Founded in 2000, Irtijal is presently the oldest music festival of the city of Beirut, and one of the longest standing international festivals of post-war Lebanon. Irtijal is organized by MILL, a non-profit association founded in 2000 by musicians Mazen Kerbaj and Sharif Sehnaoui, with the intent of promoting contemporary and experimental practices in music, and assisting projects that do not fit within the Lebanese mainstream, yet still present undeniable artistic value.
The 20th century has witnessed a strong worldwide spread of new and alternative musical styles, which in turn constitute an important aspect of the historical evolution of music as an art form. MILL was created to boost and support these practices in Lebanon: free improvisation, free jazz, contemporary classical music, post-rock, experimental electronic music, sound-art as well as many other attempts to explore new and uncharted territories in sound. In the same manner, and thanks to the importance of Beirut on the cultural map of the Arab world, we strive to extend these ideas to neighboring Arab countries. With a keen eye on these practices, Irtijal is a yearly meeting that focuses on presenting works by both local and foreign artists, all the while encouraging interaction between them.
The festival does not confine itself to any specific style or genre of music, but rather tries to advocate an experimental and innovative approach to each and every genre it showcases. Irtijal has achieved considerable growth during its 15 years of existence, going from a one-day festival in 2001 to 4-6 days since 2003; the number of concerts has grown from 4 to 20, while that of international guest artists from 5 to 30. Over the past 15 years Irtijal has unquestionably inscribed itself as the main annual event for new and innovative music in the Lebanese artistic scene, and is rightly considered as the largest structure of its kind in the Arab world.