Categories: Music

Al Gharib Are Only Strangers If You Want Them To Be

Al Gharib, translating to ‘The Stranger’ in Arabic, is a techno record label based in Melbourne. Led by Nadeem Farhoud and Adam Rajab, the label is an amalgamation of their experiences, identities and what they’ve manifested serendipitously. Working with artists internationally, as far-reaching as Copenhagen, the team behind Al Gharib have developed a gentle sincerity in their creation.

Al Gharib’s harsh-techno might have once been considered ‘The Stranger’ to Australia’s music landscape, but now Al Gharib is pioneering it. We spoke with Farhoud and Rajab about the label’s inception, its future releases and their plans to bring their parties to Europe and Lebanon.

Annabel Blue: Hey Adam, Nadeem, how are you guys?

Nadeem: Good, It’s such a beautiful day.

AB: Can you tell us who is involved in Al Gharib?

A&N: There are a variety of individuals involved in the works of Al Gharib. Our resident artists include DJ Ali, who has an extensive history as a musician with his involvement in heavy metal bands as a lead guitarist. We also have Berlin-based DJ and producer DINA, Omrann who has an expansive portfolio in sound design and Marwaan with a background in film and sound. Creative designers who have been involved in the visual direction and merchandise development include Sissura Manne, Camilla Louisa, Prod Antzoulis, Wissam Nassar and Kushagara Gupta. We have published 2 projects so far that involve over 70 artists contributing to our humanitarian campaigns such as Rrose, Hiro Kone, Kidä, Soho Rezanejad, Kev Koko, Nkisi and Nikita Zabelin.

DJ ALI of Al Gharib

AB: You have a couple of releases coming up. Can you tell us about them?

Nadeem: We have a number of releases being mastered and pressed for this year and next. In the coming months, we have a cross-label collaboration with one of our favourite labels, Ute Klubb. The release will be an eight-track double-vinyl featuring 4 tracks from each collective. We have EP’s on the way by Omrann, Marwaan, Ironsight, Rune Bagge and Mikkel Rev, as well as a Mala Junta centred VA consisting of DJ TOOL, Hyperaktivist, Ezy & Peachlyf.

Adam: Also in February we’re going to release our Palestine compilation. I think that’s our last compilation too.

SB: I think it would be interesting to know a little bit more about your personal backgrounds, and what your humanitarian work entails.

Adam: Well, both my personal background and the humanitarian work I do are interlinked, so I should start by talking about one of the art funds we launched last year in August called ‘Le Beirut’. It was released after the devastating explosion in Beirut, which crippled the entire country. We teamed up with 35 artists around the globe and 3 NGO’s within Lebanon who focus on advancing support toward individuals and minority groups. I am Lebanese myself but I’m sure my blood can be traced all across the Levant. I’ve always been proud of who I am and where I come from, never felt embarrassed about it, even though all the racist stereotype bullshit you experience. Growing up I watched my country fall victim to civil war and bombardment by the neighboring theocracy, all whilst in the hands of corrupt politicians. Much of my family are based in Beirut and Tripoli, many of whom were affected by the explosion, so we felt it essential to develop a project that focussed on supporting minority groups in Beirut.

Nadeem: I’m from Palestine and as a result of the Palestinian exodus in 1948, consisting of the mass ethnic cleansing and extensive village massacres committed by terrorist Zionist groups, a substantial majority of Palestinians including my grandparents were expelled from Palestine which led to the birth of my parents in neighboring refugee camps. This particular timeline of events plays an integral part in who I am and the work that I engage in.

My connection to my family’s past has inspired the legal and political work I currently engage in, centred around protecting victims of crime and fighting against systematic injustice. I think the colonial realities back home in Palestine and the necessity for resistance against occupation and the acute imbalance of power between colonizer and colonized has seemingly and paradoxically made resistance a rite of passage into Palestinian-ness which is something that can be harnessed through both my legal work and musical endeavours.

It is essential that we continue to raise awareness for Palestine and continue to contribute towards shattering the zionist narrative that both contests and extends large-scale Palestinian suffering.

SB:  What motivated the start of the label?

Adam:  We were producing a lot of hard and fast techno music in 2016 which wasn’t popular with many promoters and clubs in Melbourne. I figured that instead of hoping for someone to give us a chance, we’d go with the do-it-yourself route. If no one wants to book you, become the booker. If nobody wants to release your music, create your own platform to release your music.

The direct translation of Al Gharib is ‘The Stranger’. In Arabic, we use the term to alienate somebody – you know when something just feels out of place. I think that’s kind of how we felt at the start. Especially in Melbourne, we definitely felt like the strangers. So I think that was a big part of why we started the label and how it all began. In saying that, representing where we had come from was essential in the identity shaping what we were trying to cultivate.

SB: Yeah. Your music is really different from what you usually hear. I mean, six years ago, the ‘posi-vibe’ techno tragedy was still very prominent. Like that Daydreams style.

Adam: Yeah like how many times must we be tortured with disco or ambient in a club at 4am? You want to be raving to sexy music. When we perform many times people would come up to us and say ‘oh, so you’re really going for it’ referring to our music, as if it was something forbidden [laughs]. I don’t care if our music makes people feel uncomfortable. when you really care about something and you believe in it, it’s imperative to stay true irrespective of the external opinion. Our music isn’t about how it will be received but more about what we want to create.

Nadeem: Al Gharib was playing around with those high BPM ranges a while ago and I think that was something that was too early for people in Melbourne to really enjoy. I think that prompted the label to start throwing our own club nights and raves which fostered an environment for faster dance music to be played.

SB: Yeah. It’s great to close with that as well. That juxtaposition really slaps you in the face [laughs].

Adam Rajab of Al Gharib

SB: You were saying previously, Adam, that you’re thinking of going to Beirut and taking the events over there? Is that a direction you’re going to take in the immediate future?

Adam: The plan is to go around May of 2022. We’re going to take a group to Europe. We plan to pursue the label in Berlin, Ukraine, Russia, London and Paris and just move the party around Europe. And somewhere in the middle, we’re going to go to Beirut. We’re going to do a few parties there. On the ‘Le Beirut’ compilation, there were like eight Lebanese-based artists. And for the Palestine compilation, I’d say around the same amount. And we have a good connection with them. We’d love to take the party to Beirut and places like Amala or even Jerusalem and book some of these artists.

SB + AB: That’s really exciting.

Nadeem: We’re planning on making our move to Europe next year, most definitely. We still have a lot of family in the Middle East, and Adam and I have been to Lebanon and Palestine numerous times. It’s hard to describe the feeling of being in a place like that, that we’re ultimately so connected to. And I think, why not do what we love doing here, there. I think resistance has found itself, not only within our own identity but within our own music. And I think being in a place where that resistance should be cultivated at its height, based on the immediacy of what’s going on in those places, irrespective of how difficult the circumstances are, I think being able to connect with those artists and to be able to put together an event where we can all just celebrate music and one another in our own countries…I think that’s a beautiful experience.

DINA of Al Gharib

Nadeem: I think we’ve both been inspired by this Brian Eno quote from a while ago, it goes:  ‘Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit—all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.’ So I like doing things, and creating things and being involved in things that people don’t like, or feel alienated by. Because it’s all about doing it for ourselves. It’s about being proud of what you do, it’s not for anyone.

Interrupted Space Solo EP by DJ ALI

SB: Adam, can you tell us about your work in fashion?

Adam: Outside the label I do a lot of composition, soundtrack and sound design work for different brands/fashion houses. When I graduated from music school, I was super passionate about music but was more determined to turn that passion into work. I was really fascinated by runway soundtracks, especially those from the 90’s and early 2000’s. I would listen extensively to the works of Frédéric Sanchez, he’s really the one that inspired my journey into ‘music for fashion’. Also, fashion just made sense, it’s been in and around my life since an early age. My older brother Gadir is an extremely talented stylist and my good friend Ribal creates some of the most incredible fashion films I’ve seen. Eventually, I found myself working within the same productions as them, curating the music.

AB: Which runways were you doing the music for?

Adam: I did I.AM.GIA, Strateus Carlucci, work for an artist in Antwerp who went to Central Saint Martins and Jordan Hemingway shot it. It was really cool to start my sound design career with heavy techno because the fashion world hadn’t seen it yet, really.

Nadeem: You’ve done so much more man, like Gucci, Philip Lim, Dion Lee, huge brands like Prada and Chanel…Even films that you scored scenes for in feature films.

Adam: Oh yeah. So I recently scored a film for a director from London named Jess Cole. She made a film called ‘The Disciples’, which was released on Dazed recently. It’s a bit controversial, but I’m a big fan of that. Ideally, I’d like to branch out into film and start directing a bit more, but yeah, that’s where I’m at right now.

June 26, 2015 .Salem Saoody, 30, is getting his daughter Layan (L) and his niece Shaymaa 5 (R) in the only remaining piece from their damaged house, which is the bathing tub. They now live in a caravan near the rubbles. By Wissam Nassar.

AB: How about you Nadeem, how did you get into music?

Nadeem: I got in a lot of trouble at school when I was younger and remember a teacher recommending drums to my mother as a way to exhaust all this built-up energy I had. I started playing drums and was in awe of Virgil Donati. I later moved into more electronic forms of production, introduced to me by my mentor at the time, Damien Corniola, and fell in love with the versatility of electric kits. The ability to load samples, using percussion pads, and adjusting all the settings through the software or by MIDI controller took the traditional kit’s potential to profoundly boundless heights. I found it very hard to focus on pursuing music when going through law school later in my life and resorted to collecting vinyl with ad hoc DJ sets at random parties.

Music is something that I’ve always been passionate about, and Adam has been involved in the music world for a while. So it’s hard to say how we both got here. But at the end of the day, outside of music, our characters, the vitality that we have within us for life in general, and the arts ultimately led us to where we are now.

I always tell him, just thank yourself, for who you are and what you’ve been interested in, because our pathways were so separate, and the fact that we got to the same spot, I think it’s just an individual personality thing that eventually leads you somewhere. And so, we like to make things happen. That’s really important as well to be on the same wavelength as each other when it comes to, not only self-belief but a desire to not only have a vision but to try your hardest to execute that vision. It’s to really bend that reality, in a way.

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