“Love and Revenge”: A homage to a former generation

“Love and Revenge” by Wael Koudaih (Rayess Bek) and Randa Mirza is a compilation of Arabic pop songs taken mostly from the golden age of Arabic cinema embedding them into a new mantle of sounds.

The idea of “Love and Revenge“ emerged two years ago. It is the result of a combination of selected songs between the 1940s and the 1990s. Originally concieved as a “audio-visual” performance “Love and Revenge” combines pictures and sounds together.

Growing up in two cultures, mainly in Lebanon and in France, Wael Koudaih, former hip hop artist Rayess Bek, listened since he was a little boy to a variety of genres from both cultures. Through his father he learned to appreciate icons such as Umm Kulthum, while from his sister he was introduced to music by Prince and others. This combination of old and new sounds is what makes “Love and Revenge” so special. The songs of “Love and Revenge” bring back to life the songs and images from a former era, creating a new soundscape while keeping the well-known melodies and characteristics of the songs. There are so many songs to choose from the era, and the difficulty in the project was not to deviate too much from the original songs but to keep the core intact.

As Koudaih explains

“We tried to choose some very well known songs and some really unknown songs, people would discover some songs that they never heard of. The idea was to try to keep the idea of a song, which is not the same as working with samples. We tried to give the songs a new dimension but for some songs it was very easy, for others it was difficult because these songs do not always work with electronic music. This is where the musicians came into the project, they brought an organic sound to it and it was very interesting to see how the musicians played along with the electronic sounds.”

In addition to the electronic sounds, the instruments were played by Mehdi Haddab (Electric Oud) and Julien Perraudeau (Keyboards).

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Photo by Lorenzo Tugnoli

The EP is opening with the song “Batwaness Bik” (I enjoy your company), originally sung by Warda who was an Algerian singer, though, she was popular for her Egyptian songs. This song made Warda very popular. In it she departed from the classical style of Arabic singing, to delve more into pop songs. Batwaness Bik was one of the first songs in this new direction and while listening to the reimagined version on “Love and Revenge” you still can clearly pintpoint the original song.

“Batwaness Bik” is followed by “Ya Msafer Wahdak” (Oh, Lone Traveller), performed by Najat El Saghira. She is part of the Golden Age of Arabic Cinema that Koudaih referres to. She was active between the 1940s and 1960s. Retiring after 1976 she is still very popular. This song appeared first in the movie from 1942 “Love is banned” and was written by Mohammed Abdel Wahab with lyrics by Hussein Sayed. The new version is embedded into electronic sounds keeping the flamenco-style sound of the song, while keeping the voice of Najat El Saghira.

The result of “Love and “Revenge” is that it gives the listener a new perspective on popular Arabic songs and merge them succesfully with electronic sounds and instruments, recreating a different yet familiar style of the songs that shaped Arabic music. It is an hommage to the music that shaped this era.

It is not only a remix of old songs but it is more a new art of creating songs while keeping the core intact. It revisits the chosen period in a new imaginative way. It is a homage to this period, which is still alive in the heart and soul of many artists in the region. With “Love and Revenge” Wael Koudaih is trying to create a different sound, and as an artists tries to keep evolving, and to create new art.

For Koudaih, the dialouge is important in music.

“You are listening to it, and than you are responding, and you give space to each other. It is very nice when you play with people, and it is like a dance.” Another aspect he is referring to is the collaboration with other artists from different fields. “At the end of the day, of all of the performing arts, they need music. To collaborate with others, it takes me out of my comfort zone. This is where creativity lies, for example while working with contemporary dance, it is a new approach or another aspect. It is very interesting to see how music can be used and how it works.”

„Love and Revenge“ is successfully performing across the region and Europe.

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