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:”

 

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Mashrou’ Leila’s Ibn El Leil; Ab: Beit Byout; Film Ktir Kbeer: When Lebanese Art Is Great

Amidst the very dismal situation in the country, of which I’ve written and nagged your head about plenty, there are currently three emblems of Lebanese art shining bright of which I think we should all take notice. The three acts/events I’m about to highlight have not paid me to support them and probably don’t need my support anyway, but I’ve found their offering to be so impressive that I think it should be highlighted.

Ab: Beit Byout:

Ab Beit Byout

Ab: Beit Byout is the Lebanese take on August: Osage County, the award-winning turned-movie play, which you probably know because of both Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep who received Oscar nominations for their roles.

It’s the story of a very dysfunctional family meeting around their matriarch at the event of the disappearance and eventual death of their father. What ensues is sheer acting brilliance, a mouthful of dialogue that is as biting as it is seething with anger, regret, sadness and joy.

The adaptation to a Lebanese audience is great. It manages to carry enough of the punches of its American counterpart without feeling like a word for word copy or a subpar rip off. There are enough Lebanese aspects to it to make the play feel very relatable, very “I’ve seen such a thing take place in my hometown.”

Catch it at Babel Theatre in Hamra.

Film Ktir Kbeer (Very Big Shot):

Film Ktir Kbeer Poster

Nothing about this movie encouraged me to watch it. The title didn’t make sense. The poster felt like yet another Lebanese action-movie-wannabe. Confession time: I was extremely wrong.

Film Ktir Kbir is the kind of movies you’ve been wanting Lebanese filmmakers to make but as they were too busy making “Bebe” and movies about the civil war or about Christians hating Muslims and vice versa.

“Very Big Shot” is the story of 3 siblings who, after growing up in lower socio-economic standards, find themselves in deep trouble after getting involved with a drug lord, causing them to devise an ingenious way to save themselves.

There’s plenty of curse words, plenty of “every day” banter, and few cliches that are mostly spun as jokes. The acting is great. The script is extremely tightly written albeit the ending felt a bit rushed. It’s a movie that is equally fiction and equally a criticism of Lebanese society and politics.

Keep an open mind to it and give it a shot. I bet you won’t be disappointed.

Mashrou’ Leila’s “Ibn El Leil”:

Ibn El Leil

The opening song of Mashrou’ Leila’s newest album “Ibn El Leil” is an ethereal, mostly instrumental track called Aoede and it sets the tone for an album that is both more mature, more cohesive and more sonically impressive than anything they’ve offered before.

If you’re a fan of what they’ve done before – their song “Lil Watan” is excellent – then this album will be right up your alley. If you’ve been iffy about this Lebanese band, give this album a shot: there are some tracks there that are so nicely done they might change your mind.

After launching this album at London’s “Barbican,” The Guardian wrote about how this Lebanese band might be on the brink of finally exploding and filling stadiums instead of smaller venues. Perhaps that will happen one day, but what is sure for now is that “Ibn el Leil” is one hell of an album filled with songs that not only defy Arab and Lebanese stereotypes, but are eons above and beyond anything that is offered musically in the region.

In their latest offering, Mashrou’ Leila are breaking the confines of what Arab music was allowed to say. It’s a joy to listen to.

 

 

Listen to: 3 Minutes; Kalam; Tayf; Ashabi; Marrikh.

Hiba Tawaji Didn’t Lose; The Voice Lost Hiba Tawaji

 

I was walking around New York City yesterday, totally trying to mind my own business by checking Facebook and trying not to feel dwarfed by the high rises around me when my Lebanese friends broke some terribly heartbreaking news to me, as I stood there in Times Square.

It was one of those Facebook moments where you get bad news you’re supposed to get over a phone call via a status instead, sort of like when I learned that a relative died because someone decided to post a picture of her with a RIP caption before they had told everyone else. But this, this was worse.

For lack of better analogy, the news I received on Facebook yesterday was devastating, gut-wrenching and so haunting it might as well be my own version of 9/11. How could it be? It can’t be.

Hiba Tawaji, the Lebanese that showed France how it is to actually sing in French, was no more on the amateur talent show The Voice. But that didn’t make sense? How could Hiba Tawaji lose? How could the person that is now teaching the entire world what singing actually consists of end up with such a heinous outcome? How could the country that gave the world music, art and the alphabet be so terribly offended?

It must have been a conspiracy. Those French people are clearly obviously out there to get us, poor gullible Lebanese whose only fault in this world was being born in the most wonderful, most loved and most vied for country in the world.  Clearly, those French were jealous. Clearly, they had a thing against us. 4 Lebanese candidates on 4 seasons of France’s The Voice are now all martyrs to the Lebanese artistic cause of becoming nobodies in Western Europe. Clearly I wasn’t gonna sit down and be quiet about this.

There are two things that make me proud of Lebanon today: hummus and Hiba Tawaji. The latter losing was a stab in the heart of my nationalistic pride. How are we not protesting this serious violation of our basic and most fundamental right as Lebanese people to be the shit of the shit at every single location where a shit can be shat? This is unacceptable. No, scratch that. This is not only unacceptable, this is worthy of a UN tribunal, more pressing than the STL, to investigate the serious backwater works that are going into this serious breach of Lebanese sovereignty taking place inside the studios of TF1.

So because I’m a masochist, I decided to watch the video of Hiba losing. I swear, that was a worse experience to my mental health than seeing all the mutilated bodies of Syrian children. I am scarred for life. I wept for Hiba. I cut for Hiba. I hung a Lebanese flag around my neck and walked around Brooklyn for Hiba. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to bring back the pride I lost with Hiba being so wrongly targeted… #JeSuisIba.

TL;DR? Hiba Tawaji lost. The country is mourning. And this is all too heartbreaking and tough to process. Or maybe not. Shit happens in talent shows. It was fun while it lasted, now let’s look at more serious things, like being interested in drunk driving and Haifa Wehbe’s English career.

Breaking Down Haifa Wehbe’s Brilliant “Breathing You In”

Haifa Wehbe dropped an English song. Such breaking news! It’s such big news in fact that it reached me all the way in the United States while I purposefully ignored anything and everything Lebanese (sorry, not sorry).

So I sat down and decided to breathe in – for lack of better word – that outstanding piece of art, the kind that will surely break the Taylor-Swift-saturated-American-pop-scene and make sure they remember that Lebanon is the country that created music, the English language, techno beats, Interstellar travel and the idea behind the movie Gravity.

I figured I’d break down the video into its components, because why the hell not? Serves for more entertaining news that bitching about the political situation or the sudden mass worry about this odd phenomenon called drunk driving. Yes, I got that too. Sigh.

So I loaded the video in 1080p (HA!) and here we go:

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 1

 

Who the hell are Mostafa Sorour and Tarik Freitken? And what is World Music?

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 2

Who the hell is Casper and why do we care?

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 3

And NASA! Do you think they’d sue for using their logo? What does Haifa Wehbe have to do with NASA? Why are we in space? Why are there astronauts? 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 4

How did we go from space to a barn. Isn’t this haram?

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 5

 *puppy eyes.*

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 6

“Is pressing this much against that wooden pole enough to make my boobs look bigger while I “sing?”

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 7

That “take me as I am” line sure comes in handy at this point, doesn’t it? *moans.*

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 9

Wait! How are we dancing in the desert now? Is there a checklist for exotic videos we are going through? Space, check. Desert, check. Strip club next? 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 10

 

Fastest wardrobe change ever? I guess they figured the previous one wasn’t skin-revealing enough?

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 11

Oh look we’re in space now. I can’t keep track. And why is Haifa not wearing a space suit? Is it because it doesn’t show enough skin? 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 13

Back to the desert. It’ll be hard to tell foreigners that Lebanon doesn’t have deserts after this. My life is ruined. 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 14

Is she dancing? What is she doing? 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 15

Is he finally taking her as she is in the barn? Kinky? No. Lebanese don’t do that. *shakes head.*

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 16

When you’re bored, just swim in space. Right? Let Haifa come to you and save you. 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 17

And then get surrounded by men touching you in green and flowery fields. 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 18

She wasn’t satisfied, so she went solo. *wink.*

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 19

Barely-there clothing! Break the Arab internet and Western stereotypes, Haifa! She hasn’t looked better though. Damn.

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 20

I can’t wait to read all the Arab tabloids talking about how she highlighted her pubic area with this. 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 21

I don’t get the purpose of this interlude. 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 22

Or why this guy is still flying in space.

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 23

I bet she’s trying to recreate that infamous venus picture, right? Bring her a fig leave now.

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 24

Aww. Haifa cries! 

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 25

He came…. alive.

Haifa Wehbe Breathing You In - 26Who is this guy again?

Oh wait, there was a song among that video? So then I went and listened to it again in an attempt to get the lyrics. What kind of brilliance, people? It’s like an American sexually-charged song, but without intercourse. Because this is Arabia and there’s no way anyone can sing about sex here. Get your minds out of the gutters! Only a Lebanese superstar can pull off sex in such a sex-less way.

Love me now,

Love me past the end of the time,

Turn me up,

Find my frequency,

You’re breathing me,

Take me as I am,

Give me a sign,

Show me that our love is one

Is it me or are these lyrics so expressive and ground-breaking? Never has any composer written such wonderful phrases in song before. Bring me their names now!

Cause I’m just breathing, breathing you in

You get me started when you begin

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in, in, in, in, in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in, in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

What a chorus! What kind of brilliance? What kind of tempo? One sentence repeated sixteen times. I can’t even.

Loud and clear I hear you,

I feel no one when I’m with you,

I feel closer when we’re far,

We are weightless, care-free love

Weightless, care-free, close when far… these are just new ideas introduced to the English language that should be trademarked. Get on it. Don’t let Taylor Swift be the only one trademarking her lyrics especially when you’ve got this.sick.beat. going on.

Cause I’m just breathing, breathing you in

You get me started when you begin

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in, in, in, in, in

Cause I’m just breathing, breathing you in

You get me started when you begin

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you in

Just breathing you

Just breathing you in, in, in, in, in

Just breathing you in,

Just breathing you in,

I feel you breathing,

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

Breathing you in, in, in, in

I’m breathing you in, in, in, in.

That same sentence repeated 21 times. Is there a record here we should be aware of? And seriously, how beautiful are these lyrics? Only in Lebanon. Going back to Edward Maya days all the way in 2015? Bring back these beats, Haifa.

I wonder, were the lyricists writing this getting goosebumps with each pen stroke? I sure was. I bet they felt like geniuses with every line they wrote down and every comparison they added. Damn. How innovative of them.

I’m worried though. All that breathing – desert dust, air dust, other kinds of dust – can be life threatening. Did Haifa get tuberculosis?

You’ll have to wait to blast this out of your 1980s BMW 320. It won’t be available on iTunes before April 21st. Bummer. I really wanted to show those New Yorkers what our artists can pull off and let them breath it in, in, in, in, in.

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 12.57.59 AM

I suppose it says enough when a song like this will probably end up being played on Lebanese radio instead of offerings by Lebanese artists who have been trying to make it for years, such as Postcards or The Wanton Bishops. Don’t let people convince you this is worthwhile, or that the “good beat” makes up for the fact that this is trash.

Lebanese stars should stop wasting their money on trying to make it internationally especially when they’re buying horrible songs that were probably written by someone with basic comprehension of the English language, masquerading it as “in” with some fancy beats and sultry delivery.

No, just no.

 

Alt-J Coming To Lebanon This Summer At The Byblos Festival

Alt-J

Your prayers have been answered, indie music Lebanese fans, for this year’s concerts are no longer just about the music you run away from. Rejoice!

Since you, my dearest readers, deserve a bit of happy news every now and then on here, I am leaking your way some major information that was shared my way. Yes, the Byblos Festival will be more than John Legend and The Script. Yes, you don’t need to keep worrying that it’s just too *mainstream* this year.

British band Alt-J will be coming to Lebanon for a concert this summer! It’s confirmed. The date will be announced soon. So for those who were in a state of panic, you can now relax (and get your money ready) because I’m sure this leak will brighten your day.

For those who don’t know them, Alt-J rose to prominence in 2012 with the album “An Awesome Wave.” Their latest offering, This Is All Yours, released in 2014, managed to top the UK albums chart. Their most famous song worldwide is “Tessellate,” which was covered by Ellie Goulding later on.

The song they rose to prominence with, however, is “Breezeblocks” which has clocked so far over 50 million hits on YouTube:

One thing to be said about all of this is kudos to the Byblos Festival for bringing high-profile talents to Lebanon year after year. Along with Alt-J, they are bringing John Legend who had the past year’s biggest hits in “All Of Me” as well as materializing a concert by “The Script” who were long-rumored to be coming.

In making sure that it is always of international caliber, Byblos Festival has consistently been a highlight of every summer we’ve had in Lebanon. And with all of this to the backdrop of arguably the country’s most touristic city, Jbeil, it becomes something you can’t not be proud of.

My hat goes off to all the effort that goes into making this successful and news-worthy every single year.

Update:

August 18th’s the date.

Alt-J Lebanon August 18

Hiba Tawaji Wins & Advances To The Final Stages Of France’s The Voice

Hiba Tawaji has won her part of the knockout stages (epreuve ultime) in France’s The Voice – the last of the previously taped segments of the show – and has advanced to the finals of the show, the live shows.

Starting next week, Hiba along with 3 other candidates in her team, will perform a song of their choice to the public live after which audiences will get a chance to vote for all candidates, making sure one of them proceeds to the following week in the progress while the coach chooses who of the other candidates remains and one is eliminated.

If the hype is to be believed, Tawaji has a good chance at advancing in the live shows. Her performances are reportedly among the most watched of the show (her audition has over 1 million hits on YouTube and over 600,000 on TF1’s website, well ahead of all auditions of the show).

In the knockout stage, Tawaji performed Christina Aguilera’s signature song “Fighter.” She did well, but was criticized for her song choice as the coaches felt it didn’t suit her quite well. It’s telling, in my opinion, when an artist as good as Hiba Tawaji has trouble with song selection. It goes to show how far our artists are sheltered, maybe even left without artistic freedom, in their careers.

Either way, French audiences were very receptive of the song.

 

This is a video of the performance courtesy of my blog’s Facebook page (click).

It is worth noting that part of Mika’s team for the live shows includes an Israeli, named Sharon Lalom. For the upcoming live shows, Hiba Tawaji will be battling it out with Sharon for people’s votes and Mika’s favor. She may end up finding herself in a picture with her, in the same television frame as her or whatnot. Let us do our best as Lebanese not to fall into the traps of accusing her of treason for participating.

This is our chance to show that, at a simple ultimately useless talent show, we can take the higher road and “resist” by actually winning, showing that the talents of our country are great enough on their own merit and can kick anyone’s ass, Israeli or not.

Good luck to her!

Hiba Tawaji Wins Her Battle on France’s The Voice

Hiba Tawaji The Voice

Is it me or are Lebanese women on a roll these couple of days? Rima Karaki is now making headlines around the world for shutting up an Islamist (link), and Hiba Tawaji just presented another side of Lebanese women and artists during her battle on France’s The Voice.

On Françoise Hardy’s classic “Mon Ami La Rose” (YouTube link), Hiba battled 41 year old year Nög in an oriental remix of the very-subdued song, allowing her to show a different side of her voice. Nög, Hiba’s challenger, gave her a run for her money. He was absolutely excellent. The level of competition between him and Hiba has showed that there’s no such thing as someone “professional” competing against “amateurs.” They are all professionals who know what they’re doing, and at 41 Nög probably has a lot of experience under his belt that helped him almost beat the Lebanese contestant.

Ultimately, Mika chose Hiba and Nög was taken by Zazie, another coach.

French audiences were also quite receptive to Hiba’s performance:

This is a video of the performance:

Let me know if the video is removed and I’ll find another version. You can also check the video on LBC’s news page (link).

The Point Behind Following Hiba On France’s The Voice:

I saw a lot of people wonder what’s the point behind the interest in Hiba’s path on France’s The Voice and how it reflects on Lebanon or us as people. It’s a certain thing that Tawaji on The Voice ultimately boosts her career as a priority and reflects little on us. But there’s more to it than that, even if it’s a little gullible to think so.

By being “la Libanaise,” she is giving the French a face of the country that they don’t usually see. It’s not much for sure, and it may be part of our collective hopeless thinking of improving our reputation bit by bit at all means possible. Either way, as a country we’ve gotten interested in so many useless things that I honestly don’t get the point in going up in a fit about this just because people are getting excited about a Lebanese being on it.

Good luck to Hiba on the rest of the show. She’s not in the finals just yet, but next time she’s live she will be up for people voting.