AMSTERDAM: A number of Beirut-based independent artists have contributed new tracks to “Beirut 20/21,” a compilation album released last month by Beirut and Beyond as part of its Musicians Support Program.
Beirut and Beyond launched as a festival in 2013, with the aim of “local and regional development of independent musicians, and promoting their music to the international music scene,” according to co-founder and director Amani Semaan. But after the protests of October 2019, she told Arab News, “we felt the urgency of focusing our efforts on the local scene.” So, the Musicians Support Program was created, and once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that program became even more important. “The purpose was to engage the music community in creative practice during these complex times, and to provide them with immediate and long-term career support,” Semaan explained. This was achieved through commissions for new work and through financial and administrative assistance for the musicians to register their catalogue of work with performance royalties organization SACEM.
The new compilation showcases some of the commissioned work from artists including Aya Metwalli, Dani Shokri and Tarek Khuluki, Elyse Tabet, Jana and Scarlett, Khaled Omran, Kid Fourteen, Kinematik, Wonderland, Serge Yared, Yara Asmar, and more.
“Since we’re not producing the festival this year, this will be our alternative to promote local music to the world,” Semaan said. “It is also a distinct postcard of its time, marking a significant point in Lebanon’s history with honest, independent and artistic musical responses.”
The featured artists were chosen by a committee including the seminal Lebanese indie artist Yasmine Hamdan, musician and composer Khyam Allami, independent consultant Lara Khoury, and Soudabeh Kia, world music advisor at Theatre de la Ville.
“The selection criteria were based mainly on the quality of the artists’ previous work, the gender balance that is always reflected in our activities, and a diversity of genres,” said Semaan. “But we also kept in mind the will to support emerging musicians who show talent and potential.”
Ultimately, the album is an exciting showcase for some of Lebanon’s finest musical talent, displaying “the innovation, the creativity, the quality and the seriousness that these musicians have to develop their careers, as Semaan puts it.
“They are making great efforts to defy all challenges at the moment,” she said. “And we hope that this program and the release can both be of support.”