A musician from the lost era of Beirut


He finishes playing the musical piece, but the concert continues, in preparation for what will come next, and with a tuned rhythm to maintain the mood. He hits a single note with his finger on the piano, repeating it for three successive strokes. The image changes, and Carmen Loubet’s face appears on the screen. Along with the background note, find out which track to play next. “There is a second type of musical experience that is different in Beirut. It is heard under the title Two floors down music by the bass player and composer Abboud Al Saadi,” she says.In the “Uncle Sam” bar, events unfold. A group of musicians stepping down their steps. Abboud Al-Saadi in the front carrying his machine and the others follow him. Everyone takes their place and soon the roles are divided. There is: Hani Seblini on the keyboard, Tawfiq Farroukh on the saxophone, Ziad Rahbani in a very unfamiliar role, on the piano as a player not as a composer, and the rest of the band members. The pace is in harmony. Sounds overlap. Passionate solo playing. And the author shakes his head cheerfully.
This piece, Two floors down, is the only one included in the music video film “Music Alive from Beirut,” which is a collection of musical clips composed by Ziad Rahbani, most of which were played at various concerts, without the latter being its composer. It was classified as a different musical direction, or distinct, compared to the style of Ziad Rahbani, since its lively rhythm and rapid, rising pace are funk-leaning in contrast to the musical indulgence and improvised sentences that characterize Rahbani’s jazz. However, the two types are generally considered to be different musical experiences, in the new, progressive, and non-mainstream sense (as a direction). They both intersect in a large space, identical, and one of them goes next to the other. Her presence with the rest of the pieces in the film is the most prominent evidence of that, and her solo presence enhanced the value of her uniqueness, while the real breach that counts is the presence of those experiences and their maturity, at that particular time, when the real voice was dependent on bullets and cannons, and the original scene was purely bloody rather than musical.
Let go of the musical aesthetic and the auditory mood, and let us move away a little from the musical climate, trying to understand only the context. There is a word that the host of the party repeated, that we must track it because it was not accidentally dropped, but rather intentionally and intentionally for two consecutive times. What are these different experiences then? How can we go further? How can we get to know it more closely?
We do not have enough data and we do not know much about this world. Many details are absent from us, while the big headlines overwhelm us. What we know has become structural, fading and dreadful albeit very real. We know that the ferocity of the war obliterated many events, and put out the glow of lights shining at the end of the tunnel to preserve its dark trenches. When it ended, the date was suspended indefinitely, and the task of writing it down seems insurmountable. Little is known about the history of Lebanese music, with its experimental currents, musicians, and modernist styles.
We go back to the beginning: we know, for example, that they resemble the revolutionary movements in their political and military aspects after the defeat of June 1967, when they took a radical turn that began with Makhoul Qasuf, who abandoned pop and rock (his band Animals) to embrace the committed song. This song technically triumphed and dominated the forefront for no less than a decade. The names here are many and well known, and there is no need to mention them. The most prominent of them were the “Land Division”, Khaled Al-Habr, Marcel Khalife, etc.

Fakhr was a member of the troupe that accompanied Fayrouz to her concert in America during the Civil War and decided to stay there

But in the late seventies and in the eighties of the last century, the “different musical genres” returned to crystallize anew, evading the primacy of the message, and the position rule that made the song a weapon of confrontation, dominated by an ideological character and defines its purpose, without denying its importance, but at that moment. It unleashed itself and expanded the field of its freedom, thus its value became derived from itself, and it plunged into the sphere of disclosure and expression. Only the committed song is no longer dominant, and the “different” musical luster has revived and slipped from the dark corridors into space, from the basement to the stage, and his travels gradually descended into the circles, including the music of Ziad Rahbani, the Force Band or others …
A long, broad era, rich and crude, authentic and original, undated and unknown. The obituary papers tell us about their patrons. They were the ones whom the war could not kill. Death in peacetime caught them and began to fall apart, one by one (Walid Qatim, Bassam Saba …) alone without an audience, without diving into the depths of their artistic journey that was not appreciated as it deserved, and we only got their echo After their separation, in long elegies as “the fulfillment of a duty”, we got used to her words and kept their weights. The only sure narrative is that these experiences remained narrow, framed, faint, played in specific bars and nightclubs and whose visitors were eclectic. Even many of them linked their fate to the place where they play, and if the place shuts down and turns off, the music is silent.
A German production company called Habibi Funk, whose mission is to search for buried musical experiences, everything that the memory neglects or forgets, so you throw it in the trash. Every “old” product that was not vulgar, unable to reach, was mined and turned into an “underground”. It explores what can be considered marginalized or echoed in a whisper, from Sudanese jazz, Egyptian disco, and Arab experimentation, and to revive this forgotten or submerged, I discovered a Lebanese treasure, a musician (guitarist) from the lost musical era named Roger Fakhr.
What we know about Roger is very little pride, and rather our knowledge of him is new. He lived through those experiences, worked with their authors, and most importantly, he had his own unique experience. His old friendship with Essam Hajj Ali, the guitar player in the “Al-Ard Ensemble,” opened the way for “Habibi Fanack” to “devise him” and introduce us, in turn, to him. Roger Fakhr was a member of the orchestra that accompanied Fayrouz in her concert in America, and decided to stay there without returning to the homeland of destruction and the promised war. But before that time, he had recorded an album, in English, and distributed about two hundred copies of it to his friends and his close circle. Janice Stuertz (Company Administrator) tells his story with Roger Fakhr on the site «Habibi Funk». He says that the name was always heard by him, and that the latter’s reputation was known for its positive even reverence from Munir Al-Khouli, Ziad Rahbani, and especially from Essam Hajj Ali, who recorded the album with him, and was his living partner in Paris in the seventies. The latter told Sturz that Pride has a completed album, which has yet to see the light. As soon as Stuertz got Pride’s approval for the album and being heard, he was dumbfounded.
Everyone was dumbfounded. The eyes are reassuring. Tranquility makes faces from what they hear. The band plays “Soft Rock” music on a modest stage. Protest songs blart loudly. Al-Ritem is close to The Mamas and the Papas. The public is on the ground. Everyone is sitting cross-legged on the grass. The performer with her gentle voice touches with her song the mercy of hymns. There are those who are mumbling, repeating, behind them. As if he is the twin of Woodstock, or he himself is of another kind, but it is a scene taken from Maroun Baghdad’s film “Whispers” (filmed in 1980) for a concert at the American University of Beirut. Roger Fakhr’s music gets us there. We deduce that he belongs to that atmosphere. Before this scene of “Whispers”, a monologue by Haitham Haddad, a musician and architectural student, comes out as he plays the piano. He says: “Something that annoys me is that I am playing music and in war in Lebanon.” And in his statement this is a true translation of the reason Roger Fakhr confessed, in principle, to musical insistence and his long and distant geographical and artistic emigration.
Fine anyway, “Fine, Anyway” is the title of the 18-song album. Fakhr initially did not want to bring him into the light, but the Beirut explosion changed the whole equation. Beirut exploded and memories exploded with it, including those secretly stored in boxes, and some that have not recovered from the memory yet. “Habibi Funk” produced an album after the Al Marfa tragedy that contains a different musical melting pot for many Lebanese musicians, as an initiative to support the Red Cross in the ordeal, and proudly participated in it with two pieces, to change his mind afterwards and agree to publish his entire album.
Roger is proud of his musical footprint. His creative style is a tapestry consisting of a mixture of multiple musical styles. From rock, relying on drums as the main, dominant voice, leading the rhythm in “Gone Away Again” to the blues and blues of the blues, sublimating the singing and word over the pace of acoustic guitar in Fine anyway. Roger Pride’s guitar and technique are similar to those of Mark Noveler (Dire straits) and his small pieces in his solo (“woman by my side”) take us back to Jefferson’s early days (embryonic journey). He writes his songs in series and graphic words, his text is not loose, floating on it a simplistic tendency to tragedy, an optimistic call, embodying the title of his author. Coming from the roughness of war, he knows how to destroy the stubborn, how to be prejudiced against the stubbornness, and by obedience to anguish with simplicity and lightness “sometimes you feel sad / and you cannot do anything / no, maybe there is another time you will skip it” (sometimes you feel bad). Roger Fakhr’s singing voice is clear and gentle, which puts him in the first row with the “folk” singer, but that does not enable you to limit him to this category alone, not to mention “fusion” and its effect on his singing; The combination of rock noise and the fluidity of jazz, or narrative telling of stories, as it tends towards “psychedelic,” performing in Arabic a single song, “Keep going,” consisting of one sentence: “This is forbidden. He is represented by crudeness and indignation, as an auditory mirror of the real “psychedelic” controlling the outside world, so that the sound of danger alarms overwhelms the song in the end and inflates the “continuous” chaos.
Roger Pride was released on April 1st and it is far from a lie. Rather, it is a persistent and stubborn challenge to it, and to prove the opposite of that great lie that its name is Beirut, the city that hates itself and despises its history. Despite the black and white “vintage” image of pride that bears the cover: sitting and focusing on his face, with big sunglasses and wide drinkers holding a guitar in the studio, from the first song you feel that the album is an industry today. It was recorded recently. Fine anyway is a restoration of memory, or a restored memory, it is the delivery of voices, faces and experiences, which the history of the past could not suffocate or sever, and did not succeed in leaving the war to accomplish what his stinking hands could not. It is proving the existence of these experiences, faces, and voices, on the basis that they are enduring, firm, and present, even if they come after a while with an appearance – named by Ghassan Salhab in his film – as “Beirut’s Ghosts”, but they will haunt the taste and ear, even if after … a future.

The album can be heard and bought: habibifunkrecords.bandcamp.com

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