Biennale of Sydney

MzRizk

MzRizk, Ahla 2u Sahla, 2020. Courtesy the artist. Photograph: Zan Wimberley.

MzRizk

Born 1981 in Melbourne, Australia
Lives and works in Melbourne, occasionally interstate and internationally


MzRizk is a musicophile and sound artist, renowned for her ongoing contributions to Melbourne’s rich cultural and music landscape. Her many projects are a distinct blend of music knowledge, creative diversity and cultural and community engagement. As a Melbourne-based DJ, event curator and radio presenter, MzRizk brings together music-loving communities through radio, DJ slots, workshops, venue residencies, festivals, artist support and special events, while continuing to play a pivotal role in connecting music-loving folks across Australia and abroad.

Ahla 2u Sahla simply translates to ’welcome’ in Arabic. We say it when people come into our home. As a second-generation Lebanese residing in Australia, the importance of hospitality and welcoming people into the home was a central familial and cultural value that greatly informed my early years; and the simple act of welcoming underpins my work as a creative.

The Lebanese Civil War ended in 1990, after the Taif Agreement was signed in 1989 in Saudi Arabia. I visited Lebanon for the first time in 1990. I attended an event in a Khayme (tent), during Ramadan, after breaking fast. We are not a Muslim family, however no one asked. As strangers we were welcomed to dance and eat. People smoked shisha until the early hours. I was 9 years old. This memory has been a constant inspiration for my practice – creating safe spaces for community to dance or perform in.

There were still bullet holes in the walls. Tens of thousands of people had been displaced but there was a vibrancy and sense of defiantly living life to the full. People were still eating, drinking, dancing and coming together despite life’s hardships, made possible by spaces that welcomed. I saw hospitality and pride despite the war, poverty and inconveniences of life. It was a celebration in the face of intense adversity. Even the Lebanese Revolution of 2019 – which is still continuing as I write this in 2020 – uses dance and music instead of violence for most of its protests. Instead of guns they set up a DJ booth in Tripoli. Art is an experience, it can also be respite from life’s daily struggles while reflecting the times – peaceful or political.

Inequality, lack of diverse voices, underrepresentation of women of colour, people of colour and LGBTQIA+ people in all parts of our society. Music is a language of the world; it knows no borders or boundaries and it is a way that people from all over can connect. Whenever I curate / produce events, soundscapes or perform live, I want these to offer respite for everyone who attends or listens – particularly marginalised communities.

Growing up in Australia, I have been reminded that Lebanese people are seen in the western world through the lens of violence, extremism and exotic otherness. But our food is delicious. Offering an alternative lens, the reality of who we are through music, dance or conversation is how I protest and support those that are considered ‘other’.

Exhibited at

PLAYLIST

For NIRIN, MzRizk created an immersive audio work highlighting the importance of music and sound in the construct of cultural identity. We asked this musicophile to create her ultimate playlist with no rules, no boundaries and no themes.

How does a music-obsessed sound artist create a small playlist theme-free?

With great difficulty!

Without limitations, I could go anywhere and take you the listener, everywhere ... Here is a collection of songs that have either frequently visited me throughout my life or songs I have discovered and loved in the past year. It is not a list of my favourite songs in order; they are all my favourite. Musically, it makes no sense. It will either have you dancing or listening intently. I promise that you will hear music that you possibly haven't heard before, and I hope you enjoy it.

“The Star of the Orient” by Umm Kulthum makes an appearance with a 41-minute track that you so worth a listen. There are so many changes within that song that you forget it is the one song. This is the holy grail of Arabic music.

Fairuz is one of most influential singers from the Arab world, so influential that Madonna sampled her and was sued – they settled out of court. This is not that song, but “Al Bostah” from the album Wahdon, a Lebanese dancefloor disco classic. This is where she began including modern musical arrangements produced by her son Ziad Rahbani, one of the most important producers in Arabic music.

We also have a cover of the Adalusian classic poem Lamma Bada Yatathana. This is one of my favourite versions; Fairuz has also covered this.

We have songs from the post-disco, mid-80s boogie era – definitely in my top three favourite genres – mostly produced by legends like Larry Levan the DJ from Paradise Garage the iconic NYC night club.

My favourite ladies also make an appearance: Diana, Etta, Chaka, Patrice, Evelyn, Erykah ... Queens queening.

Locals like Sampa The Great, Remi and Thando feature too. Their music packs a punch lyrically and musically, and we can't deny the brilliance of these artists. They are changing the musical landscape of this country and I am pleased to be witnessing this.

From hip hop to soul to Arabic classics to house: my playlist includes some of the most amazing songs ever made.