Le Bain

3afak and Thank You

Meet Selwa Abd and Sanna Almajedi; two NY artists whose party 3afak aims to empower Arab women's creative vision in NY nightlife. We sat down for a chat, before they bring their night to Le Bain on Thursday, July 25th, with the artist Kevin Beasley as a special guest.

Tell us about your first music memories as a child!?

SANNA: I think my first memory is from the age of four. I was sitting on my parents' bed listening to a cassette of Majida El Roumi that my father bought me as a present. I also remember my brother being super fan of Michael Jackson, and that my father sort of had a problem with it because of the skin bleaching issue. A huge part of my upbringing and a habit that I, as well as millions of Arabs, have taken on is listening to Fairuz in the morning. The Fairuz and Zaatar combo is essential. There’s definitely an oversaturation though. Sometimes I can’t stand her. Especially in public spaces when it becomes sort of involuntary.  

SELWA: I remember being dragged to many Moroccan weddings in which Moroccan orchestra would play to entertain the guests. They would sometimes invite women to ululate and gnawas as well. Witnessing these sonic experiences at a young age was mind blowing as it unconsciously introduced me to naturally sense African rhythms.

Selwa, what kind of spiritual connection do you have with Morocco?

Although I was born in Casablanca, my spiritual connection resides in Marrakech. Every time I go there, I instantly feel at peace. My "teenagehood" in Casablanca wasn’t very glamorous so I don’t feel spiritually connected to that city at all. I also left Casablanca when I was 17 to exile to America because at that time I couldn’t stand the mentality of my surrounding. I guess I was rebellious. Thankfully I changed so did the city. 

Sanna, Selwa and artist Kevin Beasley (July 2019)

"3afak means 'please' in Moroccan slang. It’s like we are asking to the white (social construct): Please hear what we have to say.” –Selwa

I read your DJ name, Bergsonist, is a reference to the French intellectual Gilles Deleuze. Can you explain us his concept of Bergsonism? 

SELWA: Bergsonist is derived from a book that Deleuze wrote called “Le Bergsonisme”. In this book, Deleuze, inspired by Henri Bergson, legitimates intuition as a philosophical method. To Deleuze, Intuition is not a sentiment but something more complex and elaborate. 

How do you translate it to your art?

SELWA: This statement resonated with my state of mind at the time and as of today. When I’m making art or music, the only thing that matters to me is seizing the moment as it is and channeling my creativity authentically. When I produce music, I tend to never use intricate gear...most of the time one or two machines. I’m also driven by my intuition. I only make music when I feel the urge to express myself. If I have nothing to say, I don't say anything. It’s a waste of time. Sometimes people would underlook this method as it seems chaotic but in reality, it’s a very elaborate intuitional approach. 

Sanna, you’re from Baghdad and you studied in Amsterdam. You’re now based in New York. When did you fall in love with electronic music?

SANNA: I guess “electronic music” is too broad of a term for me. I started listening to Sonic Youth when I was 11 years old, is that good enough? They definitely use synthesizers sometimes. 

Tell us about your spiritual connection with Baghdad, Iraq.

SANNA: It’s not really a spiritual connection—it’s where I was born, where I spent the early years of my childhood, and where I hope to return someday. 

What do you both want to bring to the NY scene with your party 3afak?

SELWA: 3afak means “please” in Moroccan slang. It’s like we are asking to the white (social construct), “please hear what we have to say.” Doing this party with Sanna is very important as it allows us to stand up as Arab women and support each other while at the same time extend our creative vision in real life by empowering women and POC friends and artists…

SANNA: It’s very empowering for us as Arab women to be organizing our own party, on terms that we negotiate, and book artists who we identify with musically and beyond. 

What’s the most exciting thing happening in your near future?

SANNA: I’m starting a label: Satellite Music Series. It’s in association with the monthly experimental music night I program at e-flux Bar Laika. The first release is Amateur Psychology by Joe Jeffers. It will be out next month. 

SELWA: I’m excited about my upcoming LP vinyl release on Optimo. I’m also excited to work more on Pick Up The Flow with my friend Stephen Decker—we are planning on launching its website soon, developing more the forum as well as programming a new swap meet/take over at The Lot Radio. I’ll also be talking about PUTF this coming weekend at Nowadays for an RA exchange curated by Working Women. 

What are you looking for when going out at night?

SANNA: A safe space that isn’t unbearably crowded and has an OK sound system. I’m also mostly looking for non-genre DJs. I can’t really be listening to the same music all night unless it’s someone who’s really a master or founder of that specific genre. I also don’t like when DJs sound too retro or are too out of context in their overall style. For example, I’m not really interested in hearing a white guy DJ Nigerian Boogie or Kwaito all night. A track here and there is fine of course. 

SELWA: I only go out when it’s worth it for me. Either a dear friend is playing and I want to support or when a very inspiring artist is playing and I know I will get inspired by the end of the night. I hate going to parties for no reasons. It’s not fun for me anymore. For some weird reason, the club brings me anxiety if I’m not DJing.

On Thursday, July 25th, Le Bain presents 3afak
feat. Bergsonist, DJ Sanna and Kevin Beasley
10pm | The Standard, High Line

Header photo: Sanna Almajedi 


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