Rainbow Arabia

Photography by Brigitte Sire

Rainbow Arabia are like a pair of musical chemists in this new world. Mix one beaker full of English post-punk, add one vial of traditional Middle Eastern folk, throw in some ‘90s American optimism; then set the resulting concoction to a dance beat.

Danny Preston, who started the project with his wife, Tiffany Preston, explains: “There has always been an interest in eastern sounds, but it was the Sublime Frequencies compilations that really inspired us, especially Omar Souleyman.” Other influences include The Clash, Joy Division, and OMD.

Rainbow Arabia effortlessly splice sounds of the Middle East with Western dance and rock; however, they are uninterested in restrictive genre tags and formal definitions, preferring instead to venture into new and uncharted territory.

It is highly unlikely that the band is aiming to gentrify exotic sounds to court the current indie-dance crowd, since their music is much more eccentric and complex than the latest output coming from that scene. Danny outright denies the connection to their local roots—Echo Park, California. “We can’t really say that LA or California had a lot to do with the song-writing. Our songs don’t reference them at all,” he says.

Rainbow Arabia’s story plays heavily upon the strings of serendipity. “There is a lot of music from around the world that excited us, and we were searching for a way to make sounds from it. It wasn’t until we ordered an Arabic Casio from a Lebanese website that Rainbow Arabia was formed,” he says.

With the right instrument in tow, and with an abundance of influences and good ideas to guide them, the duo set out to make music that was above all, as he puts it now, “definitely aiming to be more upbeat, positive, and fun.” How they defined themselves after the fact was less important than the results of their labors: a set of songs that bubble and burst with the effervescent possibility of something new and exciting.

Rainbow Arabia has condensed the better parts of your summer playlist into a small, but precious collection of seven inches and EPs, including Kabukimono, a firecracker of a record set to drop at the end of July. Tiffany Preston’s jubilant voice rallies for us to chill out, have fun, and dance the night away over semi-sensical verses; while brittle drum machine beats, synthesized melodies, and soaring electric guitar lines fill the space behind her.

“We are not stuck on doing anything in a particular way, we are constantly taking new approaches to recording and writing,” Danny says. This free-for-all attitude works in their favor, and their music, bound by nothing, freely explores the possibility of a culture still yet undiscovered.

As for their future, he ventures a guess as to what that might entail. “We will probably make a couple more videos, hopefully on location in Africa, but we’ll see. We are going back to Europe in the Fall; this time in Scandinavia, Germany and Eastern Europe. It’s hard to look further beyond that, but constantly making fresh music will always be on the horizon.”

These are fairly modest goals for a pair of minds squarely grounded in the smaller, tangible details. And while most try to parse the big picture, scratching their heads and wondering, “where are we going,” it seems that Rainbow Arabia realizes that future is already here.

– Charlie Rohrer