This week saw a catastrophic explosion atop layers of existing crises in Beirut. From Lebanese artists – and their extended family of music makers around the world – comes an answer in sound, and a call for help.
I expect more channels for both music and fundraising, so consider this only a first installment.
2020 is a year that surely has accelerated the visibility of privilege – and the deadly costs of negligence, in a pandemic that hits the marginalized hardest of all (in poor countries and wealthy ones alike). But perhaps no image so far has been as arresting as an explosion breaking apart this beloved capital city, one already struggling with economic collapse, government failure, and pandemic, bringing with it still more injury and loss of life. It was the power of criminal neglect literally leveling the world around it. I won’t wade too far into a discussion of what happened, but a good start is to read the story of the Rhosus, the ship that brought this tragic amount of ammonium nitrate into Beirut’s harbor. (See The New York Times, stableseas.org – the latter looking specifically at maritime security policy.)
I can’t imagine the pain people are going through right now – both those living through the aftermath in the city, and those watching their home from afar. And so much of our communication now is through screens, the worst way to try to provide support. (For a sign of the sentiment around the government’s role, Lebanese people in New York tossed broken glass at the door of the consulate, a symbol of a shattered city.)
At least in music, we can listen. There’s no reason for the sphere of concern to focus only on the major music hubs of the US and UK – not as experimental, adventurous, and electronic sounds now network us together beyond those monopolistic capitals.
These are a lot of our friends impacted by the explosion in Beirut.
Those friends have friends, too. I saw an outpouring from Tehran’s scene right away – over 1400 kilometers away as the crow flies. And the Syrphe compilation here saw hours upon hours of music submitted from all over the world – in just one evening, with a quietly announced open call.
So here are those examples. (I contributed to one, which is the least I can do having grown up with Lebanese-American descent.)
Retrieve Beirut, Syrphe compilation
Syrphe is a platform for experimental sounds of every variety, loosely oriented to Asian and African continents (and those island-y bits), but endlessly diverse. It represents the deep research and passions of label boss Cedrik Fermont, aka C-drík. And Cedrik’s workaholic side sprung into action to put together a compilation for Beirut, one that has come together overnight. First a dozen tracks, then hours and hours of music came in, and even with Cedrik selecting, this is wonderfully epic in length.
v.a. – Retrieve Beirut
The current crisis around the world frequently reveals the incompetence and apathy of many politicians, investors, business leaders, and the ultra-wealthy. The various crises we are facing may promote division, as groups meet such extreme sociopolitical and cultural challenges. But we can also choose the option to stand together, to take matters into our own hands. I hope this compilation sends a strong message of unity against adversity. In less than 24 hours, 94 artists from over 40 countries kindly provided their compositions to be included on this project to support the Lebanese people, victims of a rigged and corrupted system. On such short notice, some even took time to record new compositions. Dozens of artists from Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Sweden, Switzerland, India, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Belgium, the USA, Canada, Germany, Uganda, Argentina, Mauritania, France, La Réunion, Portugal, South Africa, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Israel, the UK, Ukraine, Russia, Serbia, Indonesia, Palestine, Poland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Slovenia, Egypt, Iraq have made this project possible.
It’s in four volumes, and I know Cedrik is working to make sure the money goes to the most appropriate place – not just to score points here, but actually to allow it to reach the people who need it in a complex situation on the ground.
It’s astounding that this came together in under 24 hours.
Part 1 – “beat oriented, electronica, rock prog, techno, breaks, etc.“
Part 2 – “experimental, ambient, electroacoustic, etc.“
Part 3 – “drone, ambient.” (You’ll find me in volume 3, abusing the Count Modula Shepard Generator in VCV Rack.)
Part 4 – “noise, drone, power electronics, industrial.”
The photo at top is from his album cover, taken of a wall in the city.
I’ll likely have more to say about this music and am keeping in touch with Cedrik about how he’s getting funds to Beirut.
Morphine Records was already a favorite for many of us on Bandcamp. Headed by Rabih Beaini, born in Byblos, Lebanon but now based in Berlin for many years (and on the CTM Festival team), it draws from interests around the globe.
Of course, Rabih has an ongoing Morphine X Beirut campaign, starting today but spanning onward. There’s also a compilation coming. Rabih is just the person to pull that off, as it means he can get cash into the country so it isn’t sucked into the nation’s broken banking system.
Here are just a few releases to get you started:
Wukir is a legend of Indonesia, and also worked with us in unforgettable ways one year at the MusicMakers Hacklab:
Speaking of Wukir, don’t miss Senyawa:
Morphosis is the alias of Rabih himself:
Additional fundraisers (updated)
Berlin radio show HÖR has a fundraiser on Saturday, featuring Rabih again, Beirut native Jessika Khazrik, Lebanon-born artist Nur Jaber, Yacoub (apologies, forgetting where you’re from!), and Kangding Ray. The event is hosted by Cynthia Ël Hasbani.
Radio alHara, a Palestinian project that already was born of a partnership with Beirut, will be donated proceeds from t-shirt sales with the Fil Mishmish lineup covered here last month. So if you do want a shirt:
Amman, Jordan-based micro.radio will also do a benefit stream (or did do one, I honestly lost track in the news). They’re worth following in general, as they’ve just resumed broadcasts monthly.
New York’s Drew McDowall (the same one who was in Coil), has an eerie special track by way of fundraiser:
For Arabic speakers, you should definitely follow ma3azef.com, the music and culture magazine with some terrific people behind it, as they also have some updates:
I believe they’re planning more. Arabic-speaking CDMers, if you know of other resources to share, let us know.
Deena Abdelwahed has put together a terrific list of Beirut-based labels and artists on Bandcamp (I think with some additional Beirut-originating or Lebanese artists now elsewhere, but not certain). Please, don’t wait for another “Bandcamp Friday” – support them any time. The number of times I heard a label or artist, from people with massive sales to people with single-digit downloads, tell me that they were concerned about whether or not Bandcamp took its small fee was exactly never.
A few examples I particularly enjoy, all of these I think now in Beirut (so send them some extra love)…
Label Modular Mind is doing a benefit, listen for instance to Years of Denial:
I think (hope?) she’s in Berlin at the moment, but also a long time favorite of ours coming from Beirut, Thoom’s wonderful release (she’s also donating proceeds at the moment, I’m told):
Beirut-based Ruptured Records is doing a benefit, so a chance to get a gorgeous release like this:
Berlin-based Habibi Funk Records which is re-releasing some 70s and 80s classics and whatnot also has a benefit compilation.
While I’m in Berlin and as a result often focused on Berlin-based activities, I know we’ll be in touch with people continuing to work from inside Lebanon and will continue to support their output. So… more than just a list of links, soon, promise. (and if we left you out, get in touch!)
Direct support for vulnerable communities
Closing with this, but it may be most important.
The situation now is urgent and dire. The blast tore through hospitals already overloaded with COVID-19 – and added thousands of injured, on top of scores of deaths. It rendered many more homeless, in a country gripped with currency failure and economic breakdown. The ongoing impact is hard to even imagine.
It’s no secret that Lebanese citizens don’t trust their present government to allocate funds properly – or that large organizations can overshadow some of the smaller ones that support those most in need, generally.
There are some good resources. Abir Ghattas has a thread on Twitter on the topic:
With results echoing that thread, some of the best community resources appear to be in this single guide:
Rabih suggests these links (with input from others). The main thing, really, is to avoid giving to the government or associated organizations.
LEBANESE FOOD BANK :
ASHRAFIEH 2020 (Akram Nehme):
BEIT EL BARAKA :
RIFAK el DARB (Joe Tawtal) :
BAYTNA BAYTAK (housing help) :
OFFRE JOIE (Melhem Khalaf):
LEBANESE RED CROSS :
There’s also a broader card adding larger organizations, volunteer organizations, and other information, also community-based though less tightly edited.
If I hear differently, I’ll pass it on (or if we have readers in Beirut who want to give us some feedback).