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Bedouin release their long-awaited debut album, 'Temple of Dreams'

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Rami Abousabe and Tamer Malki are the musical duo Bedouin. For more than a decade, the two of them have been making music together. And now they are out with their first album, called "Temple Of Dreams."

(SOUNDBITE OF BEDOUIN SONG, "TIJUANA")

CHANG: That is the song "Tijuana" off their latest project. Tamer says the group's name is a nod to the nomadic tribes of the Middle East.

TAMER MALKI: I'm from Jordan. I'm from Amman, Jordan. I was born there. And Rami is from Egypt. He was born in the U.S. But that's where he's originally from. And the desert or the land between the two countries is where the Bedouins actually live. And in a way, what we do - traveling, grouping around a fire and playing hypnotic, repetitive music - so we felt that kind of was a perfect name that could describe what we're about to do.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TIJUANA")

BEDOUIN: (Singing) The land of broken dreams.

CHANG: He says their current sound is very much shaped by Middle Eastern music. But it wasn't always that way.

MALKI: Maybe because we grew up around it, it wasn't something that we were very interested in. But for me, for example, I couldn't escape it. And it wasn't a choice to listen to it. So I kind of started appreciating it a little bit later. You don't feel any interest or connection to it until you step away from it and you start appreciating the differences or certain elements about it or certain aspects of it. And that's, I think, what happened with us - is that after a certain point musically, we started realizing how we can incorporate everything we listened to growing up and bring it in our own way to the dance floor.

CHANG: And that evolution, that changing relationship or reconnection with Middle Eastern music that you experienced as you got some distance from it - is that an evolution that we can hear in your music over the years?

RAMI ABOUSABE: This is Rami. I mean, I would say so, yeah. You can clearly hear the evolution in our music to the point where you might not hear any Middle Eastern influence so much in the more recent songs. But I think what we learned from Middle Eastern music or from these ancient instruments with quarter tones and so on and so forth - there's a lot that still carries through technically, but maybe stylistically, you wouldn't really, you know, attribute it to being Middle Eastern.

CHANG: Interesting. Well, can we talk about the most recent music? Like, I want to get into this new album, "Temple Of Dreams."

(SOUNDBITE OF BEDOUIN SONG, "CRAZY (FEAT. IVETA MUKUCHYAN)")

CHANG: It's your first album since you've been performing together since - what? - 2012, right?

MALKI: Yeah, 2013, 2012 - something like that.

ABOUSABE: Yes.

CHANG: And can I just ask, like, why do you think you both waited - what? - almost a dozen years to make an album together?

MALKI: This is Tamer. So it's not like we waited. To be honest with you, we always thought that if we're going to make an album, it's not going to be, like, an album that we want to just go under the radar, never detected and just - OK, we did an album, you know? We wanted to really do something significant. So that's why we really took our time. And whenever we wrote a song or made a song that we felt, this could be for the album, we actually just kept it on the side. And we decided that, you know, whenever we're ready or we feel...

CHANG: Right.

MALKI: ...Like it's the moment to put out an album, we're going to do it.

CHANG: Oh, cool, like saving money under a mattress or something - just piling it up a little.

(LAUGHTER)

MALKI: Yes, kind of.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CRAZY (FEAT. IVETA MUKUCHYAN)")

IVETA MUKUCHYAN: (Singing) Sometimes...

CHANG: Well, as you were suggesting a little earlier, I mean, the music on this album - it's pretty - it's different from your other music in the sense that it's not solely dance music, right? Like, why did you want to go for a different sound on this project in particular?

ABOUSABE: As musicians, we express ourselves, you know, in many different ways. So not every day when you express yourself as a musician does that expression end up being something that works for a party or a dance floor or that we can use in our DJ set. But those expressions can often be very powerful or still very important to you. And those are the expressions that end up on the album. It's the best way I can describe it. It's a very honest musical expression. But after we had created these specific songs, we'd, like Tamer said, put them on the shelf, waiting for that day when we have enough for a full album and they would, you know, support each other, the songs, as an album.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEDOUIN SONG, "WASH AWAY")

CHANG: I would love for you to tell me the story of one particular song on this album where you were writing it, you were making it, and then you were like, oh, but we can't use it right now.

ABOUSABE: (Laughter).

CHANG: We have to put it on that shelf and wait for the album. Is there one song that you were so pent up to release...

ABOUSABE: Yep.

CHANG: ...Into the universe and you had to wait?

ABOUSABE: (Laughter).

CHANG: And which one was it?

MALKI: It's an easy one. It's "Wash Away."

ABOUSABE: Yeah.

MALKI: "Wash Away" was the first song that we wrote. And we were like, OK, this has to be part of an album if we ever release it.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEDOUIN SONG, "WASH AWAY")

MALKI: And that kind of somewhat set the tone for the album in a way, I believe. And also, that set the tone for the whole idea that we would like this album to be more of a listening experience rather than, you know, a bunch of club tracks that are seven minutes long each.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEDOUIN SONG, "WASH AWAY")

ABOUSABE: But what is it about that specific track? I think we hadn't understood what the song was before it was made. And, you know, this actually takes time, but after years of going back and listening to this song, you kind of realize, you know, how special it is, really. And this specific track does show our Middle Eastern influence as well as our Western influence. Maybe that's also why it kind of sums up who we are very well. Also, it was one of the first, so it's sort of your first baby, you know (laughter)?

CHANG: Yeah. Yeah.

ABOUSABE: It's your favorite kid (laughter), you know?

CHANG: I mean...

MALKI: (Laughter).

CHANG: You're kind of setting up...

ABOUSABE: You know?

CHANG: ...My next thought, my next question beautifully. Does it feel like the stakes are higher when you're releasing an album compared to all the other music you've made in the past? - because, I mean, you're using words like my baby, you know? Like...

MALKI: Yeah.

ABOUSABE: (Laughter).

CHANG: Is it - does it feel kind of vulnerable to be releasing this out into the world right now?

ABOUSABE: Oh, yeah.

MALKI: To some level, it is like that, you know? It's like, you work so hard on something, and it becomes very special to you. And then you're about to put it out to the world, and you have no idea or no clue how, you know, people are going to react to it or - how is it going to feel...

CHANG: Yeah.

MALKI: ...Out there with people? And it's - I guess that's kind of, like, a beautiful risk that's part of this art process in a way.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE AND HATE")

BEDOUIN: (Singing) Love and hate, faith and fear, heaven and hell.

CHANG: Tamar Malki and Rami Abousabe of the musical duo Bedouin. Their new album is called "Temple Of Dreams." Thank you both so much. I really enjoyed this.

ABOUSABE: Thank you. We enjoyed as well.

MALKI: Thank you very much for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEDOUIN SONG, "LOVE AND HATE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Linah Mohammad
Prior to joining NPR in 2022, Mohammad was a producer on The Washington Post's daily flagship podcast Post Reports, where her work was recognized by multiple awards. She was honored with a Peabody award for her work on an episode on the life of George Floyd.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.