Track By Track: Deena Abdelwahed – Flagranti
Homosexuality still remains a taboo subject in the Arab world.
In many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, it is still either illegal or the LGBTQIA+ community are left with very little rights or protections.
The arts and creative practices have long been used as a means of exploring, addressing and disseminating these kinds of subjects to a wider audience; with Flagranti – a play that presents the stark reality that faces the queer community in Tunisia – they are doing just that.
Translating as ‘In The Act’, Flagranti was commissioned and written collectively by Mawjoudin We Exist an NGO that stands up for LGBTQI+ rights in Tunisia, then staged by director, playwright and producer Essia Jaïbi.
Every play needs a soundtrack, and for Flagranti’s Tunisian producer and InFiné affiliate Deena Abdelwahed was drafted in to create a collection of uncompromising and stirring compositions; something she’s already known for being a dab hand at. Following the play’s run, the resulting music – which is a fusion of her signature off-kilter percussive club rhythms and typical Arabic samples and sounds – has been released as a package on Tunisian-Lyonnais label Shouka.
Below Deena takes us through the process of producing each piece and how she worked alongside the director Essia to sonically tell its story…
“We are dear old friends Essia and I. The LGBT association involved, that helped Essia produce her play are known to me as I am known to them. I worked and composed most of the music for the play during the writing residency of the play, really on the spot.
“I was present during the rehearsals of the actors and I was always directed by Essia for what she feels musically in particular moments. Essia told me many times during the composition of the music that she really only thought of my music for her play; so I was free and confident for this job.”
Colour/s: Blue and Green
(Means party in French) Essia Jaibi, the theatre director, asked me for an effective club track for her “Party between besties” scenario. This track is essentially driven by a ballroom rhythm because I felt that it was the perfect chance to show gratitude to the Afro-American gay community that inspired the international LGBT parties in the recent decades.
You can hear the Darbouka filtered sample loop that begins, to show that we are in an Arab speaking environment. Throughout the percussion and the rhythmic elements are placed as in an Arab dance song. The ballroom rhythm begins with the kick patterns. Arpeggiators are meant to bring joy and fun to match the scenario in theatre piece.
The track is based and composed around a Ghita sample loop. It’s a Tunisian dance rhythm that is very popular and fun. The song begins with a HA dance famous sample, another attempt to show gratitude to the Afro-American gay community and their culture.
In the theatre piece “Flagranti”, Essia insisted I compose a track where there’s a “step on, step off” movement to somehow show the attempt of one of the actors flirting with his crush. The Ghita rhythm was perfect for the dramatic moves of the actor.
In the theatre piece, actors where preparing the tables and this song was composed to accompany them. Essia asked for a pleasing atmosphere, thus my choice of this Valse vibe.
It’s also in the beginning of the scenario where problems and drama feel far away for the moment. I sought to inhabit the space by putting reverb elements in the song.
Colour/s: Brown and Purple
This is the first ever sound that the audience encounter entering the theatre piece. It was a bit challenging for me to meet Essia’s demands on this one. She wanted Surprise, Chaos, Danger and Alarm. She insisted on destabilising the audience from the first seconds the curtain opens.
The actors are meant to be as messy and “animalistic”. For the sake of the EP, Khalil Hentati helped me reshape and rearrange the second part of the track as he did for ‘Flirt’ and ‘Fête’, to give it a more dance/club music sense.
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