Big in exile: The sonic journeys of 47SOUL

  • Martin Armstrong

This in-depth feature article draws readers to the music of Palestinian band 47 Soul. Written in March 2017, 47 Soul were later identified by The Guardian (music) as one of the top 40 newcomers to look out for in 2018.

It isn't uncommon for bands to switch cities, or move to a new country, in order to find inspiration, open up new fan bases, develop industry contacts to push their careers forward, or simply to get away from it all.
David Bowie famously spent time recording some of his most memorable work in Berlin in the late 1970s, far from his Brixton homeland. Earlier in the same decade the Rolling Stones shacked up as tax exiles in France, and later, in the 1990s, Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder famously went awol attempting to re-discover his musical mojo (and lots of crack cocaine) in the Caribbean.
But for Palestinian electro-band 47SOUL, relocating to London two and a half years ago provided a springboard to their career.
"We moved because of the weather here in the UK," jokes Tareq Abu Kwaik, speaking to The New Arab, during a break from touring that in recent weeks has seen 47SOUL perform in Grenoble, Zurich, Exeter and Edinburgh.
Before moving to London, the four members of the group, united by a shared Palestinian identity, had never lived in the same city.
Abu Kwaik (traditional Arabic percussion) and Hamza Arnaout (guitar), grew up in Jordan, Ramzy Suleiman (synths) in Washington DC, and Walaa Sbait (percussion), as a Palestinian citizen of Israel in Haifa.
In Amman, in 2013, Abu Kwaik and Arnaout - whose parents were made refuge in Jordan by the 1948 Nakba - began collaborating with Suleiman. Having met through a mutual friend they started laying the groundwork for 47SOUL's distinct sound.
But Sbait was based in Haifa, and mostly communicated with his bandmates via Skype calls, voice messages, and emails, in order to relay blossoming ideas.
Although Sbait has performed with his 47 bandmates in Amman, holding an Israeli passport limits his travel in the Middle East. Abu Kwaik and Arnout, meanwhile, both face extensive waiting periods applying for European visas, occasionally complicating travel…
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