Acclaimed Australian-Lebanese folk musician Dave Debs performed live at Radio Beirut on Sunday night in one of the best original music gigs Beirut.com has seen in town for some time.

Creative, original, highly likable and approachable, Dave’s songs cover a range of genres, touching on blues, folk, country, and rock’n’roll. The harp-wailing musician delivered a captivating show to an enthralled audience with his repertoire of original songs peppered with covers by the likes of Hank Williams and Jimmy Reed. He finished off his set with an encore request of Bob Dylan’s memorable track, "Maggie’s Farm."

Beirut.com later caught up with the singer-songwriter to find out more about the man behind the harmonica.



Beirut.com: I understand that you are Lebanese-Australian. Have you been to Lebanon before?
Debs: I am Australian born and bred. My blood is 100% Lebanese. My father's family migrated to Australia from Raskifa in 1938 when my Dad was around nine years of age. My mother's family (Gaha) came from Bechmezzine in 1949 when mum was around 11-years-old. This is my first visit to Lebanon, an ancestral pilgrimage I've always known I'd make since I can remember.

Beirut.com: Your music seems to draw inspiration from a broad swathe of original songwriters. What are some of the more influential musicians or artists of your career?
Debs: I've certainly been influenced by many artists. Hard to single out one, but if I must, Bob Dylan comes first to mind. His poetry, allegory, observations into the human experience/condition and unrestricted musical styles - he has it all. I've been very influenced by writers more than anything else; those who interpret life on earth as mere humans, like Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson, etc. I have great love for wonderful writers of the 1930's-40's, Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter. I also love Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin! I could go on, and on...

Beirut.com: There is a great deal of positive energy and perhaps even hopefulness about your lyrics, a feeling of optimism about renewal and maybe even redemption. Are there specific reasons for why you draw on these elements as opposed to say the blues, as in, looking forward rather dwelling on the past?
Debs: I try not to dissect or think too much about what I do or how I do it. I'm very random about when, how, and what I write about, and try to remain instinctive. I'm a positive person. If that comes through in my songs, then perhaps I'm on the right track. If it's not broken, don't fix it!

Beirut.com: There is a good deal of humor in your lyrics (The line, 'your eyes are bent like elbows' made me laugh out loud). If we asked your family and friends, would they say you're a funny man, or does that just come out though your on-stage persona?
Debs: I don't think I'm 'the funny man in the room', but there's always a vibrant sense of humor abounding from the people I like to call friends. A sense of humor is an essential survival tool in a world that's really quite tragic, where humanity is really not as long out of the caves as we'd like to think. Having said that, beauty is everywhere, and humor is beauty. I try not to take things too seriously. As my late father Dr. Maurice Debs would say, "Never try to swallow anything bigger than your own head!"

Beirut.com: Do you have any family here in Lebanon? Are you married? Any children?
Debs: I married the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I am blessed with three sons and a daughter. The greatest thing in life. Jimmy, 25 a business graduate, currently in England working and travelling. Sophie, 23, studyies Medicine at University of Sydney. Daniel, 20, is studying Hospitality and cars! May one day turn out to be ''The Stig'! Alex, 18, studies Media and Communications at the University of Wollongong. I have a lot of family in Lebanon, very close, deep family ties.

Beirut.com: Did you have a Lebanese upbringing or an Australian one?
Debs: I had a lot of Lebanese culture in my upbringing, and I'm grateful for that, particularly the food! While I unfortunately am not fluent in the Lebanese language, I can understand just enough to survive. I certainly know when I'm being sworn at in Arabic, and how to swear back twice as hard, so I'm ok!

Beirut.com: Do you draw any inspiration from aborigines in your exploration of folk music?
Debs: I confess not to have had any great degree of early influence from our indigenous people, the real Australians, however I have used didgeridoo on one of my albums, and have recently discovered a wonderful, vibrant music culture mainly in Australia's north, driven by our indigenous brothers mixing irresistible elements of reggae, soul and traditional Aboriginal music. It's fantastic, and the real Australian folk music in evolution. I think they are leading the way in Australian music.

Beirut.com: How/when did you start playing and writing music? What instrument did you start with? How did you settle on your current selection of guitar and harmonica?
Debs: Harmonica was my first instrument, my hero being Sonny Terry. Guitar followed, I never really felt compelled to go beyond that. It works for me.

Beirut.com: What's your favorite fruit?
Debs: Cherries. Most of my childhood was spent in a town about 300 km inland from Sydney called Young. Cherry capital of Australia. If you grow up in Young and don't like cherries, it's like being an Australian musician and not liking travelling- You just aint gonna make it, baby!


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