In September 2019 at the ceremony in City Hall, judge Karl Sharo announced that music events production company Marsm were the winners of the Arab British Centre Award for Culture in the category of Organisations. We caught up with Christina Hazboun, their PR and Communications Coordinator, a few months after the Award to ask what Marsm have been up, and what the next year might bring…
Describe your work in one sentence…
Marsm serves as a dynamic cultural events platform that supports outstanding Arab and North-African talent and contributes to their exposure in the UK.
You won the Award for Culture in September this year. What have you been up to since then?
We were thrilled to have our hard work acknowledged through the receipt of the Arab British Centre’s Award for Culture. Since then, we have had our busiest autumn and winter season so far, organising and promoting over 40 events in 2019. The Award for Culture’s travel grant has allowed us to partake as delegates in numerous international music festivals and expos such as Journées Musical de Carthage (Carthage Music Festival) in Tunis and Visa for Music in Morocco. Through these festivals and the numerous connections we established we’ve been able to greatly broaden our understanding of the North African music scene, learn more about existing talent and explore partnerships with like-minded organizations and individuals.
Aside from winning the Award, what have been your 2019 highlights?
2019 has been an eventful year for us. Our team has grown and so has the number of events that we have put on. We started 2019 with a powerful event called Kalimat, Kalimat, Kalimat (Words, Words, Words) presenting to the UK public powerful poetic performances from leading Arabic women including Farah Chamma and Dana Dajani.
We organised two UK tours for some of the Middle East’s largest bands: DAM and Mashrou’ Leila. On a different front we brought the Arab World’s most famous stand-up comedian Bassem Youssef to London, and our partnership with Shubbak Festival saw a strong and musically varied showcase of musicians ranging from Kahareb, a sold out electronic night with DJ SAMA and Shkoon, to a unique collaboration with both Shubbak Festival and the Barbican on maintaining and reviving the legacy of Palestinian singer and composer Rim Banna. The tribute concert welcomed Palestinian musician and composer Faraj Suleiman, Lebanese singer, song-writer Tania Saleh, Tunisian singer and composer Sabrine Jenhani and Syrian rapper and producer Bu Kolthoum.
We also embarked on a special tour called SILA, solidifying electronic and DJ exchanges between the UK and Palestine. The tour encompassed three Palestinian cities: Haifa, Jerusalem and Ramallah and brought the whole party/delegation back to London in July for a music exchange night. We had the pleasure of working with London collectives Beauty and the Beat and Brilliant Corners, in addition to working with local artists in each Palestinian city we toured in: Kabareet DJ’s, Raymond Haddad, Moody Kablawi, Makimakkuk, DAKN and more.
The autumn season brought audiences and artists new and old in some of London’s most iconic venues. From Marcel Khalifeh at the Barbican, to Alsarah and the Nubatones at the ULU and then a brilliant partnership with EFG London Jazz Festival welcoming some of the most varied musics of our region into King’s Place and the Jazz Cafe which included Souad Massi, Faraj Suleiman and Maurice Louca’s Elephantine.
The end of the year, and the decade, is fast approaching. Big question, but what are your ambitions for the 2020s?
We would love to carry on varying the artists whom we bring from the Arab speaking world and focus on the spectacular and lesser exposed genres coming from North Africa. We are keen on bringing back our legendary hip-hop night to the British capital, in addition to developing more electronic nights in line with the latest musical trends amongst musicians and audiences alike.
In the next decade though, we’d love to further solidify and deepen the relationship between the Arab community in the UK and the British public. As part of the thriving culture that is circulating in Britain, we would love to make the sounds that we bring into Britain part of the music culture in general and culture in particular given the long history between the Arab speaking world and Great Britain.
It’s safe to say that the UK-Arab cultural scene is thriving… who are your ones to watch for next year?
In line with our focus on North Africa, we will start the year with a bang, bringing Egypt’s Sharmoofers to London with their eclectic and cross-genre music to shake the dancefloor. In terms of great music from the Arabic speaking world there’s so much amazing music coming out. From Bahraini quartet Majaz to Algeria’s powerful Samira Brahmia, or currently really popular Palestinian trap artists BLTNM.
We are very excited to focus on women and can not wait to welcome Palestinian composer and legend Kamilya Jubran in March whom we’ll also be taking on a UK tour. But we won’t reveal anymore, so watch our website and sign up to our newsletter to unveil musical surprises.
If you had to sum up your 2019 in one song, what would it be?
To fit one year in a song is condensing 365 days in 3 minutes! Ghoula’s set from our Rich Mix gig sums it up quite well, both acoustically and visually in the colourful journey we’ve had: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJw-xvxmZpg
Find out more about Marsm and their upcoming events on their website, and you can also check out this Award for Culture interview we conducted with founder and director Khaled Ziada and production manager Federica Schliessler.