The Middle East is a hotbed for many things — conflict of the political and religious kind tends to dominate the news — but culturally, the area is more alive and fearless than ever, especially when it comes to music.
From indie rock to metal to EDM, artists are melding traditional sounds (ethnic music in Arab and Israeli culture are more alike than different) with pop song structures and offering a cultural step forward. Several of these acts — from Tel-Aviv band SKYROADS to Egyptian metal outfit Massive Scar Era to the nine-piece collective Diwan Saz of Galilee — will be hitting Austin this week for South By Southwest.
On Skyroads’ double A-side single “1, 2 Steps,” the Tel Aviv five-piece blends a sound that evokes Architecture in Helsinki’s melodic brand of indie-electro pop and The Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s plaintive vocals. The two-year-old band’s synths and frenetic, dancefloor-ready beats will satisfy purists and dance obsessives.
March 17: The Iron Bear
March 18: Culture Collide’s Showcase at The Container Bar
March 18: OY VEY! SXSW Showcase at Javelina Bar
Massive Scar Era
The description as an “Egyptian metal band” hits hard, but the fact that this group is an all-female outfit from the ancient seaside city of Alexandria only intensifies their presence. Massive Scar Era, shortened as “Mascara,” are like a punch in the mouth — their music starts loud and rarely lets down the volume. Since arriving on the scene in 2005, they’ve made a few changes by adding a male percussionist, touring the world and morphing from metal-core to folk metal. They riff righteously and sound utterly vindictive thanks to frontwoman Sherine Amr, whose signature scream feels like coarse grains of salt stinging with each line. After touring America briefly in 2011 and making their SXSW debut two years later, they return to Austin with an arsenal of three EPs.
March 21: 720 Club Patio
Diwan Saz – ?????????- ????? ???
Crisscrossing through multiple musical genres is one thing, fusing together religions is another, but the members of Diwan Saz share one goal: to use music as a tool to promote peace. The name suits their purpose: ‘Diwan’ is a place where people from different religions and cultures come together, and ‘Saz’ is a group of musical instruments. Frontman Yohai Barak leads the multitalented group of Israeli artists, who have performed across Israel, Europe, India, the U.S. and Canada. With a Turkish kanun-player, Iranian flutist, and a Rabbi vocalist in the mix, Diwan Saz’s musical experimentation, penetrating lyrical insight (via five languages) and overall presence make the group a powerful and important ambassador for Middle Eastern music today.
March 18: International Day Stage Austin Convention Center