Lebanese indie-pop band Adonis plot their own path to success

Lebanese indie-pop band Adonis plot their own path to success
Adonis (left to right) Anthony Khoury, Gio Fikany, Joey Abou Jawdeh, and Nicola Hakim. (Left) Perfoming in Beirut in 2020 and (below) in Amman in 2019. (Right) Band members in the house in Batroun where they finished work on ‘A’da.’ (Supplied)
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Updated 12 March 2021

Lebanese indie-pop band Adonis plot their own path to success

Lebanese indie-pop band Adonis plot their own path to success
  • The popular group will celebrate 10 years together later this year. It’s been a decade of doing things their own way

AMSDERTAM: Lebanese indie-pop band Adonis will celebrate their 10th anniversary later this year. A decade together is some achievement for any group, let alone an independent one based out of the Middle East playing Arabic-language music that, while it’s an easily accessible mix of melancholia and optimism, isn’t mainstream radio pop.

As remarkable as the band’s longevity is the fact that three of the four original members are still there: Singer and keyboardist Anthony Khoury, guitarist Joey Abou Jawdeh, and drummer Nicola Hakim. Bassist Gio Fikany joined after Khoury’s brother quit to — as Khoury puts it — “move to Switzerland to live a decent and orderly life.” Just how unusual it is to have such a stable lineup is something they only realized “when we started hanging out with other bands in the region.”

It undoubtedly helps that they were all friends before they started the band. “We used to get together and jam, so we were playing music together anyway,” Khoury says. After a few months of knocking out covers of Arabic songs they liked — including work by seminal Lebanese indie duo Soapkills, alongside “Lebanese classics” such as Fayrouz and Ziad Rahbani — Khoury brought in some ideas for original songs. “I liked to write, and I was comfortable enough with these guys to share the stuff. I wouldn’t have been confident enough if we weren’t friends, though,” he says.




Lebanese indie-pop band Adonis will celebrate their 10th anniversary later this year. (Supplied)

This was how Adonis’ relatively unusual way of composing their songs began too — a method they still use to this day. Most bands will base a song around a melody, or an instrumental hook, or chord pattern. Adonis, however, start with the words.

“I think it kind of sets us apart,” says Khoury. “When you start with lyrics, you have immediate limitations on the melody, because you already have a structure in the lyrics. So you’re going to end up with songs that don’t sound like a lot of other things around. Melody is more abstract — there’s a chance this melody you thought you came up with, you’ve actually heard before somewhere. But when you put lyrics on paper, you’re going to be conscious if it sounds like another song. I think starting with lyrics allows songs to be more original.”

Adonis’ early work had the then-ubiquitous acoustic, indie-folk feel reminiscent of bands like Fleet Foxes. But their third album, 2017’s “Nour,” saw a significant shift. This was partly down to Jean-Marie Riachi, an award-winning producer known for his work with leading mainstream Arab pop artists including Elissa and Haifa Wehbe. It was an unusual and bold choice for Adonis to work with him, and one that again highlighted their knack for the unconventional.




Adonis’ early work had the then-ubiquitous acoustic, indie-folk feel reminiscent of bands like Fleet Foxes. (Supplied)

“Jean-Marie was, like, ‘I like your songs. But since you’re going for ear-pleasing melodies and lyrics and you know how to write choruses really well, why not try to change the angle a bit? Try to see if you can reach a larger audience if we polish your sound?’” says Khoury. “He knew where he wanted to go with it, but he also knew he was working with a band who write their own songs — which isn’t often the case in the Middle East. So he respected that. We did have some creative clashes, but I think the best work always comes out of creative clashes, rather than someone always agreeing with everything you’re saying; or someone always imposing their ways on you.”

The shift in sound may have lost them some fans in the alternative music community, Khoury admits, but it also gained them many more, and the frontman has no regrets. “There was some snobbery from the independent scene in Lebanon, but at a certain point, when your audience is growing and you’re getting booked at festivals you always wanted to play, and you’re getting the recognition you’d always dreamed of but never thought possible, you don’t really care if a certain group of people consider you a sell-out, because you’re doing something that you like and it’s paying off,” he says.




Most bands will base a song around a melody, or an instrumental hook, or chord pattern. Adonis, however, start with the words. (Suppplied)

Besides, he adds, the sonic shift wasn’t all that dramatic, and certainly didn’t affect the songwriting. “If I were to play you a song of ours on the piano or on the guitar, you wouldn’t know if it’s from 2010 or 2020,” Khoury says. “You could still hear the guitar riffs and the drums and everything (on ‘Nour’), but there was an additional layer, so it was a balance. And we’ve kept that sound ever since — less indie-folk and more indie-pop — even with different producers.”

That’s true of their fifth studio album “A’da” (Enemies). It’s a concept album, released in three parts over recent weeks — each themed, Khoury explains.

“The album is a love story between the same two characters from beginning to end, written in three big chapters. The first part, ‘Innocence,’ is when the two young characters are getting to know each other, and feeling emotions for the first time. The second explores love at more mature levels, when you have more life experience, and you settle down and achieve what you conceive to be a happy life,” he says. “The third part, ‘Nostalgia,’ is about how, no matter how happy you are, there’s always something that drags you back to that first kiss, your first night together, and the first time you felt all these real emotions — love, hate, attachment, and so on.”




The shift in sound may have lost them some fans in the alternative music community, Khoury admits, but it also gained them many more, and the frontman has no regrets. (Supplied)

The two fictional characters are anonymous, Khoury explains. “That’s on purpose. We didn’t want to give them labels. They could be anyone.”

The music — with the aid of producer Sleiman Damien, whom Khoury describes as “a fifth band member” — reflects the story too. “The only guideline we had was that it had to sound, chronologically, more modern over time. So the first track starts really rooted in Western Eighties music: High-school gym-dance kind of music. That’s the era when the two characters meet. Then it becomes more modern. And in the third part you go back a bit again. We wanted the evolution of the sound of the album to also reflect the story of these characters, that’s how we conceived it.”

It’s perhaps surprising to learn that the record was mostly conceived and written in September, just a few weeks after the devastating explosion in Beirut Port which killed and injured so many and wrecked the homes of even more, including Khoury. The band packed up their gear and headed to Batroun on the coast, where they rented a house and finished most of the work on the record.

It was a cathartic experience, but, once again, not in the way you might expect. The band members didn’t pour their anger and frustration into the album. Instead, they allowed it to transport them out of that frustration, at least for a time. 

“You’d expect an album written right after that horrible incident to be dark, or very heavy. But actually, we insisted that we were going to stick to writing love songs — finishing off the themes that we had already laid down before the blast. Obviously, you feel the intensity of the year, and of that event, in the sounds and some of the settings of the songs, but it’s still a love album,” Khoury says. “For us, it was a way to disconnect a bit from what had happened, the sleepless nights and everything. And at the same time it was a way for us to say that we aren’t going to let this drag us down.”


Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day
Updated 22 September 2021

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

Culinary celebrations: Where to eat in Riyadh this Saudi National Day

RIYADH: A host of restaurants in Riyadh are celebrating Saudi Arabia’s National Day in style with special menus and entertainment.

The Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh

The hotel is offering its usual festivities with a twist, inviting a Saudi celebrity chef to cook for guests in Al-Orjouan restaurant. Social media-famous chef Abdulelah AlRabiah is set to host a cooking station while guests will be serenaded by live Saudi music.

Lunch will be held from 12:30pm - 5pm, priced at $120 (450 SAR)

The dinner buffet runs from 6:30pm-12am, priced at (450 SAR) $120 for adults and $60 (224 SAR) for children.

Four food trucks will be stationed outside serving coffee, ice cream and burgers along with face painting and gifts for children.

Yauatcha Riyadh

The dim sum restaurant and tea house is offering a special set menu inspired by the Kingdom’s national colors until Oct. 2.

The $66 (250 SAR) per person menu features chicken spinach soup, a section of dim sum, and main dishes consisting of chicken, seabass, and pak choi, as well as dessert.

La Brasserie

Riyadh’s La Brasserie is offering their traditional international brunch and dinner buffets with additional Saudi dishes to celebrate National Day.

The brunch buffet will run from 12:30pm-3:30pm and is priced at $101 (379 SAR).

The dinner buffet will be held from 7:00pm-11:00pm and is priced at $73 (275 SAR), excluding drinks.

Al-Bustan Restaurant

Al-Bustan restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh is offering a dinner buffet that includes a clutch of international favorites, including grilled lamb with traditional Saudi spices.

Running from 7:00pm-12:00am on Thursday, a local performer will entertain guests to celebrate the occasion and dinner priced at $89 (335 SAR) per person.  

Four Seasons

Elements restaurant in the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh is offering an international buffet with a focus on regional favorites, including lamb kabsa rice, mandi varieties, mixed grills, cold mezze and, of course, Um Ali.

Live music will be played during the Thursday night dinner buffet between 7:00pm-12:00am.  

The dinner buffet is priced at $83 (311 SAR), excluding beverages.  

La, Gais

The Instagram-perfect, newly opened breakfast and specialty coffee spot will offer a selection of Saudi-themed breakfast and brunch items, along with live music.

Perfect for family brunch, the restaurant will be open from 4:30am-7:00pm during the National Day weekend.

Each menu item is priced separately, including tax.


Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week
Updated 22 September 2021

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

Arab label Mrs. Keepa heads to Paris for fashion week

DUBAI: Dubai-based label Mrs. Keepa is set to present its Spring/Summer 2022 womenswear collection on the sidelines of Paris Fashion Week, as part of France’s Féderation de la Haute Couture et de la Mode’s “Welcome to Paris” initiative with the Arab Fashion Council.

The show is slated for Sept. 28 at Paris’s Palais De Tokyo and the label will also take part in Paris Fashion Week’s trade show partner event, TRANOI, which will take place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3 at the same location.

Mrs. Keepa is known for its strong silhouettes and bold colors, as seen in this look from the label's 2019 show in Dubai. (Getty Images)

Helmed by half-Egyptian half-French designer Mariam Yeya, the label is inspired by a patchwork of evolving identities and her own dual heritage, which she explores through fashion.  

Launched in 2016, the label is a regular on the Fashion Forward Dubai circuit — an annual showcase of regional talent — and is known for its celebration of the female form, with a focus on defining silhouettes, voluminous details, striking patterns and kaleidoscopic colors. 

The label is helmed by Egyptian-French designer Mariam Yeya. (Getty Images)

For the Spring/Summer 2022 collection, titled “Harmonious Chaos,” the designer plays with organic shapes and opulent colors. Think cut outs and strappy maxi skirts, wide-leg camouflage cargo pants and larger-than-life sleeves.

 The collection will also feature pieces that traverse the boundary between recognizable separates — kimonos that work as skirts, dresses that can be worn as shirts and scarves that can be styled as waist-synching belts.

The show is slated for Sept. 28 at Paris’s Palais De Tokyo. Pictured is a 2019 show by the label. (Getty Images)

It is not the first time Arab designers have found a platform at Paris Fashion Week. To ensure that regional designers get the recognition they deserve, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode first teamed up with the Arab Fashion Council in September 2020 to host an exclusive showroom and presentation on the official Paris Fashion Week calendar that shines a light on Middle Eastern designers.

“The project is in line with the Arab Fashion Council’s vision to build an Arab economy based on creativity and to promote the Arab talents on a global scale,” said Mohammed Aqra, chief strategy officer of The Arab Fashion Council, in a statement at the time. “This is the first strategic alliance project with our French counterparts,” he added.


Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 
Updated 22 September 2021

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

Ithra celebrates Saudi National Day with new cultural programs 

DUBAI: In celebration of Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) launched a collection of Saudi cultural and heritage programs and activities to highlight the Kingdom’s diversity.

Under the slogan of “Melodies of the Homeland,” the celebratory activities will start on Sept. 22 and will run until Sept. 25. 

The National Day activities aim to present a collection of interactive cultural activities, music and art performances, traditional local crafts, various workshops, knowledge-based games for all age groups and more.   

The activities will include the Coffee Tales exhibition, which will shed light on the practice of farming coffee and the traditions associated with it, particularly in the Jazan region, as well as Saudi Aramco’s efforts to preserve it.

Another exhibition, called Tafaseel, will take its visitors on a cultural journey to embody the unity of the people and their interdependence from north to south and east to west. 

This colorful space will express the diversity of fashion as part of the cultural heritage across the local regions and tell stories about the civilizations that inhabited them.

Arab music sensation Ahmed Alshaiba will perform on Ithra’s stage and is expected to play his unique music that combines Eastern and Western genres.


Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 
Updated 21 September 2021

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

Emirati artist Aisha Juma takes part in ‘Beyond Belief’ exhibition in Germany 

DUBAI: Emirati visual artist Aisha Juma is showcasing her work at an exhibition titled “Beyond Belief” in Berlin, Germany. 

Supported by Abu Dhabi Festival (ADF), Juma is taking part in the exhibition that brings together a variety of artworks from more than 35 artists. 

Aisha Juma is an Emirati visual artist. (aishajuma.com)

Open until Nov. 21, “Beyond Belief” explores the rise of modern-day spirituality, its origins, diverse manifestations and unique contemporary attributes. 

Juma, on her Instagram account, shared images of her drawings that are “inspired by the concept of art and spirituality.

“So happy to be part of this fundamental creative conversation,” she wrote. 

The inauguration of the event was attended by Hafsa Al-Ulama, the UAE ambassador to Germany. 

In her speech at the event, Al-Ulama praised the strong cultural ties between the UAE and Germany, and commended ADF’s commitment to participating in art exhibitions and festivals in Germany. 

She added that the festival’s sponsorship of “Beyond Belief” reflects Abu Dhabi’s role in promoting art worldwide. 


Bahraini label Noon by Noor lights up London Fashion Week

Designers Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa presented a collection titled ‘Light.’ (Supplied)
Designers Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa presented a collection titled ‘Light.’ (Supplied)
Updated 21 September 2021

Bahraini label Noon by Noor lights up London Fashion Week

Designers Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa presented a collection titled ‘Light.’ (Supplied)

DUBAI: Bahraini label Noon by Noor showed off its Spring 2022 collection at London Fashion Week this weekend, debuting a line of lighter-than-air separates and dainty dresses.

Designers Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa presented a collection titled “Light” at East London’s Rochelle School, which specializes in art and architecture.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Noon By Noor (@noonbynoor)

The label, which is a regular on the New York Fashion Week circuit, drew crowds to its London showcase, with a host of industry insiders and influencers taking to social media to show off the new collection.

The brand, which was established in 2008, showed off a floral-tinged offering. (Supplied)

The brand, which was established in 2008, showed off a floral-tinged offering, with sprigs of color, as well as white-on-white looks complete with traditional mirror work embroidery.

“We selected our fabrics, mixing different scales of checks from ginghams to madras, alongside bold stripes in lime-ivory, pink-ivory and grey-ivory,” designer Shaikha Noor Al-Khalifa said in a released statement.

“A photograph of Bahraini pearl divers in their sarongs gently gathered and tied at the waist, mixed with dreams of summer sunshine, holiday memories and flowers was the start of our spring collection development,” she added.

Her cousin and co-designer Shaikha Haya Al-Khalifa shed further light on the materials chosen for the collection.

“Beautiful poplins, jersey, washed cottons, coated linens, silk voiles, organza, tulle and canvas all reflect the idea of light. Sometimes two or three of these fabrics are combined into one garment,” she said.