Yasmine Hamdan on Soapkills

Yasmine Hamdan

Do you remember Soapkills? They were one of the first underground electro bands created in Beirut by Yasmine Hamdan and Zeid Hamdan (They are not family-related!) in the 1990’s playing a mix of dub + trip hop, arabic and folk sounds. They stopped creating music together in 2005 when Yasmine was studying in Paris and collaborating with Mirwais, the ex-guitarist of the Taxi Girl band and three albums producer of the American pop star Madonna.

Still supported by hundreds of thousands of fans, we just heard they were releasing their best of on May 11th and we had a little chat with Yasmine Hamdan in Paris last week about the origin of their band’s name… The band was created at the end of the Lebanese civil war when there was absolutely nothing in terms of music and art. They had the vision of starting a new form of expression for the after-war young rootless generation : “Soapkills was kind of a joke ; Beirut was very moving, melancholic and hopeful at that time. It was very inspiring and when they started to rebuild the city, Zeid wrote a song named “Soap kills”. The soap actually referred to the reconstruction that was going to erase all the war marks, the hurtful moments and make everything look beautiful and sexy… The song meant it was actually dangerous. We opted for this band’s name and we started to film a lot of short videos playing with little bomb-shaped soaps from Tripoli. In one of these videos, I was walking in the half-destroyed city of Beirut and I came up on a little pedestal ; I had long black hair, all dressed in white… There was a little post apocalyptic side in it but it was made with a lot of humour. It was like a “wake up call” to say “Let’s be careful, the war is over, let’s take our time”. So we had a lot of fun playing with this term of “soap””…

She also shared with us a bit of her experience playing in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive (2014). She met the director during a film festival in Marrakech after being randomly invited to perform ; he approached her at the end of her gig saying he had a role for her. Then she wrote Hal for the movie and she enjoyed a lot her part in it : “It was an extraordinary experience, Tangier is a beautiful city ; we shot all night long and there was a real magic energy that night between the public and me. I don’t know if it was Ramadan but it felt very special… I remember this little boy walking by himself on the streets at about 2 am. It was surrealistic. I really felt the beginning of something good coming in this city…”.

Yasmine will be on tour from next week starting on May 7th at the Arab world institute in Roubaix. Check out all the tour dates on her website.