Yasmine Hamdan has no identity. At least that is what she believes herself: «I do not think I know what it’s like to belong somewhere», she said in a recent interview. Hamdan was born in 1976, a year after Lebanon’s brutal civil war broke out, but even after the adolescent years in exile she has partaken in so many different cultures that hardly a single one of them could be called her own.
This hybrid position runs through her oeuvre as a powerful force you can’t take your eyes off. Around turn of the millennium Hamdan was one half of the groundbreaking group Soapkills, which is considered one of the very first indie bands from the Middle East. This led to her first encounter with the infamous concept of «world music», as European record labels were puzzled that the duo could not be reduced to a one-dimensional Orientalism.
This quality has persisted – and actually only become more intense – in Hamdan music, including her beautiful new solo album. Recorded together with Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, «Al Jamitat» is a fusion of fragile acoustics and threatening electronics. Thus the form is a perfect accompaniment to the content, which revolves around the many mutations of the Arab world.
By singing in Arabic, she continues her artistic struggle against populism manifesting itself politically as well as musically. Being nomadic, pluralistic and impossible to pin down is after all what it means to be a true citizen of the world.
Tekst: Kim Klev