria’s White Helmets, so dig deep and buy a few copies.
Also hailing from Syria are Amar, Rody, and Ronav Zeno. At the beginning of 2016, the Zeno family (a father and his two songs) reached Europe with few belongings to their name, having originally fled from their home of Afrine in northern Syria. After being held in a Thessaloniki refugee camp in northern Greece in May 2016, the family moved on to a new destination late last year. Since then, they’ve made little to no contact. Bringing with them their musical instruments, Amar, Rody, and Ronav Zeno recorded an eight-track LP of traditional Kurdish music from their campsites, with “Lo Dîlo” being a bonafide belter. Recorded and published by French aid worker Loup Uberto, every sale goes towards helping the Zeno family reach their end destination. At the time of writing, this the fundraiser could do with more support, so go ahead and show yours.
Originating from Khartoum in Sudan, instrumental hip hop producer Sufyvn is a man of many trades. Composer, visual artist, producer, collector, ‘beatsmith’, and certified dentist all fall under Sufyvn’s repertoire, but for music fans, his strengths lie in his sample-based incarnation of Sudanese afrofuturism. Oh, and much like most of us under the age of 30 years old, he first discovered hip hop through Eminem. Greater connected with the Los Angeles beat scene and the chopped works of Onra than the more traditional forms of music in the country, across his four releases Sufyvn unearths samples from Sudanese cassette tapes of the 50s and 60s to create richly layered instrumentals and J Dilla inspired hip hop. While his recordings may be inspired by Western pop and rap, the source material to his work showcases Sudan’s musical diversity, and how, through the likes of artists like Sufyvn, that remains ever present in the country today.
Born in 1953 in Benghazi, Libya, for a time Ahmed Fakroun was one of the most popular acts in the country. A multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, saxophone, and drums), Fakroun looked towards 80s new wave and French art rock to help craft a new mainstream sound across the Arabic world. Achieving instant success after the release of “Awedny (Promise Me)” (which sounds oddly similar to Baltimora’s “Tarzan Boy”), Fakroun’s defining moment came with his 1983 album Mots D’Amour, a near-perfect display of modern Middle Eastern pop at its pinnacle. Far from retired at the age of 60, Fakroun is still creating music today, albeit quite irregularly. One of his latest releases saw him join the esteemed Claremont 56 label for this slo-mo cosmic disco number.
Hailing from Yemen, the mysteriously named producers and visual artists ❖ may be one of the most difficult bands to Google ever, but their music – transcendental displays of distortion-driven noise – is undoubtedly worth searching for. Over four albums, ❖ created their own musical landscape, which exists in a strange middle ground between unrivalled euphoria and something worthy of a nervous breakdown. It’s perhaps similar to swimming in the ocean in the middle of an anxiety attack, or watching an Adam Curtis film at a kids party – a middle ground that you just sort of float in and out of when you listen to them. Relatively little is know of ❖ outside of their body of work and after 2013’s ❍ the band have remained relatively silent. Social media is quiet, unconfirmed Soundcloud reports say they now live in Norway, and we say ‘they’ as if I know whether they’re a ‘they’ or an ‘other’. If you’re reading this, ❖, then please do make yourself known.
Iraq has never shied away from the heavier end of the musical spectrum – 2007’s Heavy Metal In Baghdad showed a small but passionate scene of DIY musicians attempting to navigate the problems that arise when you’re creating music associated with the devil in a deeply religious country. But producer Wirephobia creates a different type of noise within the country – one that literally comes with a warning. “Here are all noise,” says a description on his Bandcamp page. “So be careful little child the road is hard to go!” Currently living in Erbil, about 350km north of Iraq, Wirephobia’s output is nothing short of astounding. Self-releasing 49 EPs over just a seven-month period, Wirephobia’s latest Wire/Moon/Star/Static uses samples of traditional Kurdish song and contorts them into barely recogniseable walls of white noise. For something a little more suited to the after-party or for those of a weaker disposition, then Hammurabi is a slightly (only very slightly) less intense fair.