If you have been in Beirut for the past 30+ years you must have noticed, between those few steps you make before tripping on local hash or the sidewalk topography, a very specific sense of fragmented surreality that is not necessary - just a bit vital. It is addictive in the sense that you would follow the war forecasts from wherever you are, to slip in some overdose on Beirut - whenever "feasible". It has been a while since anyone challenged that 'a picture is worth a thousand words', and I am not here to break the silence, but there is definitely another angle to it.
When abrupted with scarcity, this city of augmented reality has found its way to flood. The underground is finding its nutrition on bits and pieces of mainstream fossils, creating – for itself – a much Beiruter Beirut. I was invited by some friends to a gig by Mashrou’ Leila (Leila’s Project), a new band in town, at a local café slash pub slash library in a hotel backwards-slash brothel. The venue was packed, I have been there before, but this time there was a different air to the place; people munching on traditional mezze around wooden tables and eclectic furniture, others sitting on the long bar on the side, and the majority, including me, standing sufficiently with a drink at hand. It was like the circus was in town and you had to be there. The band slipped through the vernacularly applauding crowd and situated themselves each in place. I forgot how this all started but I know these guys know how to stir things up. Eight songs, all written and composed by them and some improvised encores – all in Arabic – ranged from jazzy oriental play to slang ‘tarab’ fusion – genre-less I must insist. The band itself is a cocktail – a multi-polar roundup harvesting a violin, keyboards, drums, bassist, guitars ensemble topped with roaring vocals. Besides the interesting music, the lyrics give out an authentic vibe of living in Beirut. There is no Cinderella on her white horse, nor the cliché dream of a better tomorrow; there is the perverted romance with the security guard, and the trippy Banhart-ish verbal compilations. These guys are some of many alternative Beiruts, the ones you don’t see in pictures, the ones you smell at 4 a.m. walking home with a ‘man’oushe’ refusing a déjà vu of your yesterday, tomorrow.
wasn't that bad..eyy?