Can music save Lebanon?

U2- 360 tour- Live in Turkey- september 2010- photo taken by Tarek Wheibi

Every now and then i like to take a muted jog through Beirut. I say muted because I blast my earphones to a carefully selected “inspiring” playlist that subsequently makes me immune to any talk or speech that might pollute my ears. A sort of shield.

This muted, musical walk is a sort of self therapy, a self inflicted case of: “incurable paradoxical romanticism” (I impressed myself with this combination of words) that i succumb myself to every now and then (succumb?!); in order to re-remember the reasons why i am madly in Love with this city….

The best part here is that when listening to music, you suddenly become a script writer. You start fantasizing, as you walk past people, shops and monuments about the stories that lay behind them. You suddenly find yourself diving deep into the soul of everything around you. The masks and crusts that seem to veil everything in existence suddenly fall down. And you no longer care for what’s in front of you, you care for the layers.

To put my trip into perspective my jog goes from Ramlet El Bayda crossing Manara, Ein el mrayse, Zeitouna Bay, Saifi, Gemmayze, Mar Mkhayel then back through downtown, Hamra, Qoreytem, Verdun and back to Ramlet el Bayda.
The ongoing sexual intercourse and marriage that is happening between the many cultures that define us as a people is so abundant, obvious and romantic that you feel you are going from country to country every time you turn a corner. And with the right music, you have to make an effort to wipe the stupid smile off your face so that you don’t look like you’r on some type of mushrooms.

There are three main common things that you will see everywhere in Beirut (Aside from the abundant Syrian populace… who the hell is fighting over there? they are all here…); smiling children, happy hand-holding lovers and an astonishing sad yet fun realization that wherever you are in Beirut, if you pause and look around, you will find a bullet hole somewhere.

These three observations I believe, define us so perfectly. We are an innocent, naive, playful bunch of people capable of so much love and yet the most common thing we share is not the understanding of being the same, but bullet holes that we send each other across the corners.

But what if background music filled our lives at all times? what if in the middle of a heightened political debate John Mayer walks in with Dave Mathews, Norah Jones and Tracy Chapman… Would we then see the big bearded guy and say “Hey! he looks like Hagrid from Harry Potter! Let’s take a picture!” instead of “do you think he’s going to blow up?”… would we wait and watch as his wife grabs his hand and playfully strokes his beard instead of dismissing him as a person with no layers and emotions?

Would we look at a mosque and a church and think how cool would it be if you had a bridge over the street that connected both buildings and imagine the ceremony that would take place if this ever happens? Would we simply fall in love at the site of a veiled girl walking with her friend who’s wearing a mini skirt? Would we wonder what would have happened if the faces we see in Achrafieh grew up with the faces we see in Manara? Would we live in constant harmony and inspiration because of the soft vibrations of Sigur Ros that can take our souls to new limits? How amazing would it be if we were interested in each other and saw beyond the clothes, the place and the beliefs? And is it possible without the music? Is it the music that was making me feel all of this? Was I forever inspired to love and see beyond the obstacles? Was I having a Buddha moment and this right here right now as I am running across this deep soul consuming city, with the colors of the sunset filling the skies; was this the moment of pure inspiration that will forever make me feel in love with Beirut and without the need for self inflicted incurable paradoxical romanticism?

It was not.

Right after Bono finished talking about the streets that have no names and right before Jack johnson wanted to start paying homage to john Lenon the music had to stop… And there he was. Out there. Abou el Chanab… or whoever the genetically challenged freak of nature who should not have survived natural selection, responsible for the Lebanese song that questions the reasons behind a woman’s desire to shorten a dress (ليش بت قصر تنورة )… i heard him, from a car passing by… And all hope was lost and shattered.

Our music is the most obvious and unfortunate proof of our emotional disability and our barbaric pre-historic cave man like type of thinking. The fact that we move to these beats and recite these lyrics “why does she shorten a dress” (what the flying fuck are you talking about) is proof that we are nothing but ignorant cave men who dance to silly rhythms and beat each other for reasons as silly as who has the prettiest rock. Forgetting to gaze at the stars above and the beauty of a sparkling night, in order to realize how tiny and improbable we are; how alone and rare we are… And how important it is to know one another.

The only thing that the human race has ever created, truly truly created, is music…. And we’r doing it wrong.

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