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TootArd brings funky, danceable Middle Eastern music to Vancouver

TootArd Photo by Jenan Shkeer
TootArd will play Fortune Sound Club on Thursday (September 7). Photo by Jenan Shkeer.

Several bands over the years have carried the name “Strawberry”. For example, there are the Scottish pop duo Strawberry Switchblade and Brooklyn queer indie rockers Strawberry Launch. Two groups from California, the psychedelic rockers Strawberry Alarm Clock and prog rockers Strawberry Girls, also named themselves after the same scarlet garden fruit.

Then there’s TootArd, which is a funky Syrian Arabic band about to tour Canada for the first time. The band’s name translates from Arabic into strawberry. The two founding brothers, Hasan and Rami Nakhleh, have released three albums—Nuri Andaburi (2011), Laissez Passer (2017), and Migrant Birds (2020). At different times, they’ve integrated Middle Eastern melodies with pop, reggae, rock, and pulsating dance beats.

On Thursday (September 7), the MENA (Middle East North Africa) Film Festival and Centaur Productions will present TootArd at Fortune Sound Club (147 East Pender Street) in Vancouver. It’s the brothers’ first Canadian gig following recent performances in Japan, South Korea, and Turkey.

Video: Listen to TootArd’s “Moonlight”.

They don’t perform timeless desert music one might hear in a Hercule Poirot TV mystery or Lawrence of Arabia. Rather, TootArd’s synthesizers and rapid-fire percussion offer a distinctly modern vibe. They complement this with lyrics that resonate with those who trace their roots back to Syria and the Levant.

“When we were little, we had complications of ’80s hits that we played over and over,” Hasan Nakhleh says in a news release announcing the upcoming Vancouver gig. “We didn’t know the artists, but we knew all the melodies and harmonies.

“A lot of that was dance music,” he continues. “Back then our family had an Arabic synthesizer with quarter-tones called a PSR-62, Oriental Model, that I loved to play as a kid.”

Listen to the bouncy “Emotional Twist”.

TootArd  joined by Almaazz, Loinessa, and Zift

The band released its first international album, Nuri Andaburi, around the time of the Arab Spring. The disc reflected the political situation in the region.

They gave their second international album the name Laissez Passer to draw attention to the plight of Druze people living in the northern Golan Heights. They must carry a document to move around the area.

Meanwhile, the Fortune Sound Club show will feature performances by Egyptian Canadian singer-songwriter and dancer Almaazz, who’s based in Vancouver. In addition, DJs Lionessa and Zift will entertain the crowd.

It’s the MENA Film Festival’s first live concert and it’s sponsored by the Syrian refugee–created social enterprise Tayybeh and Mazahr Lebanese Kitchen.

“Open Sesame” by TootArd.

This year, the MENA Film Festival has formed a partnership with the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival on its film festival. VLAFF IS screening films from September 7 to 17 at the Cinematheque in Vancouver.

Watch TootArd’s music video for “Laissez Passer”.

Visit the MENA Film Festival website to book tickets to see TootArd at Fortune Sound Club on Thursday (September 7). For more information on the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival, visit its website. The MENA Film Festival website highlights its efforts to bring forth the voices of filmmakers of Middle Eastern and North African ancestry. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

 

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.