Badel Faqed: Building the Indie Bridge Between Arab Folk and Electro
There are plenty of Folk artists in the Middle East and there are more than a few electronic ones too, but what happens when Jadal frontman Mahmoud Radaideh steps away from the mic to provide Electro beats for singer/songwriter Ahmad Farah? Eihab Boraie meets the dynamic duo...
There are plenty of Arab musicians making Folk music and even more making electronic music. However one of the most pleasant surprises at the 3alganoob Festival earlier this year, was the emergence of a brand new band on the scene, Badel Faqed, who manage to successfully merge these opposing sounds creating a wave of refreshing Indie Folk Electro. To learn more about their unique sound I talk with Ahmad Farah and Mahmoud Radaideh backstage to discuss their ambitions of adding variety to the Arabian musical landscape.
The name Mahmoud Radaideh will ring a bell with true fans of Arab music as he is the front man of Jordan’s beloved Jadal. What many may not know is that Radaideh is also one half of the dynamic duo Badel Faqed. With his musical time preoccupied by his work with Jadal, the creation of Badal Faqed provided a new exciting challenge for Radaideh. “This project started out of me and Ahmed's friendship. He had some great songs that he used to play in like a Folk style. I had a vision for it and we started jamming together and it was my first trial as a producer, officially,” explains Radaideh on how the collaboration began to be.
Largely unknown, Ahmad Farah seems destined to be heard as his vocals are authentically pristine There weren’t many in attendance who knew what to expect, however as soon as they began, the duo commanded respect. It isn’t often that you find an artist in the region able to carry a tune with nothing more than his own vocal chords, but that is exactly what took place on the 3alganoob stage. Hitting a wide range of notes, Farah started off sounding like just another Arab Folk outfit, however with little to no warning, was instantly lifted to new levels by the expert Electro backing tracks provided by Radaideh. According to Farah, “Most of the songs that you’ve heard so far are songs that I’ve written acoustically as I’m a solo artist. Badal Faqed uses the same lyrics, my lyrics, but we just wanted to present it in an electronic way. Sort of two sides of Ahmed Farah – the Jazz/acoustic version and the electronic version.”
Despite the re-use of Farah lyrics, Badel Faqed is still defining their sound creating new waves without any set limitations. “I produce my songs with Jadal but as an electronic producer, to be honest, it’s something new and fresh for me that I can experiment with. There are no expectations because it’s a new project and we both have our own projects. When we collaborate on this one, we have no expectations, limits or standards. We just do anything we feel like doing and Badal Faqed was born from there,” describes Radaideh.
Aside from the unique fusing of genres, Badal Faqed seem to be able engaging listeners through clever and compassionate lyrics. Instead of singing the same old songs about love and loss, Farah chooses to channel issues that go beyond the Arab world, focusing on telling stories through song. “Most songs don’t describe me or Mahmoud, it’s usually stories that we’ve seen or heard. Our music is merely social, we have no commercial or radical approaches. I personally tend to enjoy telling stories, I like what I write to have a meaning as opposed to just rhyming,” Farah strongly believes.
As a musical storyteller creating Indie Electro Folk, Farah further clarifies the stories that interest him most and the challenge of writing fitting lyrics to the issue addressed. According to Farah, “Everyone in this world has a story. I think its artists’ and not just a musicians’ duty to tell stories of the things that happen around us. That’s what we’re missing at the moment; I hope that anyone listening to Badal Faqed will be like 'Hey! I can relate to that!' because at the end of the day, it’s not about me. If I want this music to be about me then I should just sit in my room recording songs and playing them to myself. It’s the exact opposite of that, you leave your home and explore the streets and see what’s going on, then you tell stories of what happened."
Take for example the track Khams Sneen (Five Years), which is a story/song shining a light on the life of those suffering from Autism. Explaining the inspiration for the lyrics Farah mentions “I met an autistic child and it inspired me as I saw things in a way I have never seen before!” Typically songs dealing with these real life issues, not often discussed, are not the ones that usually breaks a band into superstardom, but that possess little to no concern for Farah who expresses that “if even one person can relate to this music I would be very satisfied.”
Their concert at 3alganoob was well received, and not only marked the first performance for the duo in Egypt, but was also the very first time Farah had stepped foot in this ancient land. Although a short set, it was effective in announcing Badal Faqed intentions of making their own unique impact on the Arab music scene. As it stands there is no word of a follow-up show, as the two have returned to working on a full album or EP this summer with the goal of releasing something by the end of the year. There isn’t a lot of Badel Faqed music made available online at the moment, but the few tracks that did manage to get released give plenty to be excited about. Although it’s been over a year in the making, when this duo is finally ready to release their debut it will be worth the listen, as it will stand apart from the gargantuan amount of musical posers imitating established sounds instead of taking the time to forge their own unmistakable musical identity.