“Ana Mesh Fenneneh” – The Hilarious Song About The Current State of Lebanon’s Music

From Roula Yammout to Rima Dib to Miriam Klink, the current state of Lebanon’s music scene is horrific. We make fun of what is available, hoping that our ridicule leads to them ceasing to exist, but it seems they take the ridicule as attention and use it as fuel to launch even more disasters on our ears.

Enter Sevine Abi Aad, a performer whose own story with Arab record labels mirrors the current scene we’re forced to tolerate. A few years ago, Sevine had a record label interested in her. One look at her and the record label had comments: they wanted to fix her nose, make her breasts bigger and fix her gaped teeth.

She told them no and decided to do her own thing. The result is her debut song “Ana Mesh Fenneneh,” a satirical look at the Lebanon’s music of today where ass and breasts and blonde hair overtake any semblance of notes.

I sat down for a brief chat with Sevine about her song and her song, as well as upcoming album.

What prompted you to write this song and perform it?

I met with a lyricist I love (Nami Moukheiber) and started telling him about the topics I would like to sing about, that I love comedy, and making people laugh during my performances was important to showcase on the album, and how for me, it’s super important that I’ve lived and gone through whatever I’m singing about.

I remember telling him that I’d like to do a song about the fact that it’s very frustrating for artists to get heard if they’re not willing to play by the rules of the industry (i.e change your physical features, act a certain way, sing a certain style). Years before, I had been approached by industry people who, after just one glance at me had said: Bedna na3mellik menkharik, sodrik, nzabbit el fere2 ben snenik etc… without even discussing the music.

And so I told Nami ‘Ya khayye, ana mich fenneneh, tayib! w ma beddeh koun fenneneh!!!’ So, it’s quite autobiographical. The song was also written with Mike Massy.

What message do you want to give across through this song and album to the current musical status quo in lebanon?

This applies to the song, not the entire album. It’s about the dilemma, the temptation faced by ‘unknown’ independent artists to just give up and give in to the formatted way of the industry.

And we might be tempted to do so because we feel that we aren’t recognized and validated enough in the field.

For example, in terms of live music performance, not many venues will agree to host you and your music if they think the audience won’t enjoy it and they base the criteria for audience’s enjoyment on the repertoire and choice of songs.

Sadly, in most venues, they will ask you to play and rehash songs the people already know and love to dance and sing to… and so you get stuck doing what everyone else is doing or feeling frustrated that you can’t play the music YOU want in many places and share it with people.

So, sometimes, for independent artists, it’s a choice between this (becoming a ‘fenneneh’) or to keep playing for a tiny audience, and find other ways of supporting yourself financially – which is so harmful, because it will take time away from the music and creativity… And its a vicious cycle we need to break once and for all.

The thing is there is a whole underlying hub of amazing vocalists all over the country, who write amazing stuff, and who are performing for a tiny niche audience. And they don’t get the recognition from the wider audience that they so deserve.

Things are changing, for sure, but it still needs to be valued by a wider range of people who sometimes don’t even know about this independent scene. The bigger message though, goes beyond the music industry. It’s a message to young girls and women to stop trying to alter the way they look and act, just in order to be perceived as more ‘attractive’, ‘popular’, ‘fun’.

There is way too much pressure for women here to go under the knife, and it’s a shame they have forgotten how beautiful a person is by being unique and having their own identity. No one, in any industry should make a woman feel that she isn’t pretty enough or talented enough. And self confidence and knowing yourself and believing in what you’re doing should stay your main way of achieving the success you aim for. No compromise.

Is the satirical style of this present in the rest of your album?

It’s not on the entire album, no. Though, again, I love comedy, I also wanted to showcase other sides of me, so. But it’s definitely present in another Lebanese song called ‘Chaghlet Belle,’ written and composed by Mike Massy, which I hope we’ll be able to shoot a video for before the end of the year. Other songs are very cinematic and theatrical, and they’re in other languages (french and english).

I leave you with the song:

Ana Mech Fenneneh

La2 bass je te jure mich mbayyan! Abadan!

La2 bass ktir tali3 naturel!

We7etik we7yetik, yih walaw ana b2ellik chou!

 

Ana ana ana ana ana ana

Ana mech fenneneh Ana mech fenneneh 

Ana mech fenneneh w ba3ref ghanneh

Wejje byit7arrak aktar men jesme

Bghanne bsawte mech bi hazzet khasre 

B2adde ghnene bala tanneh w ranneh

 

Ana mech fehmene w mech se2lene

Ana mech fenneneh Ana mech fenneneh 

Ana mech fenneneh w ba3ref ghanneh

Kel el ness ma beddon gheir masla7te

leh chaklek 7elo w ma 3am tenchehre?

Leh bi Kelna Star ma 3am techterke?

Sawt w talle w haybe bass 2ten3eh 2ten3eh 2ten3eh

 

W ana

Ana mech fehmeneh

Ana mech fehmeneh Ana mech fehmeneh w mech fer2eneh

Tayib leh ma bta3mle chi CD?

7ki Montana byestmanno 3alayke

Eh lek chou  fiya halla2?

Kella 3amaliyit tejmil machina halla2!

Ya 3layke chou ma-jdoube yekhreb baytik ente

7at dallik hek ente 7at dallik hek!

2al chou 2al? 2al ana badde awwem me2t-eyet el fan

 

Pfff….chou hableh!

Lezim kabbir 3a2le w kabbir…

7atta ysir sawteh ad3af men khasre

Sar badda chi hamse wghamze w lamse 

7atta el jomhour ya3melneh nejmeh!

Ente mech fenneneh Ente mech fenneneh Ente mech fenneneh w rou7e ndabbeh!

Sia Is Coming To The Byblos Festival On August 9th


A source of mine just sent me the line-up of this summer’s Byblos Festival, in an otherwise very quiet lead up.

This same time last year, the festival had already confirmed John Legend and I had leaked Alt-J performing. Many had thought the festival was out of big names for this summer, but it seems we’ve all been wrong.

Sia, the Australian super star behind songs such as Chandelier and Titanium, will be performing on August 9th. No words yet on whether she will show her face, but her voice will more than suffice either way.

This will be Sia’s first performance in the entire Middle East. It will be a recreation of her critically acclaimed showcase at Coachella. 

In a surprisingly disappointing line-up, Sia seems to be the main draw when it comes to international talent. 

Other acts that will also be in the festival are Mashrou’ Leila, Hishik Bishik and Carole Samaha as Lebanese performers and renowned saxophonist Kenny G as well as Grace Jones.

The full line-up is present at the above picture and ticket prices will be as follows:

Standing:

– Regular: $75,

– Golden Circle: $125.

Sitting: $70, $90 and $150.

How To Handle The Disgusting Smell and Mosquitoes Overtaking Beirut

Pic via Mawtoura.

Pic via Mawtoura.

Here it unfolds, the worst chapter in the non-ending story of the Lebanese garbage crisis. Don’t be fooled, the crisis is far from over. The governmental “solution” is so short-sighted and non-sensical that the crisis is bound to be repeated if not in 60 days, then in a few months or years. This is how we do things in this country: we put band-aids on gaping wounds, without making sure that the wound itself has actually been stabilized enough to be managed with band-aids; we do makeup coverups for problems that need hardcore fixes.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies how short-sighted and lala-landish our government is than the Minister of Environment tweeting (then deleting) a few days ago that the wave of mosquitoes and flies the likes of which this country has not seen in recent memory is due to nothing other than the heat. He then subsequently blocked everyone who told him off or otherwise.

Mohammad Machnouk tweet

Ignore the fact that our Minister of Environment’s credentials don’t come anywhere near the science of the environment, and ignore the fact that we’re not actually experiencing waves of heat that could bring this much mosquitoes to our cities, what remains is a minister in a government that is trying to repeatedly fool you: the mosquitoes are due to the garbage, not just the weather.

As they stacked up the garbage in various locations around Beirut over the past several months, from Karantina to the Beirut River, the organic matter in that garbage underwent fermentation and decomposition leading to a wide array of toxins and bacteria. For months, those toxic materials were just lying there, unperturbed. However, the moment those poor garbage handlers started removing it, the chemicals were “freed” allowing them to move up to the Beiruti atmosphere and give you the absolutely horrible smell that feels inescapable.

The smell will remain there as long as they’re removing the garbage. The more time they take, the more we’ll have to endure, so let’s hope the poor fellows handling it physically can sustain the effort it takes before temperatures become higher and work conditions become too horrifying for the to manage.

Many people have reported unable to prevent vomiting many times a day because of the stench. Some have reported feeling ashamed of not being unable to vomit in public. I tell those people, your vomit is more honorable than the faces of those in governance who have inflicted this upon us. Wear it – not literally – like a badge of honor. If you’re having multiple episodes of vomiting, however, make sure to stay hydrated. Use anti-emetics, like primperan or motilium, to try and prevent such episodes as much as you can.

The disgusting smell has the worst ramifications on those with already present pulmonary disease. If you’re asthmatic or have an underlying lung illness and are feeling more out of breath than usual, consult your pulmonologist on adjusting your inhaler dose.

But what can be done about the smell and the mosquitoes and flies other than essentially sucking it up? We have to make sure our homes are safe for us and our children.

The mosquitoes and flies are a huge problem because 1) they exist in huge amounts, 2) they are caused by the garbage crisis, 3) they carry toxins with them as they travel, 4) they might carry infectious vectors from one person to the next and 5) they will bite.

So here’s a step by step process over how to handle things to the best of your capacity.

  1. Use face masks while going out if the smell is too much for you to handle. They’re present at most pharmacies and will help to a certain point.
  2. Before leaving your house, close the windows and doors to make sure mosquitoes and flies don’t welcome you back home. You can also use low dose insecticide, which will dissipate over the day, to keep the house free of the pests.
  3. Make sure to have cleansing hand gel with you at all times. Use it abundantly.
  4. If you or your children are bitten by a mosquito or flies, many of which are specific to this kind of fermentation process, clean the bite with a little bit of antiseptic, which will help in relief and cleaning.
  5. You can also use antiseptic sprays around the house. Those are a bit expensive, but there’s a cheaper DIY method that Ziad Abi Chaker shared on Facebook yesterday, consisting of mixing mouthwash with equal parts of water (1 cup mouthwash to 1 cup of water), putting the combo in a spray bottle and spraying the house.
  6. Maintain proper hygiene, not only of yourself but also of your house. The cleaner it is, the safer it is for yourself and your family.
  7. Every time a wave of nausea hits you or a mosquito/fly bites you, curse the hell out of this country and its government for making you go through this.

While our politicians live in lala-land and pretend that the only thing happening in Beirut is basically #Live and #Love, we are dealing with things that no civilized country has to ever deal with. Except the only notion of civility we have is what we propagate to those poor tourists to whom we now have to find an explanation as to why it just smells so bad in the city they’ve been duped to visit. If only odors can be carried over to Instagram posts.

I can’t believe it’s the year 2016 and we are discussing the ways to handle a putrid smell taking over our capital. What will be equally horrifying is the fact that the people in Nehme and other areas in the country where landfills reined supreme had to deal with such things for an extended period of time while no one cared. There’s a reason those people protested the landfill in their area, closed roads leading to it and refused to receive garbage in it again, only to be faced with army men and tanks forcing them to open it up.

In a short period, when the Burj Hammoud landfill opens up, this smell and everything that comes with it will become customary for Beirut. Keep that in mind.

 

Lebanese Marwan Youssef Wins Star Academy; Arabs Have A Meltdown About It

As blogger Anis Tabet wisely put it, “the year is 2050, and Star Academy is still on TV.”

Yes, it’s become increasingly redundant and unwatchable as it faces competition from more “appealing” shows as The Voice, but here we are and the Lebanese contestant Marwan Youssef just became the second Lebanese to win the show after Joseph Attieh, arguably the show’s most accomplished winner and graduate.

From the town of Obeidat in Jbeil, Marwan is an USEK student in his twenties, and even though I haven’t watched the show, catching up with what he presented over the season on YouTube has shown me that he is immensely talented, and can seriously sing (as can the other 3 finalists).

And since the country had nothing else to worry about over the past week, the ministry of telecommunication slashed voting prices (link) and radio stations as well as LBC led a campaign encouraging people to vote. He ended up getting around 55% of the votes, facing 2 Egyptians and a Tunisian:

But then the drama started.

I inadvertently clicked on the hashtag of the show soon after the announcement of the results only to be inundated by conspiracy theories, a slur of racism, accusations of cheating, mocking of Lebanon and a bunch of other hilarious offerings.

First up there was the news channel speaking about “actual” voting results, except math died in the process.

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 1

What’s sadder is the amount of people believing the numbers and resharing them.

Then there was the Egyptian who knows about our political problems and who figured Star Academy would be the best way to use them:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 18

There were also those who had a problem with the country to begin with and couldn’t wait for such a thing to happen to express their #TeamAntiLebanon attitude:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 21

Some were also very confused:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 7

Egyptian journalists with verified twitter accounts were also not that happy:

Star Academy 11 Marwan Youssef Haydi Moussa Mohammad Abbas Nassim el Rayyess Finale - 20

It’s safe to say a lot of people were not happy at all:

There’s a whole lot of those where they came from.

Leave it to a talent show to show exactly how fond Arabs are of each other. We’re all good at playing nice with each other as long as no one’s beating the other country’s participant at a talent show. If that occurs, claws are out. Be afraid Israel, be very afraid!

If a useless singing show on its 11th season can elicit such a reaction, what have we left to the things that actually matter? I almost forgot we are dealing with a thing called the Arab Spring/Winter, and that there’s a little thing called ISIS that exists among us.

In the spectrum of Arab priorities, clearly the participant coming from a small country winning a talent show is ranked up high. It is then that they cry foul and cheating. But when their governments do it to them daily, everyone just hits the snooze button and goes about their days daily. Perhaps we went about these revolutions the wrong way? Maybe the best way would have been to hold a phone voting competition and be done with it?

One thing is clear, however: better math is needed in the land that invented algebra.

Marc Hatem: Another Lebanese Singer To Be On France’s The Voice In 2016

Marc Hatem The Voice France

The string of talents we’re exporting to France’s The Voice continues this year in the form of Marc Hatem. I have no idea how long Lebanese are going to go on France’s The Voice, especially when the local version of the show is extremely successful and no French participant has made it on a commercial scale before, but might as well enjoy it while it lasts.

I was told of this news around two months ago from a private source, and given that the show starts tomorrow I figured it’s now the time to share it.

Marc is a young and extremely promising singer who is unlike anything Lebanon has sent France’s The Voice. His voice is reminiscent of a younger Josh Groban that Marc probably considers as his idol given how often he covers him. He is also mostly unknown, to break off from the recent two years in which Hiba Tawaji and Aline Lahoud both tried their luck at the show, and both ultimately not making it with varyingly impressive results.

The reason why Marc might do better on the show – or at least as well as previous Lebanese participants – is the fact that his voice sounds tailor-made to these kind of talent shows whereby those who hit the highest and most spectacular of notes are those that people rally behind.

His musical upbringing being mostly of Western music also means that he won’t be able to rely on using Arabic as a gimmick to get people talking: it will just have to be him and what he can do with his talent. Based on what I’ve heard, he is superb and should make it far.

Good luck to him. The show starts on TF1 tomorrow. Meanwhile, check out a few of Marc’s previous performances on YouTube and I hope you’re as impressed as I am:

And his cover of Hiba Tawaji’s “La Bidayi Wala Nihayi:”

 

Dear People of Facebook, Your “Be Like Bill” Stick Figure Memes Are Annoying, Not Funny

2015 was the year of Bitstrips.

2016 is the year of Facebook stickfigures.

Modern art is so minimalistic.

I wish we can have bitsrips back. At least those were visually appealing.

I have no idea who came up with this “Be like….” meme, but I’m getting super close to wishing they had never existed. I don’t know if it’s the case in other countries too, but the Lebanese populace of Facebook is not only milking the aforementioned meme, they’ve turned it into a monster haunting every single one of our timelines.

I’m now wishing I can see your selfies adorned with Nietzsche quotes again. At least those were actually funny.

So for those sharing those “Be Like You” memes, let me tell you the following:

  • No one cares you have a partner and don’t tell people about him or her.
  • No one cares that you can do a hundred push ups and don’t advertise it on social media.
  • No one cares that you’re single and happy about it.
  • No one cares that you’ve turned your life around and didn’t tell everyone.
  • The fact that you are making a meme out of it means you are propagating whatever fact you are proudly telling people you did not advertise.
  • No one wants to be like you (unless you have a billion dollars stashed somewhere).

So, stop the ridiculous memes. Stop sharing screenshots of them that pop up on our timelines even after we blocked the app making them. If you’re that bored, go read a book, go Instagram your meals, go watch some porn, or watch the only thing about Bill worth watching:

Uma Thurman Kill Bill

Ziad El Rahbani’s “Bennesbeh La Bokra Chou?” Was Beautiful; “Film Ameriki Tawil” In Cinemas Soon

Belnesbeh La bokra Chou Ziad el Rahbani play movie

Let me start out by saying that I am a Ziad el Rahbani uninitiated.

The tag-line for “Bennesbeh La Boukra Chou?” went: “you’ve been listening to it for 35 years, now come and watch it.” Well, I haven’t to say the least. In fact, apart from the occasional references to Ziad el Rahbani’s golden lines here and there among my acquaintances, my knowledge about his plays would’ve been essentially zero. It’s not something I’m proud of – to be so ignorant of a Lebanese icon is not one of my stronger suits I have to say – but I vehemently refused to listen to plays knowing that sometime in the near future I might be able to watch them.

Well, that future is now.

I was lucky to attend the Lebanese premiere – or the cinematic premiere that is – of “Bennesbeh Laboukra Chou?,” dedicated to the memory of Joseph Saker and Layal Rahbani, which will be in cinemas starting next Thursday, and I have to say: I’m thoroughly impressed.

No, this is not about the play’s sentences that everyone has memorized, or the songs that are engrained in our memories, even mine. This is about the entire experience of it: from film, to seeing the sheer joy on the faces of those watching it, to their reaction to finally seeing the play they’ve known so well on screen in the way that it is.

For starters, the play is filmed well enough for it to be shown in cinema. It’s not Kubrick, of course, but it is decent to the extent that a few minutes in you’ll forget that you’re watching rescued footage of a nearly four decades old play and simply fall into it. In fact, the grainy texture even gives it character: this is not a glossy movie, it’s rustic, full of life and quite charming. It feels documentary-like, which is also the purpose of the play at hand.

No one needs me to talk about the content of course, but I have to say that I was grossly impressed. Ziad’s satirical take on the Lebanese way of life then, the clash of classes and the struggle of the prolitariat, could not be truer even today. In fact, the movie/play starts: there have been many tomorrows after that, but what has changed? The fact of the matter is, so little has, and things are probably worse today than they were back then. Ziad’s monologue towards the end, about the need for work, about providing and trying to escape poverty is chills-inducing. It’s beautiful to see the lines many have repeated over the years be said in front of you “live,” and it’s even more beautiful to see the audience that knows those lines so well react to them.

I asked someone how it felt to watch the play they had listened to endlessly for years, and they said that it felt exactly as they had expected. I had to agree: you may be used to the voices, but the acting is exquisite. I have to say, Ziad el Rahbani may be a great playwright, but he’s an even better actor: the energy that man exuded on his stage is near-unparalleled in these times. No wonder audiences back then fell for him: it brought me such joy to see him perform in the way that he did, and I’m sure it will do the same to you.

You don’t need my words to tell you to watch “Bennesbeh Laboukra Chou?” if it’s something you planned. But let me tell you this: the people singing along to the songs, muttering those lines under their breathes or simply clapping along was an experience in itself, one full of nostalgia and wonder, one that I recommend wholeheartedly.

Film Ameriki Tawil

And, for those of you who want more, a list you can now add me to, there will be more: Film Ameriki Tawil, the even better play as I was told, will be in cinemas in the coming months as well (a source told me in around 2 months), and here’s part of the trailer: