Originating from Akka, Khalas emerged almost more than a decade ago, being one of the first Heavy Metal Bands in the region. They have not only released two Albums but toured with an Israeli band called Orphaned Land together back in 2013. Musiqa Mustaqilla talked with Abed Hathout on playing Heavy Metal Music in Arabic, their roots and touring together with Orphaned Land.
Credit: Ofir Abe
The band Khalas (Enough, in Arabic) was established 18 years ago in a small city called Akka which is a Palestine city inside the borders of Israel. Less than 50,000 people live there which makes the music scene in this city equally small. Abed Hathout (Guitar) is currently living in the US working on different projects.
“If you are listening to this kind of music, you know every one in the scene because it was so small at that time. Arab bands that played metal at that time did not exist in the region. We were looking for such bands, but we did not find any. We decided to do something we would love to hear and that is how we started.”
The band members grew up with Arabic music and they are all coming from a family, where music was a normal part of their social life. Hathout says that
“When we reached the age of the teenager or rebels, we started to look for something different than Arabic music and that is how we found Metal music.”
In 1998 there did not exist a really a Metal scene. It was not easy to find venues to play Metal music. Hathout remembers that “When we started, people did not know how to react to this music, they stayed far away and were mostly sitting. With the Internet and the Globalization, people have become more open to this music. There are definitley more venues and bands in the region than a decade ago.”
Khalas opened the door for musicians and fans alike who listen to this music. Khalas consists right now of Riyad Sliman (Vocals), Abe Hathout (Guitar), Fadel Qandil (Percussions) and Rooster (Bass). The band members are mostly influenced by Western bands such as Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC and other similar bands. Equally, because of the environment they are living in, they are of course also influenced by the regional cultural context they are coming from. On their first album Ma Adesh Feeha (We’ve Had it) released in 2004, the first song was an instrumental reintrepretation of Umm Kulthum’s famous Inta Omri (You are my life).
On their second Album Arabic Rock Orchestra Khalas incorporated their cultural roots even more including regional instruments and melodies into their songs. Hathout explained that “In this second album that came out in 2013, we decided to look more into our own roots musically. We looked back to the Arabic music and payed the respect it deserves. We chose famous Arabic Middle Eastern songs and play them as a metal adaptation to reintroduce it to a younger generation.” In this Album they covered songs by Umm Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez. They used Gana Al Hawa (Love Has Arrived) of which they used the lyrics and embedded them into Metal music. The melody of Gana al Hawa is still recognizable in the song which connects the cultural tradition of the region with modern music.
This development is especially seen from their first to the second album. In the first Album they experimented with sounds and lyrics to see what would work and what not, and in the second Album they refined their techniques. Although rock and metal is slowly emerging in the region as an established genre, hip hop and rap have still a bigger community. The first song on Arabic Rock Orchestra is a collaboration with the DAM group called Min El Share’ (From the Street) which sounds a bit like Rage Against the Machine. DAM is one of the first Palestinian hip hop crews established in the late 1990s.
Credit: Dan Bronfield
The lyrics they are addressing in their songs are mostly about social issues in the community in which the band members grew up. They are singing about the experiences they have witnessed. Sometimes they are singing about political issues but Hathout says that “Khalas is not a political band”. In their lyrics they critize their own community, and of course address the political situation but it is not their main goal. Hathout remembers that
“We sing in our songs about topics that emerged eight years before the Arab Spring, addressing political and social issues, we are not a political but a social band.”
One of their songs called Hini Arfeen (They Know) is such an example.
We want people to live /without your empty promises, ones you cannot keep
You turned all the plants into weed / with it you brain wash the youngsters
In 2013 they teamed up with a metal band from Israel called Orphaned Land. Hathout has been a fan of the band since the 1990s, and as the community is really small, they started soon to connect with each other and the relationship grew until they became friends and brothers. Hathout recalls the experience to tour with them in 2013. “They have really beautiful souls, touring with them was amazing. As a Palestinian band we would not do that with every Israeli band.” Orphaned Land was special and being connected through friendship and music, they decided to tour together.
“It is the metal scene that is what we care about, and people who don’t know Orphaned Land criticize them, but it is the music that is important for us.”
In 2014 Orphaned Land and Khalas won the Global Metal Award issued by the Metal Hammer Golden Gods.
Currently they are working on their third album, which will still acknowledge the roots of the band but this time all original lyrics will adress political and social issues. “This is the guidline for the third Album” says Hathout. The third album is expected to be released by the end of next year.