Sam Shalabi, mastermind of Land of Kush, explores the overlap between Western music and traditional Middle Eastern musics. His music floats somewhere between composition and improvisation, stirring up a melting pot of Arabic tropes, avant-jazz, modern classical, freak-noise, electronics and sound art.
Shalabi has lived in Canada all of his adult life, but his roots are in Egypt – and it shows! As a composer and musician he has kept busy playing and releasing music under his own name and as a member of other bands, including The Dwarfs of East Agouza and Karkhana (both of whom have played Roskilde Festival previously).
Land of Kush may be the most ambitious and impressive of Shalabi’s projects. His orchestra involves over 20 musicians and two dozen different instruments, including a cluster of strings, horns and woodwinds, joined by bass, guitar, piano, santur, darbouka, oud, electronics and synths – as well as multiple vocalists and percussionists.
They have performed a handful of mesmerising shows in the home town of Montréal, premiering six different hour-long works. Three of these were recorded in studio at the invitation of indie label Constellation and subsequently released in 2009 (Against the Day), 2010 (Monogamy), and 2013 (The Big Mango). Most recently, they have made a new album, Sand Enigma, which will be out on 8 November 2019.
All adventurous listeners should not miss out on a head-spinning, unpredictable show by Land of Kush at Roskilde Festival 2020.