With music I become a flying bird ,
I change my feathers, I change my strings.
TootArd (Arabid for Strawberries) are a young, trailblazing ensemble from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights who deftly fuse Levant-tinted desert blues, melodic psych-rock, morphed reggae and classical Arabic modalities. Hailing from the majestic mountainside village of Majdal Shams, they sing in Arabic and glide seamlessly across the borders of West Africa, The Sahara, and The Caribbean. They will make every audience laugh, dance, smile, ask questions, and imagine the many possibilities for a better future.
Their second album Laissez Passer (the name of the document given to the stateless), is their debut international release and one of the first such releases from their homeland. Since 1967 the area has been part of Israel, leaving it’s Syrian inhabitants stateless. Singer and guitarist Hasan Nakhleh explains – “It took us a while to realise the effect. We’re permanent residents in Israel, but not citizens. We have no travel documents. When we travel we need the laissez passer. With no nationality, we’re officially ‘undefined.’” But in statelessness, the five-piece has discovered musical freedom.
With Laissez Passer, the title track, the past has helped create the future. With its insistent riff that evokes the space of the desert, glorious driving, funky percussion, and an electric guitar that Nakhleh modified with extra frets to sound like an oud, the song builds a manifesto that bonds West Africa and the Maghreb to the Levant. Laissez Passer is the sound of a band that’s found its voice.
TootArd are not ‘undefined’; they’ve fashioned their own identity in their music, creating a bond between the stateless that reaches from the Levant to the Tuareg – another people without a real home – and reaches out far beyond. Restless, buoyant and eclectic, don’t miss them at this year’s World Ceilidh!