Rayess Bek/Aks’ser (Beirut)

The challenges of living a double identity are very familiar to Wael Koudaih, a.k.a. Rayess Bek, who was born in Lebanon, raised in France during the civil war, wrote his first rhymes in French, and then became one of the first MCs in the region to rap in Arabic. With his group, Aks’ser (lit. against the current), he found that Arabic, with its strong consonants and percussive sounds, lent itself well to rap and added an important dimension to their message. At first, the group was mocked and criticized for their use of Arabic and many of their songs were censored or banned at home and abroad. Nevertheless, the group released 3 albums between 2002 and 2006 and became widely know for their conscious lyrics, speaking openly about Lebanon, its wars, its youth, and their disillusionment with politics.
In between these years, Rayess Bek released his first solo album and went on tour throughout the Middle East and Europe. He was later commissioned by the United Nations to compose a song about tolerance for people with disabilities for the first such media campaign in the Middle East. Rayess Bek was also featured in a PBS documentary, “Dissonance and Harmony”, produced by Miles Copeland for the series “America at a Crossroad”. The film captures the process of Wael’s collaboration with Nile Rogers, Rza from the Wu-Tang Clan and Shavo from System of the Down.
In 2007, Wael completed his Doctorate in Fine Arts in Paris and began work on another campaign for the UN, this time for an anti-war campaign called “Just Like You”. He also formed the Rayess Bek Orchestra, to delve further into a fusion of classical Arabic music and modern themes.

www.rayessbek.com

Amazing mixed-media video from 2007 for Aks’ser’s “Ana Mich Illik”. Shall we call this Rai&B? Definitely an enticing blend of Arabic pop and Hip Hop. [embedding disabled? I wonder why…]

In this footage from a 2008 concert in Casablanca, Rayess Bek asks the rhetorical question on most young Arabs’ minds, “Are we terrorists?”, to which the crowd unanimously replies, “NOOOO!!!!!”.

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