Good indie music is hard to find. Even more so in Beirut, where the music scene seems to be exclusive to bubble-gum Arabic pop, or the headache inducing Billboard top 100 hits that are too overplayed to properly enjoy. So when you stumble across an artist like Allen Seif, you sigh in relief and thank god for saving you the pain of the constant Rihanna and Pitbull replays.

Seif, who goes by Oak in the music world, has brought back the “aww” to Beirut music. His hit single, “There Must Be a Reason (Your Lover Tonight)”, has the rhythmic strumming akin to one of his biggest influences, Bob Dylan, and all the serenity of Neil Young.

Oak has been playing music since his childhood, and has performed in Beirut, Paris, Sydney and Wellington, New Zealand. A born-Beiruti himself, he’s glad to be making music back in his hometown. Arriving just in time to see the rise of the once underground indie scene in Beirut, Seif has noticed the subtle changes in the music trends.

“It seems like there’s something emerging in Beirut,” he said. “And I want to surf on that wave.”

Though Seif comes from what he describes as a “not wealthy, working class family,” it’s indisputable that his fame stems solely from hard work and raw talent. He criticizes the massive gap between classes in Beirut.

“Poor people are busy making money,” he said. “They don’t have access to art and intellect if they’re not above a certain level financially, and that’s a shame.”

In an effort to bridge the gap and in collaboration with Beirut Jam Sessions, Seif’s “There Must Be a Reason” video takes place in Little Manila, a Philippine market off Hamra street. The video features many of the Phillipino workers on Sunday, their day off, and Seif relished the opportunity to entertain some of his favorite people in Beirut.

“It was really improvised, but they seemed to like it,” Seif said. “We’re in a very racist country here… Me being there, singing to these people. I loved it.”

Oak Charms Indie Lovers in Beirut
 

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