Dorian Lynskey The Guardian, Friday 8 June 2007
Bringing together 12 musicians from across the Arab world was ‘nuts’, Music Matbakh’s Justin Adams tells Dorian Lynskey, but the result has been harmony, not conflict.

It is a warm and noisy Saturday night in Casablanca. On the Boulevard d’Anfa, Moroccan football fans are celebrating their team’s 2-0 defeat of Zimbabwe in an African Cup of Nations qualifier. On the forecourt of a nearby Italian restaurant, 20 musicians and crew from seven countries are having dinner.

The table slowly accrues a layer of pizza crusts, beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays, while the air fills with smoke, spontaneous outbursts of song, incomprehensible in-jokes, and the babble of conversation in English, French and Arabic. Even by the standards of musical director Justin Adams – whose long career includes fusions of western and Arabic music with Robert Plant and Jah Wobble, and producing the music of the Touareg band Tinariwen – it is a chaotically cosmopolitan scene. Not for the first or last time, he looks cheerfully overwhelmed by the whole Music Matbakh experience.
“It’s completely nuts,” he says, shaking his head. “It could have been a complete disaster.”
The British Council approached Adams about Music Matbakh last Christmas. He was asked to choose two artists from each of six countries – Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon – from shortlists drawn up by the council’s local staff. Including Adams and two other British members, Matbakh numbers 15 musicians. When the final lineup arrived in the UK, he had to work out a set from scratch, and then mount a short tour. He acknowledges that the concept might have been a recipe for either blandly exotic mulch, or blaring chaos. Even the name – matbakh means kitchen – seems to invite unflattering comments about too many cooks.

Adams recalls the speech he made the day they met. “I said: ‘Look, we’re all musicians and we know this situation is insane. It can take years to find chemistry. It can take years to work on a great set. We don’t know each other, and we’re going to try to write a set in four days. Let’s accept we’re in a crazy situation, try to enjoy ourselves, and see what happens.'”
In the event, a fairly cohesive set of songs was written, and the dates went smoothly. The next phase, to be filmed by a documentary crew, involves a show in each of the member countries, starting in Morocco at the Boulevard festival.
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Even bigger and better than ever, S.O.S is back in its 11th volume and is set to rock your world like never before! Constantly striving to keep the spirit of Original music alive and kicking, the upcoming S.O.S is all about the new, with an exciting line-up of your favorite S.O.S musicians and awesome new artists.
There will be an international band, Casser le Mur, who produce an intriguing fusion of Spanish and Moroccan music with an electronic twist.
This volume will also be hosting Egyptian Rockers Bad Apple and Ode for the very first time. S.O.S veterans like Nagham Masry, DJ Fido (featuring Asfalt), the Percussion show will be showcasing new songs and for the first time since S.O.S Vol.3 Ressala will be returning to the S.O.S stage.
And is if that wasn’t enough, old members of Efteksat (Hany el Badry, Ousso and Khairy) will be reuniting with the band for what is bound to be an amazing performance!
Truly this is not an S.O.S you’ll want to MISS, so be there!

Also you can catch Casser Le Mur @ the Cairo Jazz club on Saturday 21st November.Read More



It sounded like the idea for a reality TV show. Take 14 musicians who play different styles, have never met, and come from six countries across north Africa and the Middle East; put them in a rehearsal room in Britain with a musical director who is best known as Robert Plant’s guitarist, and give them a task. “Just two weeks ago,” explained Justin Adams, “we were told we had four days to come up with a set.” Then they were off on tour. Organised by the British Council and the Serious production team, Music Matbakh (Arabic for “kitchen”) is an experiment in promoting cultural awareness, and is of course being filmed. It is a fine idea, but whether the music would be any good after just a handful of concerts was another question. At the Spitz, the show was first under-cooked and then impressive. It all started with a burst of Arabic hip-hop, with rappers from Lebanon and Morocco matched against cool, drifting vocals from a singer from Jordan and a ney flute player from Syria. Then came jazz-funk, a fine oud solo, laptop-induced beats and a series of guitar, bass and drum solos. This was more like a parade of individual musicians than a band, and the audience began to lose interest. After the interval, thankfully it all changed. An exquisite ballad by Jordan’s Ruba Saqr was followed by Arabian Desert, in which Justin Adams at last demonstrated his driving guitar work, which transformed the show. twitter down . Lebanese hip-hop from Beirut’s RGB MC and Hiba Mansour, electric violin work from Egyptian rai exponent Mohamed Medhat, and saxophone solos from the British jazz virtuoso Soweto Kinch suddenly began to fit together. By the finale, with Highway to Casablanca, this sounded like an intriguing band in the making.