sudanese music

exhibition review: habibi funk at d3

source: kickstarter

source: kickstarter

When I first heard of Habibi Funk a year or so ago, I was intrigued. I wanted to know everything behind the brilliant project that re-releases underground music from the Arab world. Luckily for Dubai residents like myself, you can now get an insider view of the project at East Wing Gallery. Habibi Funk is a label headed by Berlin-based DJ Jannis Stuertz who is on a mission to re-compile and release Arab music that never really had its time in the limelight.

I headed to East Wing last week to check out Habibi Funk's first exhibition which will be rolling out across the world this year. I spent a relatively long time going through the stories, photos, records, and old clippings absorbing the journey of Habibi Funk from its early days in Morrocco to where it is now, re-releasing priceless records from across the region. The exhibition was not only perfectly intimate but truly reminiscent of the beautiful time creatives had in the pan-Arab era. The exhibit includes underground music from Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and Egypt with interactive displays for sampling records and music videos. 

I know the word underground seems a bit too "westernized" to use in today's Arab cultural context but I feel the word is genuinely reflective of the era. Habibi Funk complies old records that is pretty much unheard of - music from 20th-century Arab bands that rarely made it to the timeless ranks of Umm Kulthom and Abdel Haleem. Basically, the underdogs of the Middle Eastern music scene of the last century, a real underground scene that doesn't apply to the alternative scene of today's Arab fusion. The exhibit made me wonder to what extent today's alternative scene is truly groundbreaking... 

In any case, I highly recommend the exhibition. I met Jannis on his last day in Dubai whilst wandering around the gallery, and I can only say that his passion is infectious and admirable. I asked Jannis how he managed to stay motivated while looking for remnants of the artists he was going after, seeing as it took him years of searching to find the music of Faddoul, a funk artist from 1980s Morocco inspired by the soulful sounds of James Brown. He told me that he never gave up on finding the story, especially since Arab communities are so interconnected, and he knew that eventually, he would find something. Jannis found the family house of Faddoul in Casablanca in 2014, where his three-year search had simultaneously ended the search for Faddoul and began the journey of Habibi Funk. 

With the noise of the Art Season in Dubai this month, Habibi Funk was a breath of fresh air. I especially enjoyed the interactive aspects of the exhibition which is sometimes difficult to find in the premature landscape of arts and culture in our region. I recommend this exhibit for lovers of North Africa, music and those interested in alternative storytelling. 

The Habibi Funk exhibition is on at East Wing Gallery in Dubai Design District until May 2018. More info here. To know more about Habibi Funk you can follow them on instagram  @habibifunk or 



travel: what I am intellectually "packing" for sudan

artwork by Sudanese visual artist Abdallah Abbas 

As I welcome the new year today, I am bursting with excitement. I fly out to Khartoum, Sudan tonight and I cannot be more emotional. It's funny how you can have a longing for a place you've never been  - I think that word is "hiraeth" - and feel frenzied at the idea of meeting it finally. I can't wait to capture Africa's most hospitable capital at last. 

My connection to Sudan began after meeting my best friends Ahmed and Salah at University. They spoke so proudly of Sudan, always excited to go back, often making social commentary about Sudanese society over coffee and cigarettes. Fast forward 5 years, and I've become under the influence. I've soaked up everything I could from friends, the internet, from exhibitions, galleries, Sudanese creatives in the UAE and so on. I'm in awe of its people, its food, its arts, its culture.

Sudan reminds me of my own Palestinian roots in so many ways, and yet is so different. I am particularly intrigued by Sudan's Arabness/Africanness - to what extent is Sudan "Arab" or "African" - a question I continue to ask Sudanese friends and loved ones. I ask not because the answer matters, but because I just love hearing the processes of explaining what is "African" and what is "Arab". The conclusion I've come to is that Sudan is the epitome of cultural fusion, a testament to the influence of Africa on the Arab world and vice versa. 

In any case, I digress. Today's post is the daily inspiration, so I'm sharing what I am "packing" intellectually before my trip to Khartoum (in true anti-travel blogger fashion): 


One of the most influential works of literature in contemporary history is the novel "Season of Migration to the North" by Sudanese novelist and thinker Tayeb Salih. My reading of this book is long overdue, and I can't wait to delve right in.  Check out this fantastic review of the book by The Independent. 


Sudanese people are notorious for loving music and dance. As I prepare myself for my flight, I am listening to Sammany Hajo. Sammany is a young Sudanese producer and musician who's known for sampling traditional Sudanese music with modern sounds. You'll definitely find his music in the background of my insta-stories this week. 



Sudan was once renowned for its arts and culture scene. Unfortunately, due to international sanctions it has become increasingly isolated which has affected the creative community's visibility. Thanks to the internet, however, I've come across some incredible Sudanese artists. I personally admire the work of  Dar Al Naim @daralnaimart, Abdallah Abbas @abdallah_abbas, Alaa Satir @alaasatir, and Rayan Nasir @popkhartoum. They all touch on Sudanese life and culture in a way, and tell stories of home. Their works are below: 

Other things I am packing are my trusty Fujifilm X-T2 and Sony a5000, and a heart full of "hiraeth". Can't wait to share more when I get there.