With his band Shahadeen Ya Baladna (Beggars, Our Country), Lebanese oud player and singer Ziyad Sahhab performed two concerts at the Beirut Theater.
“Arabic music would be boring without Sayyed Darwich,” Sahhab told The Daily Star adding “I don’t know where I would be as a musician without him either.”
“The band has been together for over 18 months now,” explained the 20-year-old singer. “We’re currently 13 musicians in total. After starting out with Khaled Yassine on the darbouka and drums, Yasmina Fayid and Viala al Chami on vocals and Fahed Riachi on the oud, the band has consistently grown.”
With Tarek Yamani, the band then integrated a keyboard, the vocals were expanded and Sahhab also got a guitarist, a bassist and a rick player on board.
“Not all of us are as heavily into Arabic music as Ziyad,” keyboarder Yamani clarified. “I, for instance, have a classical and jazz background.”
Sahhab pointed out that it was precisely the differing backgrounds that make their music so lively and educational. “I’m learning a lot about jazz from Tarek and he is learning a lot about Arabic music,” he said.
In their show at Beirut Theater last Saturday, Sahhab and his band played some very moving adaptations of Darwich’s songs, as well as some of their original tunes and songs from other Arab musicians. Despite its size, the band managed to produce an compact and dense, but never aggressive, sound, always leaving enough room for Sahhab’s mature, passionate and melancholic vocals.
According to the Lebanese daily, Sahhab’s song Kalam L-lil Kida (Words and Such), a love song, showed some very nice chord progression, with Yamani on piano using one passage of the song for a jazzy improvisation. Another of Sahhab’s songs, Amar Mawloud fi Yafa (Amar was Born in Jaffa), the closing song of the evening, was about Palestinian children who died in the intifada and proved excellent song-writing capabilities.
The closing song left the crowd in a rather subdued mood. But Sahhab had convincingly guided them through a variety of sentiments, never, however, getting pretentious or shallow. By grouping musicians together with various backgrounds and rearranging traditional songs, Shahadeen Ya Baladna even tried to take Darwich’s approach to Arabic music further and introduced jazz and, at one stage, even blues themes. Some of the improvisations, however, especially by the guitar, were a little shaky.
None of that, however, hampered the impression that Sahhab and his band, by picking up ideas of one of the most influential composers of Arabic music and adding their own flavor, are probably one of the most promising young Lebanese bands playing Arabic music – Albawaba.com