Beirut remains a city in pain following the August explosion in its port. A new crop of music compilations has arrived benefiting independent relief efforts, including from Lebanese and Arabic artists.

This year has brought so much challenge and loss to so many; I know that defaulting to music compilations can seem itself empty and that there can even be a sense that the music media is capitalizing on sympathy for events. At the same time, what some of the artists responding to crises have told me is that these activities have been emotional outlets. And the benefits can have material impacts. I’ll share some more details, but for instance, Rabih Beaini’s Morphine Records compilation generated cash to buy water and food.

And the music has been extraordinary. There’s something heartening about people expressing feelings in sound rather than remaining silent and hopeless. So thanks to everyone – particularly those of you who managed to do this in the midst of going through personal grief around the event. And it’s also evident that the electronic music scene that had previously been so centered on the USA and western Europe is now more interconnected with Beirut. These are our friends now who are impacted.

So on to the music.

Most significantly, international outlet Ma3azef has been pioneering music journalism in the Arabic language, offering the kind of critical and curatorial work that so often writers feel confined to produce only in English. Their Arabic staff has assembled a suitably broad-spectrum lineup for their compilation. Full text of their statement below (and if you do read Arabic, definitely check out their reportage and let us know your thoughts).

Following months of social unrest and imminent financial collapse, preceded by years of corruption and incompetence on the part of the Lebanese state, the unimaginable happened. On a balmy August 4th afternoon, a series of explosions in a warehouse at the Port of Beirut left some of the most vibrant parts of the city entirely or partially destroyed. With more than 200 deaths and thousands of injuries, hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and livelihoods. Almost a month after the explosion, swaths of volunteers and activists are still roaming the streets to clean up the debris and shattered glass, and are working day and night to provide relief for those affected.

Ma3azef teamed up with New York-based mastering engineer Heba Kadry to curate a compilation of new and unreleased materials provided by regional and international musicians to raise funds for the continuous relief work being done on the ground to help those who have been failed by the state.

The 17-track compilation includes contributions by the likes of Fatima Al Qadiri, Nicolás Jaar, ZULI, Slikback, and others. Bringing sounds together from the different crevices of electronic music, it is a humble attempt to galvanize musicians and listeners into supporting a city that has been integral in shaping the region’s contemporary music scene.

All proceeds from the sales of the compilation are going to local initiatives to provide assistance to those affected, they will be divided between Fundraising Campaign for the Arts and Culture Community in Beirut organized by AFAC; Beirut Musicians’ Fund organized by Tunefork Studios, and Beit el Baraka. 

Amman, Jordan’s DJ Toumba leads a “community-driven” compilation, Grief Into Rage, with contributions including Lara Sarkissian, Sara Al Badawiya, Fairuz, ODDZ, Air Max ’97, Hiro Kone, and of course Toumba, among many others.

Beirut, dubbed as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, is a beautiful city and has contributed so much to the underground scene, especially in the Middle East, so it was time for the scene to give back.

Grief Into Rage is compilation by the community for the community, hoping to raise funds to be able to support Beirut and its people. 100% of profits will be donated to the Lebanese Red Cross and the Beirut Musicians’ Fund.

A huge thanks to all the artists who contributed and supported this compilation.

released August 29, 2020

Curated & collected by Toumba

Artwork by Dana Baddad

Mastered by Raphaël Valensi / Nahas

Berlin audiovisual platform SFX has offered up a video (with Flore & Nick Teeple) plus a massive collection of tracks with a focus on supporting marginalized people in the crisis. Featured: Aho Ssan, Bonebrokk, Ciarra Black, Désir d’enfant, ELLLL, Flore, Forces, Glass, Gramrcy, Holy Similaun, Hulubalang, John Object, Katie Gately, Klahrk & Ship Sket, KMRU, Luke Lund, Simon Grab & Zoë Mc Pherson feat. Dali de Saint Paul and ZULI.

Behind the compilation is their AV collaboration of the same name – think exquisite corpse, but audiovisual:

All proceeds from sales of the compilation will go directly to two organisations in Beirut: Haven for Artists -who focus on supporting migrants, women and LGBTQI people- and Beit El Baraka. In the wake of the explosion on August 4th, which has compounded already-dire social and economic problems in the city, these two organisations are providing food and shelter and financial, medical and psychological assistance to those who need it most.

The compilation is a direct outcome of the open, collaborative audiovisual project XquisiteForce.AV that we have been developing since March 2020, and which is still ongoing as we speak.

There is a lot to say about the relief efforts, but this Lebanese-run site and an ongoing Twitter thread by journalist and organizer Lara Bitar are one starting place.

[unfold for a lot more discussion]

I’ve been talking to some folks about their efforts so hope to share more updates soon, but – if you have more, or other feedback, do get in touch.