On Friday 24 October at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Arab British Centre and Nour Festival presented the UK première of ‘Aswaat in Lebanon’, a self-produced, semi-experimental film by Aymeric Cattenoz. The film explores the alternative music scene in Lebanon through thoughtful interviews with musicians, intimate home concerts, and spontaneous music played in the streets of Beirut. The musicians speak candidly about their musical choices and influences, and about how the alternative music scene in Beirut has developed and changed in recent years. The film is visually stunning, showcasing Cattenoz’s background as a photographer; interviews are interspersed with songs playing to the backdrop of textural, photographic shots of the city. ‘Aswaat in Lebanon’ is the first edition of Cattenoz’s ‘Aswaat’ project on alternative Middle Eastern music. The series aims to continue in Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Syria.
Director Aymeric Cattenoz has put together a mixtape of songs featured in the film for the Nour Festival blog – click on the link below to listen, and read on for more about the artists.
“Asmahan” by Aziza
Aziza is a ‘TaraPop’ singer-songwriter, and released her first album, “Aziza”, in 2014. This song is a cover and tribute to Asmahan, the great Syrian singer. More Aziza.
“Ma Endi Fekra” by Adonis
Adonis is a 5-member Lebanese pop rock band, formed in 2010. They started on internet, became famous for their pop songs sung in Arabic, and have performed in the top venues in Lebanon and across the Middle East. “Ma Endi Fekra” is the last song of their debut album, “Daw L Baladiyyi”, which was released in 2011. In 11 eclectic songs, the album tells the stories, adventures and loves of a young romantic, through particular places and objects in Beirut. Their second album, “Men Shou Bteshki Beirut”, was released in 2013, and has topped CD sales in Lebanon. More Adonis.
“Summertime Thang” by Cosmic Analog Ensemble
Cosmic Analog Ensemble is the alias of Charif Mergabane. This song is from Kachumbari, one of his many albums that stand out for their jazzy, groovy songs. Charif Megarbane is also known as “Monumental Details”, which is featured in “Crumbs” in Aswaat in Lebanon’s soundtrack. More Cosmic Analog Ensemble.
“Get It On” by Sae Lis’
This song is from “The Quest,” Sae Lis’ first album, a collection of English and French jazz. Sae Lis’ mixes Western, Eastern and African influences. She won a silver medal in music in the Francophone Games in 2013, and is currently working on her next album. More Sae Lis’.
“Everywhere You Go” by Oak
“Everywhere You Go” is a pop song from Oak’s album “On the Borderline“, which was released in Sydney. Oak, a.k.a Allen Seif, describes himself as a sonic-monk or a travelling troubadour. He travelled throughout the 90s, performing solo or with other musicians in Beirut, Paris, Sydney and Wellington. His music is rooted in British pop-rock influences, with folky tunes that speak of identity, love and beauty. More Oak.
“Oh These Places We Will Go” by Postcards
Postcards is a young Beiruti folk band. They released their first EP, “Lakehouse” in 2013. More Postcards.
“Endless Trail” by Maya Aghniadis
“Endless Trail” is a rock song, the title track from Maya’s first album, a collection of deep and beautiful songs sung in English. Maya is currently working on a electro project. More Maya Aghniadis.
If you’re looking for a chance to hear more Lebanese alternative music, don’t miss ETYEN in performance at the Flyover Portobello at 9pm on Friday 21 November. Beirut-based musician and producer ETYEN makes ambient indie electronic music blending vocals and instruments with electronic beats and melodies, making a link between his cultural heritage and a representation of contemporary music practices and progress. His tracks blend layers of warm melodic flurries and hazy vocals with electrifying beats, which at times morph into peaceful ambience that elevates the spirit into a serene state of being.
More information on the Nour Festival website.
Aymeric Cattenoz was born in Paris, where he studied at the Institute of Political Sciences before focusing on photography and filmmaking. Aymeric is interested in intercultural dialogue between Western countries and the Arab world, and intends that his projects promote mutual understanding. Follow his work here.
Elisabeth Jaquette is a writer, researcher and translator. Her translations from the Arabic have been published in The Book of Gaza (Comma Press 2014), Banipal Magazine and Words Without Borders. She is currently translating The Queue, a novel by Egyptian author Basma Abdel Aziz, which received a 2014 PEN Translates Award and will be published by Melville House. Follow her on twitter at @lissiejaquette.