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 that is akin to one of his biggest influences, Bob Dylan, as well as all the serenity of Neil Young.

Oak’s newest music video, “Bloody Mary”, was released this weekend. Check it out below.



Seif opened for The Wanton Bishops yesterday, December 23, at Solea V. He performed some tracks from his album, “On The Borderline (Between the Heart and Mind)”, along with some from his soon-to-be released album, “Trade Your Horse For a Camel.”

Knowing that The Wanton Bishop audience differed from his, Seif was unsure of what to expect. “Music makes me dream,” he said. “It takes me someplace else. I want other people to feel the same when I play my songs.”

Despite his excitement, Seif admitted his nerves for the concert. “It’s funny because the more you care, the more nervous you are,” he joked. “And the less you care, the less nervous you are. And it should be the opposite way around.”

That being said, Oak's opening act was phenomenal. Riding solo on stage, his entire half-hour act consisted of him, his guitar, and a badass harmonica holder. With the rhythmic tapping of his foot and enough charm to captivate any indie lover, Oak had no trouble appeasing the audience.

"There Must Be a Reason (Your Lover Tonight)" was perhaps Oak's biggest hit of the night, as the entire audience chimed in with the cheerful chorus. The song concluded with Oak approvingly calling the audience "a happy one" as peals of thrilled laughter erupted from the crowd. His last song was performed alongside his long-term gig partner and keyboardist, Bernard Najm, who helped Oak end his gig with a bang.

Seif's down to earth vibe along with his ability to draw in the audience interactively made his lone act one to remember. “I still believe that music at the end of the day is about people playing music to people," he said. "And that’s the best.”

Needless to say, Oak did his job of exciting the audience for the following (and very different) act of The Wanton Bishops.

Seif has had a passion for music since his childhood and has performed in Beirut, Paris, Sydney and Wellington, New Zealand. Beiruti born himself, Oak has brought his tunes back to his hometown only recently. 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 Filipino 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.”

I have a feeling this isn't the last we'll be seeing of Oak, and I'm sure I'm not alone in my excitement for his next gig where we'll be clapping and singing along to his next big hit.

Oak’s album can be downloaded here.

Oak Wows at Opening of The Wanton Bishops
 

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Oak - History Has Found Me #NowPlaying on Apr 5, 2013
 

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