Tel Aviv's Soulico inject new life into party-jam DJing by staying true to their Middle Eastern heritage. The four-man crew mix up international favorites with regional fare, layering hiphop and Hebrew, American pop and Israeli folk. Your brain might not understand the words, but your ass definitely knows how to respond.
Formed in 2000 in the wake of a party thrown by the four eventual members, Soulico claim to be the first Middle Eastern DJs to master production, turntablism, and the elusive art of party rocking. That's a bold statement, but with sold-out appearances throughout Israel and a recent spate of successful stateside dates, the Soulico crew are taking Israeli flavor international.
Judging by my e-mail exchange with Soulico's Eyal Rob, one of the most obvious traits of the group is their love for the music and the party. From a region where escapism is a necessity, Soulico are contributing to dance floors worldwide, collaborating with Palestinian MCs ("Arabic is one of the illest languages in hiphop," Rob says) and looking everywhere for further inspiration. "We're trying to stay away from the politics, which is hard in a place where taking a breath is considered political," Rob explains. "Hiphop is of course political, but we're trying to enjoy our life and have a fun and quality music dialogue first."
That dialogue is immediately evident in the group's output. Their latest Blend De Luxe mix is an accessible series of funk, reggae, and hiphop blends, a love letter to Soulico's North American influences. Even more interesting is their earlier Made in Tel Aviv mixtape, which can rightfully be called hot shit, with plenty of Middle Eastern instrumentation and regional hiphop in the globe-spanning mix. It's both fresh and familiar, hinting at Gorillaz and M.I.A. and not sounding like either, revealing how Soulico get down in their hometown.
"Tel Aviv is more open-minded than most places," Rob says of his home. "People there are much more into pure fun rather than 'Show me something that I haven't heard yet' or 'Play me something I've heard a million times.' Plus, if you wanna keep on partying at 6:00 a.m., it's the place to be."
Made in Tel Aviv captures what Soulico aspire to do in their own productions. The crew are readying their debut full-length for a late-spring/early-summer release on JDub Records, sure to follow in the vein of the tracks on their MySpace page, which unapologetically reveal the group's heritage. "We're taking our time so that we can really dig deep into our Mediterranean and Israeli roots for a unique and cohesive sound on the whole album," Rob says, "and we want to make sure each track is a great song."
In the meantime, Soulico plan to continue touring, sharing what they've already absorbed and reaching out for collaborations wherever they travel. "We've all been listening to American records for almost 20 years, so there are too many inspirations to list," Rob says, "but when you hear a blend of the Clash or the B-52's mixed with a tarbouka drum track and a hiphop beat during our set at Nectar Lounge, don't be surprised."
Soulico play Nectar (412 N 36th St, 632-2020) Sun Oct 14, 9 pm–2 am, $7 adv, 21+. With Scientific American, DJ Leftovers.