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Premiere: Deena Abdelwahed ‘Six As Oil ستة زيت’

Ahead of the release of her second album, ‘Jbal Rrsas’ (جبل الرصاص)’, this week on InFiné Music, have an exclusive first listen to ‘Six As Oil ستة زيت’

Deena Abdelwahed is framed by greenery in a garden. There are leafy plants surrounding her. Deena is wearing a sand coloured vest top and is looking to the left. She wears her curly hair loose and down, covering some of her face
Credit: Yassine Meddeb Hamrouni

Deena Abdelwahed’s second album ‘Jbal Rrsas (جبل الرصاص)’, is out this week on InFiné Music. Have an exclusive first listen to ‘Six As Oil ستة زيت’ below. 

Translated from the Arabic, جبل الرصاص, the seven-track album’s title refers to the vast limestone rock formations of Djebel Ressas in the southeast of Tunis, Tunisia. The area of extreme natural beauty also features on the album’s artwork, created by Swiss multidisciplinary artist Niculin Barandun, which depicts a swirling mountain range.

‘Jbal Rrsas’ is the follow up to the Toulouse-based, Tunisian DJ and producer’s second LP,  2018’s ‘Khonnar’ – a blend of techno, experimental club sounds, and Arabic music that was described as “shifting the epicenter of contemporary electronic music south”. 

Her new album evolves on this approach, and found her studying regional traditional dance music styles from across the Arab world, incorporating them alongside her electronic club music production techniques and vocals. ‘Jbal Rrsas’ was co-funded by Consortium Commissions, an initiative by the Brussels-based non-profit, Mophradat, which creates opportunities for artists from the Arab world through an inventive approach to funding, commissioning, and collaborating. The record was written, composed, produced, mixed, and performed by Abdelwahed, with the help and advice of Khalil Hentati (tracks arrangement) and Khyam Allami (tuning and musicology).

Speaking about the goal behind the new album with DJ Mag contributor Martin Guttridge-Hewitt in a newly published interview, Abdelwahed said: “I was mainly focused on playing with the laws of Arabic music, rhythmically and melodically. The idea was to make something that puts no region over another region. A specificity, rhythmically or melodically, from each country, put into each track. Mainly dance, traditional dance music, from that place. So I’m not using academic or classical music [from] these countries. I’m using my research based on their dance music.” 

She added: “Dance music styles in the Arab world, that are still folkloric, percussive, where you only have the groove if you use samples from actual percussionists — how can I do that in a synthesised way, without it feeling experimental, artyfarty, avant-garde, whatever? How can we make it organic, close to the people? For me, that’s the biggest challenge.”

You can read the full interview, which touches on her studying of these regional styles, the nature of collaboration, and opening minds to new possibilities, here.

Listen to ‘Six As Oil ستة زيت’ below. 

Pre-order ‘Jbal Rrsas’ (جبل الرصاص)’ ahead of its release this Friday (8th September) here.

Earlier this year, Abdelwahed released her original score for the Tunisian play, Flagranti, as an EP via French label, Shouka. The score was originally written to accompany Essia Jaïbi’s groundbreaking theatrical work of queer fiction, which confronts the oppression and aggression faced by LGBTQI+ people in Tunisia today. The EP’s first single, ‘Fête’, premiered on DJ Mag.

She released the ‘Dhakar’ EP in 2020, and the ‘Free Radicals’ EP in collaboration with Basile3 in 2022.