Arabic music is wont to pop up in Brooklyn without much fanfare—no pricey mural-tisements in Williamburg or wall-to-wall wheat-pasting in Bushwick—so if you’re not paying attention to a band’s Facebook page or Twitter feed, you’re likely to miss out on a great show (like legendary Souren Baronian and his jazz ensemble Taksim regularly playing Thursdays in Park Slope’s Barbès bar last year). So, who should you start following, you ask? Here are five brilliant bands, DJs, and musicians that jam in Brooklyn on the regular.
Innove Gnawa Band: Arab-world singing is stunning in its beauty and range, and in Brooklyn alone you can find Yemen Red Coast lahji, Lebanese djbeli, and this stellar Moroccan gnawa band, led by master Maalem Hassan BenJaafer and also comprised of Samir Langus, Nawfal Koyo, Ahmed Jariouda, Said Boughana, and Amino Belyamani. Innove Gnawa celebrates the ancient, spiritual music of North Africa—which is believed to heal people possessed by jinn, or spirits—with an innovative, hypnotic take on the folk tradition. Over the past few weeks, they’ve had repeat performances at Max Cellar’s in Bushwick, the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and Nublu in the East Village.
Abu Ashley: DJ Abu Ashley is a familiar face at some of New York’s best dance venues—Le Baron, Bossa Nova Civic Club, Le Bain, and TBA, since he’s completed residencies at each—and was a hardened Brooklyn local for years until his recent relocation to Berlin. But, there’s good news if you’re paying attention to his Twitter feed: DJ Abu Ashely is still dipping back into our borough to drop his techno, ambient, Egyptian folk beats at Williamsburg’s Output.
Brooklyn Gypsies: Originating from Spain, Japan, Russia, Egypt, & the United States, the band members—Troy, aka Mobius; Tina Kristina; Carmen Estevez; Takuya Nakamura; Brandon Lewis, aka B RiddimZ; and Zeb, aka The Spy From Cairo—first met and formed their group in Williamsburg in 2012. The band mixes Arabic dub, jazz, flamenco, reggae and Eastern European elements to create a sometimes gritty, sometimes trippy fusion sound, and their debut album, Sin Fronteras, was released today on Wonderwheel Recordings. Brooklyn Gypsies recently played at Max Cellar’s in Bushwick.
Bedouin: This Brooklyn-based production & DJ duo—comprised of Tamer Malki and Rami Abousabe—are quickly making a name for themselves at venues as varied as Mysteryland in Bethel Woods, Burning Man, and Williamsburg’s Verboten. Together, they’ve drawn on their Middle Eastern heritage, Western upbringing, and world travels to create truly intoxicating, ever-evolving tracks.
Nashaz: Brooklyn-based Nashaz has found that sweet spot between jazz, Arabic rhythms, and traditional Middle-Eastern melodies. The six-piece band features the oud, trumpet, saxophone, bass, and (double) percussion, and is comprised of Brian Prunka, Kenny Warren, Nathan Herrera, Apostolos Sideris, George Mel, and Vin Scialla. They’ve played a few shows at Park Slope’s Barbès bar this year, so keep an eye on their calendar.
Follow Ona Abelis on Twitter @oabelis