Arab Bands You Need to Stream Right Now

By Gareth Rees
04 September 2018
Music, Middle East, Culture
Fabrice Bourgelle Pyres 2015
It’s time to add some of the hottest musical talent from the Middle East to your playlist.

Mashrou’ Leila – Lebanon
Lebanese five-piece Mashrou’ Leila evolved out of a music workshop at the American University of Beirut, releasing a self-titled debut album in 2008 and going on to make a name for themselves in Beirut and the wider Middle East with their grungy indie rock sound and satirical, and sometimes contentious, lyrics about Lebanese society, penned by frontman Hamed Sinno. Their sound developed on EP Hal Romancy (2011) and their second album Raasük (2013) before reaching maturity with the more complex, slicker, synth-infused sound on Ibn El Leil (2015).  Mashrou’ Leila hasn’t released an album since Ibn El Leil, but their recent touring schedule has taken them to Europe and the US, suggesting the band is intent on making a name for themselves on the international scene.

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Flamingods – Bahrain
Flamingods are one of the most successful bands to come out of the Middle East. Dreamt up in frontman Kamal Rasool’s Bahrain bedroom, where he liked to experiment with a collection of instruments picked on his travels in Asia and the Middle East, the multi-instrumental five-piece, who describe their sounds as “exotic psychedelia” has released four LPs – Sun (2012), Hyperborea (2014), Moon (2015) and Majesty (2016) – on several different indie labels and are currently working on their fifth. Rasool and percussionist Charles Prest spent time living in Dubai, before the band hit the big time with a performance at Glastonbury Festival in 2015. Flamingods are now based in London.

Galaxy Juice – Kuwait
Galaxy Juice refer to themselves as “A Band From Outer Space To Save The Human Race”.  The four-piece is from Kuwait rather than space, but the psychedelic indie sound found on their two albums – Crystal Dunes (2014) and Timenesia (2016) – owes more to David Bowie’s Life on Mars than life in Kuwait City. The band’s standalone single Awaken the Sunshine (2017) is the opening track on Museland vol.5, the latest collection of music from the Middle East from online indie label Museland Records.

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Interbellum – Lebanon
Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar, AKA Charlie Rayne, made a name for himself with the poetic lyrics and acoustic indie folk sound of his 2016 album Wider Waters. That same year he teamed up with multi-instrumentalist and producer Fadi Tabbal, “the hardest-working man in Lebanon’s alternative music scene” and several other Beirut musicians to form Interbellum. The result was the more low-fi rock sound of Now Try Coughing (2016). Interbellum released single Another Day/First Light, which can also be found on Museland vol.5, in February. Their second album is due later this year.

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Ash Koosha – Iran
Iran is a hotbed of talented underground electronic musicians. Ash Koosha grew up in Tehran, conducting his first sound experiments on his Commodore 64. He studied classical composition at the Tehran Conservatory of Music and performed in indie bands Font and Take It Easy Hospital before starring in No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009), Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi’s documentary about Iran’s underground rock scene, winner of the Special Jury Prize Ex-aequo in the Un Certain Regard Section at the Cannes Film Festival. Koosha, who is now based in London, has released four albums of experimental, ambient, futurist electronic music: GUUD (2015), I AKA I (2016), Aktual (2018) and Unnamed (2018). You have to hear it to believe it.