Beirut’s music scene boasts some successful names, like Mashrou’ Leila, The Wanton Bishops, and Who Killed Bruce Lee, to name a few. But there are scores of other local bands that are gaining ground, bringing a refreshing energy to live shows and reminding us all to look for the talent right under our noses.

And then it’s of course great to get some international players to the Beirut stage as well. Beirut Jam Sessions has launched a series of gigs, which started on November 26 with the UK band Time for T, mixing the local and international in an important way for the music scene.

Tiago Saga, lead singer of Time for T, spoke about the special nature of Lebanon’s music scene.

“I think that music is probably more appreciated in Lebanon as it is rarer to have international bands visiting (even though there are lots),” he said, “whereas as in Brighton, for example, there is a band playing every night in nearly every bar. There's almost too many bands to cope with! The fact that this line-up is both local and international is also great because it shows that there is no preference, music is all music, wherever it comes from.”

Postcards, who played December 10, finds the growing platform for artists refreshing for their own work.

“It’s grown in such a great way,” they said of the music scene. “There are more and more talented bands coming out, and a lot of the more established bands are now based outside of Lebanon, touring and recording abroad, which is really motivating for us.”

If there’s a common thread through this line-up, it’s that they put on a good live show. From Gururiman’s foot-stomping guitar riffs, to Lumi’s electric-rock sound, to Is Tropical’s ethereal electro-pop. Other bands that have been part of this line-up include Postcards, a local Lebanese favorite, and Time for T a mix of tropical folk-rock and psychedelic sounds.

Check out our interviews with these three artists who are playing gigs this month:

1. Lumi (December 17)

Lumi is an electronic rock band that exudes an aura of cool, reminiscent of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at times. They’ve been playing for years and are returning to the local Lebanese scene. They’ll play their new set with some additional guests in the lineup.

How did you meet/start out playing music together?
Now more than ever it's a bit tricky to describe our sound, which is actually a good thing, as it reflects our desire to mingle familiar sonorities and new territories; practically, rock and electronic textures are still our main channels, but a lot of different colouring has been added to our sound.

What has been your most rewarding experience playing music so far?
We're rewarded every time we feel a connection with an audience, to get a glimpse , a reaction in someone's eye, their body, to witness the path of the music from us to them, that is for me, the biggest gift.

What is your favorite song to perform?
Lately, I love performing 'Raised in Fire', 'Talk to you' and our new song we'll be playing as an intro on Thursday.

Tell me something about you that is true but controversial/surprising.
One isn't enough! I guess I have many things that would be considered controversial in my life, that wouldn't fit the rock star or artist cliché. I manage a center for the disabled, have now a pretty healthy life....That sits pretty well with me as I find nothing as belittling as being stuck in some definition of yourself. There's so much more to all of it.

Pick one word that best describes each of you.
Ethereal and Luminous

What do you think this blended line-up of local and international artists can do or mean for a country like Lebanon?
It means there's place for the music; hope isn’t lost.

Is there any advice you would give artists who are looking to make their name?
Work on your music not on your name :)

2. Gurumiran (December 29)

Gurumiran, or Miran Gurunian, has been playing since childhood, and it shows. His deep, gritty voice is a welcome addition to his latest album, Aberrance. Check out the clip above to hear a foot-stomping track off the album.

You started playing around the age of 13. Do you remember your first ever performance?

It was around 1993-4. The first was at a theatre in Achrafieh as a scout where I performed Hotel California. The second was at Mont La Salle, my school, where I performed Imagine. Both were public and although I can’t remember the dates, I remember my knees trembling, even if both were moments of pleasure on stage.

What would you say if you had to describe your sound?  

As a guitarist, I’m very much inspired by Grant Green and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name a few. So there’s definitely plenty of jazz and blues. I was born and raised in Beirut to Lebanese-Armenian parents, so there are plenty of Middle-Eastern influences in my playing and compositions as well. I’m also an engineer and passionate about electronics and sound processors, so I use stompboxes extensively, which means my guitar doesn’t often sound like one.

What has been your most rewarding experience playing music so far? Any personal anecdotes?

The reward is the ability to communicate ideas and feelings with people, to inspire and be inspired by others. Of course, music gives me purpose; I vividly remember when - almost three years ago – the same day that I had a gig, my mother had a stroke and was half paralyzed. It was a difficult moment, that’s sure, but I decided not to cancel the performance. One shouldn’t be defeated by life and circumstances, and that decision was a way for me to accept and embrace what had happened but also to keep pushing on.

What is your favorite song to perform?

Actually, I’d have to say that there are a few new songs I wrote recently (not yet recorded) that I quite enjoy playing. I’ll perform some of those during the vinyl launch of Aberrance on December 29. But from Aberrance, I must say that lately I am enjoying English Tea, She Is, and Trampling.

Can you tell me about the making of Aberrance? What was happening in your life at the time and how would you describe the album?
As focused as anyone can be on a project that they are working on, life will still throw in a few lemons, and eventually some will be rotten – so as to speak. My mother’s health situation needed my undivided attention, and a week after the stroke, Imane Homsy - a close friend and musician - passed away after a battle with cancer. A 12-year relationship came to an end, and things seemed to be going downhill. They were hard times where I decided to quit music for a few years, but eventually that decision ended a mere two months later. Upon returning from Berlin in September 2014 and filled with so much material, I couldn’t but let the ideas flow and begin to write. I came to the realization that making music was – and still is – a gift and integral part of who I am. Surprisingly, the general mood of the music was brighter than I expected it to be, and I went on to record and release it. That being said, I had no intention in creating a ‘downer.’ Of course Aberrance is what it is because of the beautiful people who surrounded me, including my friends, family, loved ones, and last but not least my producers Fadi Tabbal and Carl Ferneine.

Tell me something about you that is true but controversial/surprising.

I like people! On a serious note, I never sang before recording Aberrance. I also have never taken any music lessons. I’m also left-handed, but unlike Jimi Hendrix for example, I play the guitar the ‘regular’ way. Enough?

Pick one word that best describes you.


What do you think this blended line-up of local and international artists can do or mean for a country like Lebanon?

I thing BJS is doing a great job on the local scene and also helping out local talents go international. The blended line up just reinforces that.

Is Tropical (January 7)

Is Tropical is a UK band that is a welcome addition to the BJS lineup. Their electro-pop sound is ethereal, and this single off the latest album, ‘I’m Leaving,’ is a perfect example. For more of a look at their creative side, check out this award-winning music video they launched a few years ago. They describe their new sounds as having a “dark dystopian feel to it.”

How did you meet/start out playing music together?

We originally lived in a large squat in South London that we turned into an Art Gallery and would regularly invite artists from all over the world to Exhibit there. We would have opening parties and sometimes ended up playing impromptu gigs to anyone that was still there at 4am. Eventually we started making music more seriously and writing and practicing before the shows. We would huddle together in the cold basement to make music and create some warmth. For something that started out as a bit of fun, it’s come a long way and taken us to some amazing places. 

Who are your musical inspirations/influences?

As we all write the songs there are too many influences to pin down, but notably people like Tom Waits, Love, Brian Eno, Wu-tang etc. We don’t sound like any of those people though, it’s more about their lyrics, or the weirdness in the subject matters of the songs and production. 

What has been your most rewarding experience playing music so far? Any personal anecdotes?

We were one of the first western bands to play in Mongolia. That was something we never thought would happen. All over the world there are cities that have great underground music scenes that most bands never get the chance to visit or play. We went out to DJ a club whilst we were out there and came home to find a new born baby cow was asleep in our bed. It was a pretty strange and surreal experience. 

Tell me something about you that is true but controversial/surprising.

One of our old managers totally emptied our bank account and did a runner, he then flew to Mexico with the money and had a fight with Kings of Leon. We’ve not heard from him since. That whole thing was very odd but kind of funny now looking back on it. 

Pick one word that best describes each member.

I think the term ‘broke’ best describes us all. Sometimes mentally, sometimes physically and very often financially. 

Are you familiar with the Lebanese music scene? Are there any bands/genres you are particularly interested in?

The Lebanese music scene is completely new to us, but we can’t wait to visit and check out the local bands. We always try to see as much of a country (or specifically the city we’re in) as possible to get inspiration from.

What do you think this line-up of local and international artists can do or mean for a country like Lebanon?

For us it’s so important that bands from all countries play together, it enriches everyones influences and allows new ideas to be born and helps to break down the definitive borders between genres. Lebanon is a very progressive country and this is reflected in the idea of bringing people together through music, it’s a very positive move forward that we’re super happy to be a part of.

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