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‘What?’ is Shkoon. Electronic duo cross culture boundaries

TALA LADKI celebrates the unique electronic beats of German-Syrian duo Shkoon

In 2015, Ameen Khayer fled Syria to Germany after facing issues with the Syrian government. He had been imprisoned for some time before making his way to Turkey where he planned to continue his education.

When that plan didn’t go through, Ameen decided to flee once again, this time to Europe. After a lot of hardship, he made it to Germany, where he met Thorben Weikmann. The two became flat-mates and, soon after, realized their common interests. An impromptu jamming session on one random day highlighted their musical compatibility, and so, Shkoon was born.

Shkoon is a German-Syrian electronic duo, fusing traditional Syrian folklore with underground techno music. The duo aims to celebrate their different backgrounds by highlighting their cultural diversity in their music which, as they’ve described it, has no boundaries.

The pair kicked off with just their friends listening to their music and soon after began gaining recognition with their first EP, Letters, when they played at an international festival in Hamburg. Usually, they play with Ameen on vocals and percussion and Thorben Beeken on synth and electronics, but their music is constantly evolving.

Shkoon is ‘what?’!

In several articles, Thorben has mentioned that Shkoon is the first word Ameen had taught him when they first met. The word means “What?” in colloquial Syrian dialect.

At first, the two would mix Arabic folklore music with Thorben’s electronic beats. But because they didn’t want to get stuck in mixing covers, and after realizing the endless possibilities of their capabilities, the duo began experimenting with their own original music, influenced by electronic downbeat, deep house, dub and hip-hop.

Their follow up EP, Build Your Castles, features a song with the same name by an Egyptian poet, and which is a symbol of resilience and revolution, sung during many Arab uprisings.

In 2022, they released the album Firaq (translating to “Separation”) and in 2023 they released another one - Masrahiya (translating to “A Play”). During their live concerts, the duo rarely rely on the same set up and often improvise. Both albums are alike, in that they stay true to Shkoon’s tunes, yet very different in that Firaq is gentler, while Masrahiya is very much in touch with everything happening around us. Both are definitely worth the listen if you want to bring some beat to your night. Their concerts are continuously sold-out, with people queuing hours before the start, waiting for the melancholic, sweet tunes to move them.

Shkoon recommendations

If you’re new to Shkoon’s music, I would recommend starting with one of their earlier albums such as Rima. That album features strong mixes of popular folklore Arabic songs and features a song with Palestinian-Jordanian songwriter, rapper and drummer El Far3i. This kind of music might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s worth checking the unique mixture of Oriental and Western sounds and lyrics the two create if you do prefer underground music.

Written by Tala Ladki

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