Schedules are updated every Thursday.

Christina Fakhry 28 Jan 2015

The DnB Project: Electro-Acoustic Drum and Bass and The Power of Improvisation

Founded in 2011, The DnB Project is a musical ensemble offering a unique combination of electro-acoustic Drum and Bass improvisation. The trio consists of Liliane Chlela (electronics), Bashar Farran (bass) and Fouad Afra (drums) who have managed to merge their passions into a progressive and versatile sound experiment. Beirut.com sat down with bassist Bashar Farran to discuss the trio’s music, philosophy and future projects as they prepare to hit Metro Al Madina on Thursday, January 29 for their next gig.

Beirut.com: How did you guys first meet?

Bashar: Let’s start with how I met Fouad. I used to sub in a band with Nader Mansour which Fouad playd in. We used to play the blues and rock-ish blues sometimes and separated later on, each of us was in a different place. Fouad called me a few months later and he said, “listen, Bashar, I have a project in mind and I want you in it…it’s a Drum and Bass project.” I thought Drum and Bass was cool and liked the idea, and then he told me Liliane would be joining us, and she plays electronics and stuff. This is how we met. We had two rehearsals after that, not actual rehearsals, they were jam sessions. We just jammed twice and it was going fine so we decided to start gigging.

Beirut.com: As a musical project entirely based on electro-acoustic Drum and Bass improvisation, what makes improvisation different from other creative approaches?

Bashar: Music is a language, so it’s really nice if you have some vocabulary to enjoy it with other people who speak the same language. This doesn’t apply to all music genes where you’re splaying the same course and theme over and over. In our band, we always go on stage having no idea what’s going to happen. It’s totally different; it’s just being in the moment and I love that.

Beirut.com: Does the idea of never knowing the outcome of your performances excite you or terrify you?

Bashar: No, it doesn’t terrify us at all… You know the musicians on stage are always telling a story but the thing is you’re not just telling it, you’re acting it, you’re being in the story. This is really interesting to me. At times during the performance I turn down the volume when Liliane is playing something, for instance, and stick my chin to the bass just to find out what she’s doing and try to find the right notes for her. This is the beauty of this project, it’s either I’m directing, Fouad is or Liliane is, but in reality no one is actually directing – we’re just moving together.

Beirut.com: How experienced should a musician be to be able to pull off a fully improvised performance?

Bashar: I doubt that amateurs can do it as it requires a lot of musical vocabulary and if you are not that experienced, this means you do not have enough vocabulary, so how would you do it?

Beirut.com: Do you guys usually find time to rehearse before your shows?

Bashar: Fouad and I are both session players so we play with a lot of people and Liliane is also a graphic designer, so it’s really hard for us to find time to sit together. It’s really difficult, it’s either me who’s out of the country or Fouad and even when we’re in the country, we just gig all around.

Beirut.com: What should people expect when they come to watch The DnB Project?

Bashar: Basically Drum and Bass isn’t that popular. I would say just come and listen to something strange if you’re not familiar with Drum and Bass. And even if you are familiar with this type of music, a live band playing Drum and Bass is totally different. The idea of Drum and Bass is to take you on a trip and I find that similar to Tarab in a way because it’s a repetition of certain drum and bass melodies and music samples over and over, just like the basic formations and foundations of Tarab become so repetitive at some point to the extent that you feel like you’re high or something. And instead of watching some guy move his fingers over a DJ set, you’re actually watching it happen right in front of you. There’s a bit of a problem in the Middle East with the idea of instrumentation: it’s very limited, it’s either you play the rhythm or the melody, while Drum and Bass is more than rhythm and melody, it’s more of a state of mind.

Beirut.com: What distinguishes The DnB Project from other music projects on the local scene?

Bashar: It’s not just Drum and Bass, it’s also the mixture of acoustic and electronic music. I don’t exactly look for uniqueness; I just look for enjoying the music and having fun. Also a lot of the Drum and Bass you listen to is already worked on, it’s there as a final product. But with us there’s no final product, you never know what happens.

Beirut.com: We notice you also like to invite guest performers. How does this contribute to your performances?

Bashar: We always like to have guests on stage. We’ve tried Drum and Bass with qanun, saxophone, and we even got rappers. We always think of what kind of elements a guest performer would add, this is the main question. For instance it’s not enough to get an Oud player to go there and just play some notes, this doesn’t work because it’s not about the notes, it’s about the state of mind.

Beirut.com: What are some of the challenges you guys encounter as a Drum and Bass music project in Lebanon?

Bashar: The main challenge is to attract a crowd. People who come and watch us love the band, but it’s hard to explain something unfamiliar to a person and then get them to come and watch it.

Beirut.com: How do you guys define your audience and what kind of reaction do you usually get from them?

Bashar: It’s mainly an audience who appreciates musical ‘trippin’ and the idea of not just playing notes but actually telling a story. People usually love us! I’m not being arrogant or anything, but I always get positive feedback.

Beirut.com: Do you ever get inspired from the audience during your performances?

Bashar: Always. I see someone dancing with his heart out and it takes me somewhere different, it just means so much to me. It gives me a lot of joy to see someone reacting with their body to something I’m doing with my instrument, it changes the whole vibe. And that’s not just me but everyone else as well. We actually tried doing a demo thing in a studio but it didn’t really work because there wasn’t any audience reacting to it. We just couldn’t do it. We stayed there for like four hours trying to play something but it just wasn’t happening. I think the major issue there was the absence of an audience.

Beirut.com: Do you think The DnB Project could be paving the way for similar projects here in Lebanon?

Bashar: It’s not exactly in our interest to be paving the way or not. It’s just that we’re doing what we love. For me, it’s like meditation.

Beirut.com: Tell us more about your future plans?

Bashar: There has been some serious thinking about recording an album, like just listening to everything we played before, finding the right patterns and capturing themes so that we could make tracks out of them.

Beirut.com: If you had the chance to go on a tour, where are some of the places you would like to visit?

Bashar: We would love to go on a tour. For me, Berlin would be on the top of my list, as well as Copenhagen.

Beirut.com: How would you invite our readers to attend The DnB Project’s gig on Thursday?

Bashar: I just would love them to come and watch. Expect nothing, just come and watch.

Do not miss The DnB Project’s performance this Thursday, January 29, at Metro Al Madina.