Yasmine Hamdan has been known as one of the most ground-breaking Middle Eastern artists for over a decade now. But it was when she had a cameo in Jim Jarmusch's 2013 film Only Lovers Left Alive alongside the likes Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, when she started turned heads on a global stage – something that has certainly shaped her latest release, Jamilat Reprise. The record contains nine reconstructions and remixes of songs from her 2017 album, Al Jamilat, and features some pretty big names on it fro across the world, including French electronic music crew Acid Arab.
Hamdan first rose to underground stardom throughout the Arab world as member of Soapkills, one of the first and most influential indie/electronic bands in the Middle East. While her vocals are rooted in the traditions of Arabic music and her lyrics are all in Arabic, the songwriter likes to mix things up by including elements of contemporary Western electronic, pop as well as folk music into her style.
The 42-minute long album begins with a reworking of ‘Assi’ with Greg Bauchau that slowly builds up like its original counterpart. Accompanied by Hamdan’s light, feather-like voice, the song leads to a sonic climax where Bauchau adds a long, slow and purely beautiful instrumental outro to the original. Waking us up from the dreamy mood of the previous track, the following liaison lightens up the hearts of electronic music lovers. In the former version of ‘Café’, powerful electronic elements meet sampled lute riffs. Here, Parisian techno duo, Acid Arab, maintains the mysterious atmosphere of the song while spicing it up by adding some tempo and danceable electronic elements in between.
Another highlight of the album is the work of German electronic music ensemble, Brandt Brauer Frick, who are well-known for including classical orchestral sounds in their music. In ‘Choubi’, the Berlin-based group adds some almost jazzy orchestra vibes to Hamdan's husky voice without taking the dreamy-spirit of the song away. The first surprise of the album comes with title track, ‘Al Jamilat’. While most of the remixes retain much of the souls of their 2017 counterparts, German-Chilean musician Matias Aguayo takes plenty of creative freedom with his remix – and does a good job with it. Replacing the strong guitar and folk music influences with vocal loops and rhythmic drums, Aguayo creates a catchy new version of the track.
The album closes with ‘La Ba’den’ by Shed and ‘Balad’ by Greek electrician-musician Olga Kouklaki – two tracks that couldn’t be any more different. Originally a softly-flowing song where the Lebanese singer’s voice softly carries you through a string-instrument-heavy song, the German DJ transforms ‘La Ba’den’ into an up-tempo electronic track that loses most of its original charm. Kouklaki, meanwhile, presents a rhythmic remix of ‘Balad’ that sadly excludes its original Arabic influence, but is nevertheless a solid ending to what is a very experimental album.
Overall, Al Jamilat Reprise is an interesting listen for everyone who enjoyed Al Jamilat because it presents Hamdan’s unique sound and musical approach in a very different light. For anyone who is new to the artist, however, it’s highly recommended that you check out the original first, as this remix follow-up doesn’t quite capture the complexity and intense and varying shades of Hamdan’s work.