The Artists Building A “Free Middle Eastern Music” In Beirut

These are the important players in Beirut's improvised music scene according to the head of Lebanese label Annihaya and 15-year-old experimental festival Irtijal, Sharif Sehnaoui.
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Back in 2000, Mazen Kerbaj and I created a festival called Irtijal, which means improvisation in Arabic, and held our first edition in 2001. We quickly came to call it an “experimental music festival” in an attempt to encompass the wide range of musical styles we were featuring, but also to distinguish ourselves from other festivals by promoting the spirit of innovation in music and arts in general. About 16 years later, the city has become a brilliant example of how arts can spread beyond and in spite of the general decadence of the country’s socio-political construct. There are no dedicated places for the kinds of music that we love and support, but that is not a bad thing in itself. On the contrary, the city has incorporated experimental music in such a way that it could almost be found anywhere, or at least in a lot of different kinds of places, sometimes most unexpected. I have been listening to this town’s sound and music for some time now, and these are some of the places, institutions and people who contribute to making it so unique.

Find complete details for Sharif Sehnaoui’s appearance at CTM here and check out city guides of Belgrade, Düsseldorf and more. Cover photo of Sehnaoui by Tony Elieh.

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