Lebanon's music scene is one that's constantly becoming denser and richer, with some great sounds rising to the forefront. There’s a group of established artists like Mashrou’ Leila, The Wanton Bishops, Who Killed Bruce Lee, Scrambled Eggs, and Postcards, but let's talk about the guys on the periphery who are also making waves. Not to be cliched (a phrase which means you are about to be a cliche,) but a country as simultaneously schizophrenic and vibrant as Lebanon is bound to have a music scene worth talking about.

Anthony Semaan, one of the three founders of Beirut Jam Sessions (BJS) gave a little insight on the industry. “The fact that Lebanon is so small means it's relatively easy to be popular in Beirut,” says Semaan. “But it's what happens next that's the challenge.”

It is teams like BJS that navigate through Lebanon’s music industry and also look for international players who are interested in performing in Beirut. Thanks to various social media platforms, local band recognition is propelled to new heights, with more exposure than previously possible. “Our bands in Beirut are just as good, and some even better, than their European counterparts,” says Semaan.

So here is a selection of Beirut bands chosen by yours truly. They are in no particular order and cannot begin to cover the whole music scene, but I think they constitute a good range of sounds.

1. Karim Khneisser
There are artists that play so naturally you’d think they were born holding an instrument. Khneisser is one of those people, using a host of exotic instruments to creating magical sounding world music.

How he started: He’s played guitar since the age of 10, growing to love world music.He studied audiovisual and sound engineering, coming back to Lebanon to starthis own business in sound design and musical composition for visual media.

Musical Inspiration: Some of his favourites include Stephan Micus, Dream Theater, The Books, and Porcupine Tree.

Favorite song/set to perform: The song Walahi, which he performed with Joss Stone for Beirut Jam Sessions.

On the local music scene: Khneisser sees it as diversified. “It’s starting to take good shape…I’m curious to see how it will look in ten years.”


2. Loopstache
These guys bring the energy, fusing funk, jazz, and something that is difficult to put your finger on, which results in performances revved up with lots of power and fun.

How they started: They started by doing covers on YouTube. “Our band was created in 2013,” they say, “when a lot of the cool cats in the scene started to grow.”

The meaning behind the name: “Our music was based on loops, so after a lot of stupid names (like the Moustache Brothers) that we scratched, Loop and Stache finally came together.”

Musical inspiration: Swing jazz and the blues — The Beatles to Frank Sinatra and everything in between. They also like contemporary bands like Pomplamoose, We Were Evergreen, and Alt-J.

Favorite sets/songs to perform: Besides covers, they like playing around with their originals like Bitch Please and Miss Daniels, both on their album released last year.


3. Karim Douaidy
This artist has been playing guitar for two decades, performing acoustic sets with a loop pedal for some experimental and unique sounds.

How he started: He started out in a quite different field — as a medical researcher — before switching career paths. He went back to school in New York to fulfill his dream of working with music, and now works as a composer and music producer for film and TV.

Musical inspiration: Growing up, he was most inspired by rock music, listening to progressive rock and then jazz. He also finds himself inspired by traditional and folk music from around the world.

Favorite song/set to perform: “I love throwing a good rock show, with really dirty heavy riffs,” he says. Lately, he’s experimental, layering sounds with loop pedals on-the-fly. “It's great because the audience gets to witness how the song is put together, piece by piece.”

On the local music scene: He’s impressed by how quickly the underground and independent scene has developed. “I, however, encourage young musicians to explore different genres,” he says, “and not give in to mainstream, pre-packaged, ready to consume music.”


4. Chyno
You’ll know him from Fareed El Atrash, the local hip-hop group. He can be found rapping in English and Arabic with a mix of styles and collaborators.

How he started: “My first show was when I was 16 back in Damascus. Hip Hop was and is my thing. I embrace and live it.”

The meaning behind the name: “It's self-explanatory. It's a nick name given to me since I was 14 by a friend of mine in Damascus and now I'm stuck with it.”

Musical inspiration: He likes to play with techniques he has heard before, adding his own unique style. “I try to incorporate what I've experienced in a narrative for the lyrics according to the music produced by what I'm feeling at that moment.”

Favorite set/song to perform: His last performance for the release of his album ‘Making Music to Feel at Home’ had contributors and friends performing on the B018 stage with him, creating “a beautiful experience.”

On the local music scene: “It's on the up and up,” he says. Chyno thanks organizations like AK, Redbull, and Beirut Jam Sessions for pushing the local music scene. “They believe in the scene and we need more of that, faith in our local talent,” he says.


5. Ostura
One of the more exciting contributions to the Lebanese music scene, Ostura fuses opera and metal effortlessly with superb composition.

How they started: “Our first album started out as a collaborative project between me and fourteen other musicians,” says Danny Bou-Maroun, the main composer and keyboardist. The three singers and I stuck together and recruited new members to go live.”

The meaning behind the name: Ostura means “legend” in Arabic. OST also commonly refers to “official soundtrack,” one of the main themes of their music.

Musical inspiration: Soundtracks. And it shows. Their sound has a cinematic feel, rising and dipping in all the right places.

On the local music scene: Although Bou-Maroun says it’s supportive, there is a smaller audience for metal fans — their main fan base is in Brazil.


6. Generation Zee
There’s no better way to see this band than live, as they travel from pep to grit and anything in between.

How they started out: Ziad 'Zee' Saliba first started out as a solo act in Los Angeles. When he returned to Lebanon, Generation gradually formed with childhood friend and bassist Mark Safiti, guitarist Gaby Dib, and drummer Naji Safiti, creating “a marriage of funk and rock.”

Musical inspiration: The guys are all inspired by different genres, from jazz (Gaby) to funk and electro (Naji) to blues (Mark) and poppy melodies with intricate lyrics (Ziad.) “Opposites attract so it’s a constantly evolving sound,” says Ziad.

Favorite song/set to perform: Their favorite original is ‘Child’ off the upcoming EP and their favorite cover is ‘Can't Stop’ by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

On the local music scene: “The local music scene in Lebanon is absolutely manic, and I mean that in the best possible way,” says Ziad. “It's got a hell of a pulse…it’s fueled by our desire to be liberated of every stigma and taboo that a small conservative country can impose.”


7. Banana Elephant
The band with the odd name has an easy, cohesive quality to their music and a sense of humour to boot.

How they started: A few of them signed up for Fete De La Musique, and the rest was history. “We had no direction or plans for the future, but it was a lot of fun playing in living rooms, bedrooms, and I think there might’ve been a parking lot.”

The meaning behind the name: Each band member decided to think of the first song that came to mind. This gave birth to ‘Why Worry Banana Elephant,’“which sounded awesome at the time, but had to be shortened for obvious reasons.”

Musical inspiration: They all have different tastes and backgrounds, but are inspired by dream-pop and guitar rifts, with a mutual love for post- and indie rock.

Favorite song/set to perform: Their songs don’t have names, but there’s one that brings energy on stage. “If you’ve ever seen us perform, that would be the song where our current bassist jumps like a maniac.”

On the local music scene: They’re inspired by the great bands arising from a small music scene, crediting this success to platforms like Beirut Jam Sessions, Beirut Open Stage, and Jim Beam.


8. Safar
This band has an ethereal sound, paying homage to Beirut and story-telling through their music.

How they started: They performed covers years ago, but became Safar after winning Beirut Open Stage in 2013. They then won a music video which became their first single.

The meaning behind the name: Inspiration came from Salon Safar, a barber shop on Bliss Street. Safar, meaning “travel” in Arabic, was fitting. “We see music as an opportunity to escape and discover ourselves, outside of the usual context, the same way travel does.”

Musical inspiration: Honesty is an important theme.“When you spill out your deepest fears and desires in a song, there’s something beautiful about the universality of it.”

Favorite song/set to perform: “Seeing the audience interact with an original song must be the best feeling for a musician.” They are currently performing with Fadi Tabbal, who produced their first EP “23 kilograms” at Tunefork Studios.

On the local music scene: The band recognizes established artists like Soap Kills, Scrambled Eggs, The Incompetents, and Lumi. “The new generation respects these artists and understands their importance in paving the way.”


9. Ingrid Naccour
This singer’s deep, raspy voice is a throwback to an older generation, doing the covers she performs justice.

How she started out: She started singing at about 12, going on to win the Hard Rock Cafe singing contest. She previously studied opera and is completing a certificate as a vocal styles specialist from Berklee College of Music.

Her musical inspiration: “It really depends on my mood,” says Naccour, who sings in many styles ranging from opera to rock.

Favorite set/song to perform: She likes covering classics like Queen’s“Show Must Go On”and Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason.”

On the local music scene: She recognizes the difficulty in breaking into the Lebanese music industry with “too many talents and super minimal opportunities.”



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