What's wrong with Beirut? Lebanese band Adonis asks the question at Beirut Souks
“What’s wrong with Beirut?” This is the question the Lebanese band Adonis asks in their new, soon-to-be-released album of the same name “Men Shou Bteshki Beirut?”
Comprised of vocalist and pianist Anthony Khoury, guitarist Joey Abu Jaoude, bass player Fabio Khoury, drummer Nicole Hakim and keyboardist Carl Ferneine, Adonis is among Lebanon’s most promising up-and-coming ensembles.
The band’s story began with brothers Anthony and Fabio’s passion for traditional Lebanese music. During their studies at AUB they met Abu Jaoude, who shared their interest in the country’s musical traditions.
“We used to be sometimes marginalized because of this,” Anthony Khoury told The Daily Star. They started to jam together and, step by step, the other band members drifted into the fray.
The name Adonis has a certain resonance in these parts. The Greek god of beauty lent his name to the town where the Khoury brothers grew up. The Syrian poet and essayist Ali Ahmad Said Esber adopted the name as well, and remains the best-known living Adonis.
At first, as Anthony Khoury explained, the songs they composed were mostly about their home town. “[The name] reflects a lot of our mood,” he said. “It is very suburban. It seems as if nothing happened in the town, but there were many surprises.”
Released in 2011, “Daw l Baladiyyi,” their first album, is composed of 11 tracks, which, as Anthony Khoury puts it, address “places, rooftops, windows ... I was a student in architecture. I tended to attach all the memories to the places where they happened.”
In addition to architecture, the tunes on this album sprinkle love ballads among tales about the town of Adonis and its residents. These “poems,” as Anthony Khoury puts it, are brought to life by the band’s musical arrangements.
“The music,” Anthony Khoury said, “is catchy.”
Unlike those bands that sprinkle words into their instrumental compositions, Adonis is attached to composing its lyrics first, and then adding music that will best punctuates the lyrics. In both their albums, the band aspires to make each song is a freestanding story in itself.
As is appropriate for a band that puts its lyrics first, the performance is marked by the vocalist’s clear elocution as much as the power of his voice. Sympathetic listeners have heard in Khoury’s voice an echo of the hakawati, the oral storytellers of traditional Middle Eastern café culture.
Adonis’ compositions are marked by their harmony, vocal and musical. Just as music and lyrics complement one another, so is there no sense that there is a single band leader with accompanists. Adonis is defined by this equilibrium.
When asked whether the band would be interested in branching out beyond its Arabic repertoire to write in English or French, Khoury explained he and his colleagues didn’t feel compelled to do so. Their deep sense of belonging to Lebanon and the fact of speaking Arabic every day make it obvious that they should compose and perform in Arabic. It’s their way of showing their attachment to the country.
“We grew up here,” Khoury said. “We live here.”
The band is among those slated to as part of the Beirut Holidays concert series. The concert will serve as the official release “Men Shou Bteshki Beirut.”
The show will also mark an interesting challenge for the band. “It is a big step for us,” Khoury said. “It is the first time we play on a stage of this scale. If it works for us we will be much more visible. We hope that our music is not limited to a certain niche.”
Adonis’ Beirut Holidays concert is scheduled for Aug. 18 at Beirut Souks. For more information and ticketing, please call 01-999-666 or visit www.ticketingboxoffice.com
By Chirine Lahoud
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