Acid Arab: The Frenchmen making Arabic techno

By Farah Bahgat, photos by Farah Bahgat

The audience of Roots and Hybrid festival had a couple of days to listen to diverse genres of music, but when the clock stroked midnight, more crowds lined up in front of the Ra Hall in Godsbanen to see Acid Arab.

The Roots and Hybrid stage witnessed different types of music in different languages and from different countries throughout the festival, in the case of Acid Arab, the music is techno, the language is Arabic and the country is France.

Once the duo walked in to the stage, crowds instantly started dancing to the Arabic-techno music, which started off with some Syrian beats, the kind of music you would hear in Syrian weddings. Although the artists, Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho, do not speak Arabic, neither do they have Arabic roots, they believe the language barrier is not much of a barrier for them.

Acid Arab in Roots and Hybrids festival (photo: Farah Bahgat)

“It is something else [other] than the meaning of the song, which is very important when you know how people respond to the music and how it combines their lives,” Guido said, “but our approach is totally different, we connect with the musicians through their music and voice of singing, but we don’t understand the songs.”

While Carvalho said that the duo works with Arab musicians, “we are not ignorant, we know the meanings of some songs and the meanings of our songs, we have checked some stuff,” he said laughing.

Acid Arab’s music in Roots and Hybrid festival was techno with North African music, and a few tracks from the Levant, but mostly music from countries where several immigrants in France are from, and with which France happen to have a colonial past, such as Algeria and Morocco.

The duo first met during a festival in Tunisia, “we met this music in Tunisia,” Minisky said, “when we came back from the festival the project was [started]”.

Acid Arab prefer to call their music “a meeting”, as their Facebook bio says, “this is not fusion. this is not a mix. this is a meeting.” Yet, Acid Arab received some criticism of cultural appropriation. A few years back, a musician who was meant to collaborate with them posted on Facebook that she was no longer working with them, and that they were “stealing the Arab culture”.

Minisky said he understood her point of view, but Carvalho explained that it is more about “sharing”. “I think if you ask the Arabs we work with, they would have a different point of view – that we are sharing something important and developing something different and it is always good to try to cross borders in music,” Carvalho said.

The audience attending Acid Arab’s concert was bigger than most of Roots and Hybrid concerts (photo: Farah Bahgat)

But there is a line between cultural appreciation and appropriation, which Minisky believes to be whether a product is commercial or not. “We definitely don’t think it is commercial, but it’s our point of view,” he said. “Everybody is into techno and it is like a black or gay American music and no one is saying they’re stealing their culture,” Carvalho said.

The name Acid Arab gave to their last album is ‘Musique De France’. “We called the album the Musique De France because it is not a fantasy of the oriental world from the vision of white people,” Carvalho explained, “it is the vision of the French society which is a mixed society, I am a son of a Portuguese immigrant and my friends were sons of Moroccan immigrants and Serbian immigrants so it is our society.” “We are not like ‘having fun’ with oriental stuff, we are also speaking about [the society] we live in,” Carvalho added.

France has one of the biggest population of Arab descents in Europe. “Some people project stuff on us, which is great because most of the time, if not all the time, it is stuff about their family or their roots,” Minisky said. But Acid Arab would rather distant themselves from politics. As Carvalho said, “we are just making music.” “It is important to do it with respect and a good point view and the ambition of creating something out of different cultures, and then the political aspect of it belongs to the audience,” Minisky said.

At the end of the night, the audience in Aarhus were dancing to Acid Arab’s beats, which they ended with the belly-dance rhythm and the voice of the Algerian singer Warda. Born in France, and singing in an Egyptian dialect, Warda was one of the most famous female singers in the Middle East in the 60s.

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