What is Muslim Trance?
Muslim Trance is a trend which started approximately a year and half ago on the Internet. The aesthetic and the sounds of Middle East are slowly invading the world of music and contemporary art, starting with Net Art.
Born in Kuwait and actually living in New York, Fatima Al Qaridi has a great understanding of the Arabic world, a sympathy for Western culture and a sharp eye when it comes to art. She creates experimental music halfway in-between the traditional Arabic songs and contemporary music. Having grown up in Kuwait, she reinterprets Koranic melodies by incorporating them in electronic sounds. Her music, ancient and bizarrely futuristic, sounds like sacred music for 2.0” Second Life” mosques where « Muslim Ravers » would come to pray and dance. Welcome to the web-spiritual era.
At the end of 2012, Dis Magazine published a mix created by Ayshay, Fatima Al Qaridi’s pseudonym. The mix called Muslim Trance started the buzz on the Internet. And this is how the trend originated.
The aesthetic of the mix cover gave the visual tone of the trend: Arabic letters, a burka and the picture of a Lebanese (or maybe Saudi) woman with over-the-top make-up: a very Net-Art looking collage. The success of the mix gave birth to a second chapter: Muslim Trance 2, followed by a third one in 2011: a demo called Warn-U. The cover image showed a woman in a hijab, inside a swimming pool, with the title scripted in a characteristic Arabic font. Planet Tumblr started to reblog the image and the aesthetic started to spread online.
Fatima associates herself with Up-and-Coming Avant-Garde artists such as Khalid Al Gharaballi, Ryan Trecartin, Kamau Patton or S.A.M & the T.A.Z. Her very mind-blowing and futuristic last video clip, Vatican Vibes, was produced by the talented Tabor Robak.
Dis Magazine were the first ones to feature the aesthetic highlighted by Fatima: an aesthetic halfway between Net Art, Islam and the Kuwaiti new rich extravaganza, with articles like Dressing your hijab or Arranged marriage.
Nonetheless, the 2011 publication Pâté, was the first printed attempt to introduce this aesthetic by Fatima and Lauren Boyle, the editor at Dis Magazine. Pâté is a book about Kuwaiti style, investigating the very close relationship between politics, culture and fashion. The book showcases a luxurious world with abandoned palaces and half-veiled women wearing outrageous make-up. Although some of the images for the book were especially created, the remainder are compilations of Kuwaiti advertisements, album covers, and other local paraphernalia.
“We are trying to reveal some of these style realities to the outside world” says Fatima during an interview with Patrick Sandberg, editor at V magazine. “The majority of these images are not available on the Internet, and that was a big incentive behind this project.” She adds: “The threads are so loose and definitely not searchable in English, sometimes not even in Arabic. It’s crazy. Kuwait is a closed world and a very secretive society with a thousand cliques”. The book reveals interiors decorated with fake plants, gold hued sofas and Kleenex boxes on every table « The rich are invariably obsessed with clinical levels of hygiene.” says Fatima. “Cleanliness is godliness is the slogan of Kuwait”.
Pâté also opens our Western eyes to great undiscovered fashions: according to Fatima, in order to give more volume to their hijabs, Kuwaiti women use teddy bears in between their hair and the fabric in order to achieve the wanted shape.
However, this is not the first time that Fatima tries to exhibit Kuwaiti style. In 2009, she organized a group show called Goth Gulf Vortex GGVV, whose aim was to display Gothic Kuwaiti style. The Gothic style was introduced to Kuwait in the early 2000’s. Their interpretation of the Western trend resulted in an even tackier version than the original one; the mix of Kuwaiti trends and the aforementioned Gothic style being highly conflicting.
Fatima Al Qaridi’s idea of mixing the genres and introducing her knowledge of the Arabic world to the Western one, started to reach the masses. The singer M.I.A adhered to it in 2010, by wearing a very « New Aesthetic » Burka at the Scream Awards. XXXO was her first video to embrace the aesthetic. In her last video clip, Bad Girls, she appears in the desert around a group of women wearing leopard veils by a golden BMW car, surrounded by men wearing the traditional Sudan costume. And the Hollywood Reporter has recently informed that Kanye West’s upcoming video is being recorded in Qatar.
But how does Web culture embrace this new trend?
The Middle East aesthetic goes hand in hand with holograms! The images of Burqas made out of Holographic fabrics have thousands of notes on Tumblr. The brand Yard666sale spotted the trend and started to sell t-shirts sporting Arabic logos in holographic hues, while Tumblr teenagers began to incorporate Arabic fonts into their digital collages and GIFS.
Thanks to Fatima Al Qadiri’s « matière grise », the Arabic culture is starting to inspire the Western world. In a very subtle and beautiful way, these two worlds may just begin to merge with each other.
Which brings me to think: could politics be communicated through Art and visual culture?
Let’s just wait and see!
Words : Dora Moutot
1 to 3: Fatima Al Qaridi
4: Abdullah Al-Mutairi
5 t0 9: Fatima Al Qaridi
10: Unknown ( Tumblr)
11: Leopold Duchemin
12: Unknown (Tumblr)
13: Unknown (Tumblr)
15 to 17: Unknown ( Tumblr)
18: MIA in Burqa
19: Unknown ( Tumblr)