Feb 28 – March 2, 2014: Narcy’s first event was a demo talk with students and community members at the University of Pennsylvania campus on Thursday evening. Co-sponsored by Greenfield Intercultural Center, Penn Arab Student Society, Year of Sound, SPEC, and Pan Asian Community House, the event drew a wide range of students: some interested in hip-hop specifically, some in multicultural music, and still others in the Arabic language. The Narcicyst, or Yassin Alsman as he introduced himself, focused on the identity issues he faced growing up and how they influenced his music, reading a section from his book Diatribes of a Dying Tribe to highlight these issues. Born in Dubai to parents who emigrated from Basra in southern Iraq, he moved to Montreal at a young age but attended high school in Dubai before finally settling back in Montreal. This turbulent upbringing compelled him to start producing music while he was an undergraduate, but it was the war in Iraq and changing perceptions of Arabs that motivated the first music video that he screened, “P.H.A.T.W.A.,” an acronym that stands for both “Political Hatred Against the Wrong Arabs” and “Political Hip-Hop Attracting the Wrong Attention and plays on the Arabic word fatwa meaning a religious decree.
The talk shifted towards the production of his multimedia works as he screened “Hamdulillah,” a video that features short video head shot videos sent in from people around the world. He explained that he publicized through social media the type of submissions that he needed and got thousands from across the world, from a wide diversity of people, incorporating them into the final video. Narcy also talked about his upcoming projects, including the impending release of an Arabic-language album, whose proceeds will be donated to a company working to build prosthetic hands for children injured in Syria. At the end of the session, he opened the floor, fielding questions about his work and experiences, as well as welcoming students to share their own personal journeys to discover their identity and creative selves. The event sent the tone for what was to be a weekend filled with important discourse and wonderful music.
Photos by Al-Bustan and Dana Scherer:
The next day Narcy visited Northeast High School where he led a demonstration for 150 students. The largest public school in the district, NEHS has students who hail from all over the world. The music and lyrics of Narcy clearly resonated with the students and their experiences and appreciation of hip-hop as a medium for self-expression.
The rest of the day was spent in rehearsal with members of Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble.
On Saturday morning, Narcy met with a small group of UPenn students at Greenfield Intercultural Center for a 2.5 hour workshop where they shared their poetry and and rhythms and worked on preparing for performing their works at the concert the next day.