Spotify initiates “I’m with the banned” Playlist, Empowers Oriental Music

A few days ago, while listening to music on Spotify, I came across an interesting playlist collection that was created and published by Spotify themselves. The title was “I’m with the banned” with the subtitle “When people can’t travel, music will”. This completely caught my attention.

After quickly scrolling through the artists and tracks in those playlists, I noticed one notable name. Ahmed Fakroun. One of the best raï singers that completely reinvented the scene by incorporating rock with his mastery of both oriental and western instruments. With such connotative title on the playlist, I instantly jumped on his playlist to listen to his track “Salam”, featuring the jazz organist Dr. Lonnie Smith.

20 seconds into the song, and I knew such a big deal this song is. So beautiful.

Mr. Fakroun being of Libyan nationality, is one of the targeted groups that are affected by the recent U.S. travel bans. Spotify has not only initiated this movement, but also empowered multiple artist from the affected countries and allowed open collaborations across international borders, welcoming alternative content that touches topics such as immigration and LGBTQ equality.

This movement is such a big deal, not just from a social awareness point of view, but also musically, an absolutely significant step toward testament of music being one of the everlasting mediums to connect people regardless of nationality or ethnicity. It is inevitable that all humans are in pursuit of happiness and a safe environment to nourish and live a prosperous life. And it’s great to see a company acting positively to raise awareness for a cause even though it could be considered being of minuscule proportions.

If politics is the inherited source of world problems, then music certainly will be a first step to amplify the voices of people. It has always been this way. And Spotify just made their stance on this issue.

Well done, Spotify.

Below is the playlist with all songs that were recorded for this initiative. There are a few shortfilms that were created for this initiative. Check out the YouTube Playlist to watch them. The films are also available from the Spotify app.


On July 6, this installment will debut on Spotify with a series of enhanced playlists which will feature new music and original video content highlighting six artists from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Iran; the countries incorporated in the proposed travel ban. These international artists collaborated with American artists with whom they share the love of music.

Collaborating artists and record labels include Desiigner (G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam), Pusha T (G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam), X Ambassadors (KIDinaKORNER/Interscope), K.Flay (Night Street/Interscope), Dr. Lonnie Smith (BlueNote) and BJ The Chicago Kid (Motown).

Additionally, “I’m with the banned” brought together producers and songwriters to work alongside these artists. Producers include: The Stereotypes (Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber), Doc McKinney (The Weeknd, Drake) and Matty Tavares (Kendrick Lamar, BadBadNotGood). The songwriters who also participated are Clarence Coffee Jr. (Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez) and E. Kidd Bogart (Beyonce, Ryan Tedder, Madonna).

I’m with the banned on Spotify

“I’m With The Banned” Track List

  • Kasra V feat. K.Flay – “Justify You”
  • Moh Flow feat. Pusha T – “Options”
  • Waayaha Cusub feat. Desiigner – “Durbaan Ka Ii Tuma”
  • Methal feat. X Ambassadors – “Cycles”
  • Sufyvn feat. BJ The Chicago Kid – “Thinking ‘Bout You (Sleepless in Cairo)”
  • Ahmed Fakroun feat. Dr. Lonnie Smith – “Salam”

Artist highlights

Kasra V – DJ and record producer hailing from Iran and specializing in techno/deep house, he hosts a bi-weekly radio show on NTS Radio and is a curator of the Dance playlist for 22Tracks

Moh Flow – Singer/songwriter from Syria who co-produces with his brother, AY. While residing in Dubai and traveling the world, the 25-year-old has had the chance to harness his music making skills to release music consistently over the Internet.

Waayaha Cusub – A Somali musical collective that organized the first international music festival in Somalia’s capital since the start of the civil war in the early 90s.

Methal – Yemeni singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who learned to play by watching American YouTube videos.

Sufyvn – Acclaimed producer/beatmaker whose electronic tracks blend American hip-hop and traditional Sudanese music.

Ahmed Fakroun – Singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Libya and pioneer of modern Arabic Music, influenced by Europop and French art rock.

The Spotify Blog

The story of… Sina ft. Bahramji and Mashti – Soul Awareness

It has taken a long time since I got around to write about this track. I briefly mentioned it in my post Ethnic Chillout meet Disco Music: Sina ft. Bahramji & Mashti in 2012, when I released a second remix featuring Bahramji and Mashti. So it wasn’t until I released the second track that I mentioned Soul Awareness.

Here is a short introduction to Bahramji from his website:

Bahram (Bahramji) was born in 1952 in the Kurdish city of Kermanshah in Persia. As a child he heard the ancient Sufi melodies, which are the inspiration for his music today. At the age of 13 he learned to play the Santoor and started to perform at several places in his hometown. Through playing whirling music for wanderers from different cultures, his style has changed from the traditional approach to his own. He melts old songs into a new form, creating a meditative sphere to uplift body and soul.

I was inspired to incorporate some samples from his tracks, and the album Sufiyan [Blue Flame Records, 2009] was the culmination of spiritual and poetic music in the world of chillout and meditative music. Deriving its roots from Persian poets such as Rumi, Hafez and Saadi, the mystical renditions of the poetry was reflected in beautifully arranged songs that portrayed the mysticism surrounding Sufism, and the one notion of monotheistic beliefs. To draw parallels with Western music, Madonna’s song “Bedtime Story” (released in 1995, written by Björk et al.) has a similar lyrical and graphical inspiration drawn from Sufism.

Sina – Come With Me (Live) [Oriental Downbeat]

I tried to play this song with only four chords. The track is played live with 3 drum variations, 1 oriental drum sample, 3 main sounds (two electric pianos and a strings) and a simple pick bass.

The track is unmastered and has not been tweaked in post. The levels were adjusted as I played along and there was a slight phaser effect on the electric pianos, and a generous amount of L/R delay was applied across the main instruments. Everything is processed in PA900.

Demo: Sina – Moins (9/8 Beat)

I typically don’t post my practice sessions, but I decided to take on one of the most difficult time signatures, the 9/8. Note: This is not going to be a “how to play a song in 9/8” tutorial.

Arrangement rundown

I started with a downbeat arrangement, added a few layers in the sequencer and played a custom turkish Mey reed sample, and the Live Piano RX. The RX, Real eXperience technology on my Korg PA900 is truly amazing.

As for the effects, on FX B, I used Reverb SmoothHall and Stereo BPM Delay. This particular delay effect enables the delay time to match the song tempo, which is optimal for downbeat melodies. The tempo was set to 70 BPM. In the future, I will consider applying a dynamic modulation source to the XY controller, to have more control over the note velocity when I am playing the Mey.

Last, as mentioned earlier, the track is an attempt to play with a 9/8 beat. The 8/8 time signature would be similar to a 4/4, thus resulting in 9/8 having an extra beat. This is certainly one of those challenging signatures that I often avoid and rarely attempt to play.

Hope you will enjoy this track.

The story of… Sina ft. Noel – Like A Child (Space Invaders Mix)

Sina featuring Noel - Like A Child (Space Invaders Mix)

I realized that I never posted anything about this track.

There is so much to say about this dancepop/synthpop track, and I almost feel that I am short of breath…
…it has been long due to finally give a little background info on how it came to life.

So Noel (real name Noel Pagan) is an awesome singer that had two #1 hit dance chart songs in the late 80’s; “Like a Child” followed by “Out of Time”, both released in 1988.

The track “Like a Child” has a very distinct bassline that piqued my interest, when I first heard it in the mid 00’s, way later than its release date. At this time, I was also a huge fan of Joachim Garraud, a french DJ and producer known for his co-op with David Guetta, Jean-Michel Jarre, and many more. He also created “F*** Me I’m Famous records” with Guetta, and had a huge success on the Electro house scene overall. Along with his busy music production, he also created the Space Invader mascot that became his signature alias.

Joachim Garraud
Joachim Garraud (C) LA Weekly

Fast forward; while listening to Noel’s track, I received an acapella of Joachim Garraud’s “Space Invaders”, and the vocals were just the right tool to accompany with “Like a Child” – knowing that the original Space Invaders was a classic arcade game by Tomohiro Nishikado in the late 70’s.

So these components resulted in some experimentation with my studio setup at the time, and a 192 kbps MP3 was exported — just for fun.
It was never meant to become an actual remix track. But now, after all these years, I have uploaded it to my YouTube channel, followed by this short trivia about Noel, Joachim Garraud, and Space Invaders.

And here is my version of Like a Child, mashed up with some phat vocals and funky basslines:

You can download Like a Child (Space Invaders mix) for free and have taste of the good ‘ol 80’s.