Sunday June 16th, 2024
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Saint Levant Envisions a Return to a Free Palestine on ‘Deira’

'DEIRA' is a concept album set in a free Palestine, centred around Saint Levant's emotional return to his homeland.

Omar Ghonem

Saint Levant Envisions a Return to a Free Palestine on ‘Deira’

Palestinian artist Saint Levant has been an emerging force in the music scene in recent years, delivering multiple hits and garnering significant attention on the global stage. He has introduced a distinct Middle Eastern sound to Western audiences while embracing his Palestinian identity in every facet of his work. The rapper and singer has now released his debut album, 'DEIRA', a project he has been teasing for months with various singles including the impactful title track featuring MC Abdul, which showcased Saint Levant drawing deeply from Algerian rai, a sound intricately rooted in his heritage.

The album is concise yet rich, featuring eight meticulously curated tracks with contributions from notable artists like Kehlani, TIF, MC Abdul, Sol Band and Algerian rai pioneer Cheb Bilal. Fellow Palestinian artist Zeyne provides backing vocals throughout, adding a harmonious layer to the project.

'DEIRA' is a concept album envisioned within a free Palestine. "’DEIRA’ embodies multiple journeys for me,” Saint Levant shares with SceneNoise. “The project’s title evokes a hotel overlooking the sea in Al-Rimal, Gaza City, designed and operated by my father since 2001. Al Deira Hotel was one of the most beautiful structures in the city and the place I called home as a child.” This hotel was destroyed amidst IDF bombings in 2023.

The album’s soundscape is a mosaic of musical influences, from rai to contemporary pop, with Eastern instrumentation, especially in the percussion, seamlessly integrated. This blend results in an organic fusion that avoids the forced feel of many recent attempts in Arabic music. The production, handled by Saint Levant himself alongside Abdellah Messous, Khalil Cherradi, and Ratchopper, ensures a fluid and cohesive listen from start to finish. Each track transitions naturally, maintaining a unified sound and narrative.

The opener ‘On This Land’ sets the tone, featuring a rendition of the anthemic Palestinian song ‘Mawtini’, where the lyrics, “We will stay here” spoken in Arabic, resonate deeply. Sung by Sol Band’s Rahaf and recorded in Gaza, the track captures the resilient spirit of Palestinian artists creating art amidst relentless adversity and brutal Israeli aggression. Saint Levant’s introspective lyrics reflect on his identity and roots, enhanced by the song’s progression into Palestinian folk music.

“The journey of catastrophe, displacement and exile after 1948 is one every Palestinian continues to take, constantly dreaming of return and using whatever means of resistance along the way until rooted once more on their land,” Saint Levant says.

Middle Eastern influences are the album’s heartbeat, skillfully integrated without excess. Tracks like ‘Forgive Me’, featuring Algerian rapper TIF, showcase emotive horn sections and oriental percussion, creating a poignant backdrop. Saint Levant’s multilingual rapping in English, French, and Arabic, paired with TIF’s verse, highlights their distinct styles and contemplates Saint Levant’s dreams of returning to “the city that raised him.”

The track ‘Let Her Go’ transitions from a subdued EDM beat to a full-fledged rai instrumental during Cheb Bilal’s part, then seamlessly returns to its original form for the chorus, creating a dynamic yet cohesive piece. On ‘Allah Yihmeeki’, featuring Kehlani, the album incorporates festive backing instrumentation, such as zaghareet and an Elyanna sample, enhancing the celebratory mood.

'DEIRA' firmly establishes Saint Levant as a pivotal figure in both Arabic and global music scenes. His rise has been a testament to his evolving sound and songwriting maturity, all while steadfastly embracing his Palestinian and Arab heritage. Through his music, he speaks for his people without compromise. The album is a poignant homage, a beautifully crafted narrative dedicated to his homeland in Gaza, showcasing Saint Levant’s vision as an artist with not only the talent to create exceptional music but also a profound message and purpose.

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