Arab Pop Culture is Making Waves in London
By: Tasnim Elnasharty/Arab America Contributing Writer
Over the previous five years, Arab mainstream society in London has had something of a brilliant age from multi-expressive celebrations to Nineties club evenings. This developed commitment to Arab influence comes when Britain has entered a stage that has demonstrated a frame of mind towards Arabs in the UK.
In the recent years, a stage has been given to alternative Arab performers. Examples include Mashrou’ Leila, Autostrad, Emel Mathlouthi, 47Soul and Yasmine Hamdan. Christina Hazboun PR and communication coordinator at Marsm, and organization set “promote the rich and diverse culture of the Arab world across the UK.” Hazboun accepts the digitization of both the creation and appropriation of music are new dimensions (Nasri Atallah: July 2019).
Mashrou’ Leila performance at London’s Barbican in 2017
Ali Matar produces Arab-themed musicals that establish their run in London’s West End before going on tour in the Middle East. “Broken Wings,” in light of Kahlil Gibran‘s eponymous 1912 novel, which played at the Beiteddine Festival in Lebanon this July following a run at London’s Theater Royal Haymarket a year ago. Matar says the Arab Spring is “one of the main reasons craftsmen from the Middle East want to transfer massages with their music, including through online networking.“ He additionally acknowledges the Arab Spring has brought enthusiasm among non-Arab crowds in London (Nasri Atallah: July 2019).
One of the most obvious and significant articulations of contemporary Arab expressions and culture in London is the Shubbak Festival. Currently, it has featured one hundred and fifty events across film, theater, writing and visual arts to take over the city.
“London is immensely well-connected with the Arab region. Arab artists and Arab culture have always been present and influential in the culture of London,” says Shubbak’s creative director, Eckhard Thiemann. “I think what Shubbak has done is to galvanize and amplify these presences and voices” (Nasri Atallah: July 2019).
For Matar, when he initially started organizing concerts for mainstream Arab pop stars like Rageb Alama, Nancy Ajram and Assi Hillani at the Royal Albert Hall in the early 2000s, it was an uphill battle. “Without social media and accessible advertising, we had to rely exclusively on Arab expat network” he says. These days, he was also noticed audiences changing and diversifying – and demanding a greater variety of acts from the region (Nasri Atallah: July 2019).
Nancy Ajram performs in London in 2018
The root of Arab culture’s quality in London and across Europe can be found across continents as well. As Shubbak’s Thiemann says: “Particularly after 2011, (there are) artists who have migrated, or find existences between different cities, cultures, and personalities” (Nasri Atallah: July 2019). Hazboun at Marsm has seen the equivalent with its artists, seeing that the more they tour, the more their sound becomes entwined with that of the cities they visit.
For Arabs in the UK, expending their ‘home culture’ has a solid character building quality. That nostalgic connection to the homeland feeds into events like Marsm’s “Hishek Bishek” club evenings. DJs play a blend of Nineties Arab pop, the bass-overwhelming hints of the contemporary Arab underground and Mijwiz-mixed dance music.
The revolutions, combined with digitization, change the types of culture production in the Middle East and implied those expressions that could now discover their audience outside media structures. In addition, the political circumstances in many Arab nations imply that, to be effective, many of these alternative forms of art and culture needed to be recognized to become sustainable. This helps to clarify the present situation.
The Arab cultural system in London has a substantial and joyful presence. Many have addressed partnerships as the foundation of Arab culture’s success in London. For example, Shubbak Festival works with the Marsm event by Hazboun for their music programming, and the Arab British Center furnishes the celebration with office space.
As we can see, there is a sense among artists, celebrations, and audiences that this is a unique time in terms of social generation in the Middle East and its ability to travel and find audiences in London to enjoy the Arab culture. In addition, this established an interest to encounter these new type of cultures lived in the Western world.
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