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Shkoon’s album ‘FIRAQ’ will get to their roots, fusing Arabic folklore and German techno : NPR

NPR’s Emily Feng talks with the German-Syrian duo Shkoon, who’re returning to their roots with the discharge of their new album FIRAQ.

THORBEN DIEKMANN: Shkoon is mainly the primary Arabic phrase that I realized from Ameen again in 2015, and it means what.


What? Why what?

DIEKMANN: It is sort of like the primary impression that we get when folks hear our music and after they knew what we had been doing.

FENG: That is German musician Thorben Diekmann speaking about his good friend Ameen Khayer from Syria. Collectively, they make up Shkoon, a two-man band that’s taking all the pieces we predict we find out about German music and Arabic music, combining the 2 after which flipping it on its head.


SHKOON: (Singing in non-English language).

FENG: Shkoon’s newest album, “FIRAQ,” has this German techno vibe, which I really like, however it additionally maintains a extremely sturdy Arabic folkloric coloration, whether or not it is the melodies or the lyrics. I requested Thorben and Ameen how they got here up with this distinctive fusion.

AMEEN KHAYER: After hangover night time we did it (laughter).

FENG: I wish to hear the story. I wish to hear the hangover story.

DIEKMANN: Yeah. I imply (laughter) – there was just a few associates who did, like, a funding occasion for individuals who received, like, in bother with legislation due to, like, serving to refugees coming and stuff like this. So that they requested me if I might think about doing a little music there. And the day earlier than the occasion, I mainly requested, I imply, like, you wish to be a part of? So we had, like, 24 hours earlier than the get together the place we simply, like, wrote our first songs and tried our first issues. And we actually did not actually know what we had been doing.


DIEKMANN: And I keep in mind once we went to the venue, we actually did not even know how one can do a correct soundcheck.


DIEKMANN: And Ameen was hiding behind a palm tree contained in the venue so no person might see him.

KHAYER: I used to be afraid as a result of the primary place I did it, like, after singing within the rest room, it was this place. And it was very nice.


SHKOON: (Singing in non-English language).

FENG: How did you two first meet?

DIEKMANN: I used to be dwelling again then in a shared flat with eight different folks. It was the time when a whole lot of migrants got here to Europe. So we had been, like, all sort of volunteering in several organizations to attempt to assist. And there was one in all our flatmates who was serving to in an establishment that collected, like, all the pieces that folks might eat. And he was all the time leaving the home tremendous early, got here again tremendous late. And at a sure level, I discovered he is bringing somebody with him to sleep over. However we by no means noticed that individual, was a ghost. So one da – I do not keep in mind – was it within the morning or within the night?

KHAYER: Within the night.

DIEKMANN: Within the night – I stayed up, so I catch this individual, and that was Ameen.

FENG: Ameen, so that you had simply gotten to Thorben’s shared flat, however you had come from a good distance off. You had began from Deir ez-Zor, your hometown in Syria, after which gotten all the way in which to Hamburg in Germany.

KHAYER: That is – there was some stops in-between. I used to be not dwelling within the resort. I used to be finding out in Latakia for a very long time. I stayed there. And I had some points with the federal government. And I used to be in jail as a result of I used to be doing demonstrations with my associates.

FENG: Oh, wow.

KHAYER: And after that, I made a decision to exit and reside and proceed my research in Turkey. And it did not work out. And I stayed for slightly bit in Turkey. And from Turkey, I made a decision to go to Europe.

FENG: Most of us have by no means gone by means of an expertise like that. Do you thoughts sharing what that course of, that journey was like?

KHAYER: We went from Turkey to Greece with a ship. So it was a rubber boat. We had been about 40 folks within the boat. After which from this island in Greece, we moved to Athens. And from Athens, we went with vehicles to the borders of Macedonia. And it is like some locations we walked, some locations we took vehicles. It is a exhausting expertise, however in case you are in a giant group, you are going to undergo it. We had been in teams, and we had been gathering one another as teams. It’s a must to keep as a gaggle.

FENG: And why Germany? How did you find yourself there?

KHAYER: I did not wish to keep in Germany, to be sincere. I wished to go to Sweden. However after I arrived in Hamburg, I noticed the harbor. And I examine marine engineering. I fell in love with the place. It was simply good.


FENG: I’ve observed with “FIRAQ,” your new album, you each are leaning extra in the direction of authentic songwriting moderately than the primary couple of albums the place you had been singing Arabic folks songs over beats. Why this transition?

KHAYER: We develop, you realize. With time, we developed.


SHKOON: (Singing in non-English language).

KHAYER: And we realized. And it is a part of studying to develop and never keep simply singing cowl songs.


SHKOON: (Singing in non-English language).

KHAYER: So we do not labelize (ph) Shkoon as a canopy music band.

FENG: You’ve got referred to as your new album “FIRAQ,” which I’ve learn someplace means separation. How did that title come about? Was it associated to this journey that you’ve got simply described?

KHAYER: Yeah, after all, it is a part of it. And final yr, I misplaced an in depth member of my household, and it was two days earlier than recording the reside set.

FENG: I am sorry.

KHAYER: Thanks. Yeah. And that was additionally a giant a part of naming the monitor as “FIRAQ.”

DIEKMANN: Again then, within the time once we recorded, it was identical to – was such an intense time and so exhausting to see what was occurring to Ameen. I imply, particularly when you possibly can’t be near anyone.


FENG: The title monitor, “FIRAQ,” is gorgeous. It is principally instrumental. However you then hear ladies are available singing. Are you able to clarify what a few of these lyrics are that you simply’re singing, Ameen, and what they imply to you?

KHAYER: Effectively, to be sincere, the lyrics that I wished to sing, I forgot them that day. And I began simply improvise.


SHKOON: (Singing in non-English language).

KHAYER: (Non-English language spoken) – it is a manner of expression, a ache or one thing like this. After which I say, or my father, one thing like this. I do not say a whole lot of phrases inside it.


SHKOON: (Singing in non-English language).

DIEKMANN: We deliberate the recording earlier than the incident with Ameen’s member of the family occurred. After which, like, two days earlier than, we – like, all the pieces went out of what we might have imagined. So we’re actually – we did not know if we must always do the recording, if we should not. And Ameen mentioned, no, I want it. I wish to do that. So we had been, like, simply adapting to what was occurring. And by some means, like, the music simply, like, emerged on stage whereas we had been taking part in there. And that is by some means the great thing about it.


FENG: That is Thorben Diekmann and Ameen Khayer from the band Shkoon. Their newest album is named “FIRAQ.”

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