Hot Summer Playlist: “Diaspora Dreams” Drops

8 August, 2022

Mischa Geracoulis

 

When Nation­al Pub­lic Radio (US) announced its best of sum­mer 2022 music on 31 July, 2022, it was but a super­fi­cial scratch at the enor­mi­ty and com­plex­i­ty of cur­rent music. While indis­putable props go to Bey­on­cé, Liz­zo, and Bad Bun­ny, NPR basi­cal­ly reca­pit­u­lat­ed the top of Billboard’s Hot 100. Nei­ther NPR nor Bill­board, how­ev­er, ful­ly cap­ture the best of sum­mer 2022 music, even if their focus was nar­rowed to dance music. 

Their “best of” omit­ted mas­sive swaths of dance music from oth­er gen­res and regions, which is where TMR comes in.  Because TMR goes where cor­po­rate, main­stream media stops short, a hot sum­mer music round-up would be incom­plete with­out giv­ing props of MENA and dias­poric pro­por­tions to Bei Ru and the apt­ly titled album, Dias­po­ra Dreams, fea­tur­ing the vocals of Krista Mari­na, that dropped on 29 July.

Part of the vast Armen­ian Dias­po­ra, Bei Ru is Baruir Panoss­ian, Armen­ian Amer­i­can DJ, singer-song­writer, mul­ti-instru­men­tal­ist, record­ing artist and pro­duc­er, based in Los Ange­les by way of Lebanon. And singer-song­writer and pro­duc­er, Krista Mari­na is also Armen­ian Amer­i­can with roots in Lebanon and Jordan.

Whether due to geno­cide, con­quests, rev­o­lu­tion, or migra­tion, there’s not one, typ­i­cal “Armen­ian.” The beau­ty of such mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional dis­place­ment, to bor­row from William Saroy­an, is that no mat­ter where an Armen­ian might be, in meet­ing anoth­er, togeth­er they will cre­ate a new Arme­nia. Exem­plar of Saroyan’s pre­dic­tion is Dias­po­ra Dreams, a must-add to this summer’s playlist.

The beau­ty of dias­po­ra life, by its very nature, is a co-min­gling of cul­tures and tran­scen­dence of bor­ders. Though cul­tur­al fusion in music, food, and fash­ion is on trend, fusion also reflects the resilien­cy and inno­va­tion gen­er­at­ed by change. As such, dias­po­ran-made music can often achieve a lev­el of savoir-faire that evades the purists. While not aban­don­ing or replac­ing tra­di­tion, the dias­poric musi­cian is able to bring for­ward and recon­tex­tu­al­ize music from a par­tic­u­lar place and time into the present moment.  To this point, Dias­po­ra Dreams fus­es house, lounge, trip, and trance with decid­ed­ly Mid­dle East­ern and Armen­ian rhythms and down­beats. Mas­ter­ful use of reverb adds to a cool, lo-fi effect, espe­cial­ly on “Noir.” The song’s sub­tle doum tek under­pin­ning reg­is­ters in the body before the mind or ear, mak­ing it dance­able and lis­ten­able on repeat. Per­fect for sum­mer after dark, the rich ver­sa­til­i­ty of Krista Marina’s range and tim­bre brings a soul­ful, sul­try groove to “Noir,” and an ethe­re­al, chill-out qual­i­ty to the album overall.

Bei Ru’s debut album, Lit­tle Arme­nia, an epony­mous nod to the East Hol­ly­wood neigh­bor­hood that, depend­ing on where one stands, could be straight out of Yere­van or Bourj Ham­moud in Beirut, dates back to 2012. Since then, Bei Ru has col­lab­o­rat­ed, mixed, and mashed sounds with oth­er artists from a vari­ety of gen­res, and com­posed for film and TV. Albums like Good Hum­mus, vol­umes 1—8, and Sat­ur­day Night at the Mag­ic Lamp give it up for the MENA, and Cus­tom Made Life has a dis­tinc­tive LA dance par­ty vibe.

Krista Mari­na sings in Eng­lish and Armen­ian, and does unex­pect­ed acoustic cov­ers, such as of Sys­tem of a Down’s B.Y.O.B. and Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics. 

Clear­ly, nei­ther Bei Ru nor Krista Mari­na is new to the music scene, but they just might be hav­ing a moment. Jour­nal­ists make for bad for­tune tellers, yet “Noir” may well be posi­tioned to do for Bei Ru what “Lebanese Blonde” did for Thiev­ery Cor­po­ra­tion 20 years ago. In a mat­ter of one song, Lebanese Blonde — the orig­i­nal ver­sion with Pam Brick­er (peace unto her soul) on vocals — cat­a­pult­ed Thiev­ery from niche to main­stream. Inter­na­tion­al music as a genre made the actu­al leap into inter­na­tion­al are­nas. Sud­den­ly, Lebanese Blonde could be, and still can be, heard every­where from posh hotel lob­bies, cafes, and retail stores to film sound­tracks across the globe. 

Give Dias­po­ra Dreams a lis­ten and see how you feel.

 

TMR contributing editor Mischa Geracoulis is a writer and educator of critical media literacy, English for speakers of other languages, and those with learning differentials. Her writing, teaching and approach to life are informed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Some of her topics of research include the Armenian Genocide and Diaspora, restorative justice, equitable education and child welfare, and the multifaceted human condition. Her work has appeared in Middle East Eye, The Guardian, Truthout, LA Review of Books, Colorlines, Gomidas Institute, National Catholic Reporter, and openDemocracy, among others. Follow her on Twitter @MGeracoulis.

ArmenianbordersDance musicdiasporahouseJordanLebanonloungetrancetrip

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