Wonder woman Yasmine Hamdan takes a breather to give the lowdown on her new album
‘I just got my French passport’, says Yasmine Hamdan with a small burst of excitement, the night before her appearance at The Music Room in Dubai. ‘I’m attached to Paris, actually, but I do not want to belong’, she remarks as we discuss the concepts of belonging and inclusion. ‘I would rather live on the margin – and I feel more comfortable living there, not belonging to a place’. I ask her why. ‘Because,’ she responds, ‘I cannot pretend that I know how to do that. I’m not sure I know what it’s like to belong to one place.’
A myth exists around Hamdan. She performs at what some commentators have described as the ‘intersection of sexy electronica and iconic Arab tradition’, and is controversial in some quarters for this very reason. She is not scared to say things, or to talk about sexuality or eroticism. She is also unwilling to let herself be controlled by the codes and rules of traditional Arabic music. In short, she is unwilling to censor or to be something that she is not. Indeed, the starting point for many of the lyrics on her new album, Al Jamilat (The Beautiful Ones), emerged from encounters with ex-criminals, perverts, war fighters, gigolos, poets, and drug addicts, all of whom have, admits Hamdan, inspired her in some way. ‘Their anger echoes a sense of hopelessness, and the mixed feelings I have regarding the ongoing turmoil in Lebanon and the region’.