IRTIJAL’S ISTIMRAR COMMISSION SERIES
in partnership with Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
It is no secret that in the past year, Lebanon has been besieged by some of the most violent and traumatic events of its already-tumultuous history. In addition to the devastating damages incurred on the social and economic levels, the artistic sector has suffered as well, and except for a few exceptions here and there, Beirut’s lively music scene and its once-vibrant activities have all but come to a standstill.
We at Irtijal, held on firmly to our belief in the necessity to organize musical activities, in keeping the scene and its actors busy, in keeping the musical sector alive no matter what. We put together a short edition of our annual festival in November 2020, followed by a German iteration of Irtijal Festival in Berlin. Earlier in October, we were involved in a large-scale fundraising event organized in collaboration with Morphine and CTM in Berlin, involving the majority of Lebanese indie musicians and music collectives.
In 2021, in collaboration with our partners at hcmf//, we will launch ISTIMRAR, our first series of COMMISSIONED WORKS addressed to Lebanese musicians. The purpose of this series is to keep the creativity of Lebanese musicians alive and robust and to inject some stimulation into the Lebanese musical sector as a whole.

We have selected TWELVE composers and musicians currently residing in the country, and provided them with the necessary tools to produce a musical work of their devising, with the condition that it should be composed, recorded, mixed and produced locally.

Irtijal will be giving total artistic freedom to the selected composers, and encouraging them to be as ambitious as they would like, in the conception, preparation and execution of their commissioned piece. We will assist the artists in bringing their work to life in the best conditions possible, providing the necessary tools for the completion of the desired work, and providing counseling and guidance when relevant.
Last but not least, along with our co-commissioners at hcmf//, we will handle the promotion and distribution of the commissioned pieces to the majority of its network, thus ensuring maximum visibility and shedding light on the outstanding musical talents of Lebanese musicians and composers.

ISTIMRAR’S 12 SELECTED COMPOSERS

Interested in urban sounds and Arabic music, Lebanese musician Abed Kobeissy approaches Beirut’s urban soundscapes as a local aesthetic and a main component of his work: the unique sound of processed Buzuq and drum machine, combined with the musician’s background in traditional Arabic music, takes the sonic, visual and pseudo-political day-to-day that is Beirut and reflects it onto a hyper-realistic soundscape. Kobeissy also composes scores for contemporary dance and theater productions, in collaboration with Lebanese percussionist Ali el-Hout.

Anthony Sahyoun is a Lebanese composer, producer and guitar player. In 2015 he co-founded instrumental rock outfit Kinematik; the band is currently working on its third full-length album, “Al Jadi.” In his solo guise, Sahyoun works on electronic processing of acoustic elements, programming, drone and ambient music – his music is described as “apocalyptic, rich and emotionally charged.” He also scores music for film, has composed scores for various sound installations, and recently co-directed (with Lebanese graphic artist Aia Atoui) audiovisual installation “Shabah Al Rih”, which was shown at Opéra National du Rhin’s “Arsmondo Liban” Festival.

Aya Metwalli is a singer/songwriter, composer and producer from Cairo. Described as “a musical enigma” by The Guardian and a musician who has “crafted a spellbinding brand of anti-pop” by Pitchfork, Metwalli gradually expanded her live set after studying music production in 2014 in Cairo. She self-released her debut EP “Beitak” toward the end of 2016, and has been revamping her sound and developing her modus operandi since. Lately, the influence of both Egyptian pop songs and classics has leaked out of her subconsciousness and found its way onto her particular brand of strange sounds, modulated through synthesizers and drum machines.

Cynthia Zaven is a composer, pianist and artist based in Beirut. Her projects combine a variety of media and strive to explore the relationship between sound, memory and identity through interwoven narratives. Her notable works include “Untuned Piano Concerto With Delhi Traffic Orchestra” (performance, 2006), and “Perpetuum Mobile,” a 12-channel sound installation that was exhibited within the Temple of Bacchus, at the World Heritage site of Baalbeck in Lebanon, and nominated for the Prix Ars Electronica Award in 2017. Her music has been published by Berlin-based label, Staalplaat.

Elyse Tabet has been working in audio-visual interaction since the early 2000s, mainly as a videographer for live performances and DJ sets. In 2008, she began recording acousmatic sounds and processing them in DAWs and samplers to produce electronic music. She has worked on projects with electronic producer Jawad Nawfal, releasing “Newfound Grids” under the name Litter for Cedrik Fermont’s label Syrphe Records in 2013, and “Coast” for Nawfal’s platform VV-VA in 2019. She contributed to projects with punk rock and electronic musician Yangfan Li, drummer and producer Nabil Saliba, video artist Maureen Castera, and Lisbon based artist & curator Violeta Lisboa.

Lebanese musician, producer and sound engineer Fadi Tabbal’s work consists of guitar pieces ranging from stripped acoustics to ambient and shoegazing-inspired treatments. Often referred to as “the hardest-working man in Lebanon’s alternative music scene”, Tabbal relocated to Beirut in 2006 following studies in sound engineering in Montreal, Canada; he promptly established Tunefork Recording Studios, a specialized work-space which offers customized services including full band recordings, live sound, music production and composition. Tabbal is a full-time member of several Lebanese indie rock bands, including The Incompetents, Interbellum and The Bunny Tylers, as well as electronic duo Stress Distress.

Ghassan Sahhab is a Lebanese musicologist, composer, and musician. He released his first album “Sharqi” (My Orient) in 2017, as well as numerous instrumental pieces for theater plays, films and podcasts. Sahhab has performed in concerts and projects in France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Australia, Italy, Azerbaijan, the Arab region and Lebanon. He is a member of the classical Arabic musical ensemble of the Université Antonine (UA) and Asil Ensemble for Contemporary Arabic Music. He is also a renowned researcher in the musical traditions of the Mašriq, and the co-founder and musical director of “Me’zaf”, a musical cultural initiative dedicated to authentic Levantine music.

Jad Atoui is a music composer, sound designer and electronic sounds experimentalist based in Beirut. Using his bio-sensors, field recordings and analog gears he composes and performs electronic music. His work has been featured in Pompidou Center (2012, Paris) and The Stone (NYC). He has performed with John Zorn, Laurie Anderson, Marc Ribot, Elliott Sharp, Bill Frisell and Chuck Bettis. In 2015, in collaboration with scientist Ivan Marazzi, Atoui spearheaded the “Biosonics” project, which incorporates bio-sonification of behaviors as a compositional tool. The project was published in John Zorn’s “Arcana Book Vol. XVIII” and premiered at The National Sawdust.

After obtaining a BA in film scoring and music synthesis from Berklee College of Music, Jana Saleh spent 10 years in New York exploring various music scenes, touring North America as an electro-acoustic duo with longtime collaborator Dr. Richard Boulanger, and heading the new media department at VP Records, a renowned reggae and dancehall label. She moved back to Beirut in 2009 to open her production house dedicated to local artist development; with an emphasis on artists working with Arabic music. Saleh also composes music for plays, ad campaigns and television series, and is an active member of Beirut’s DJ scene.

Lebanese producer Jawad Nawfal created sonic alter-ego Munma in 2006, the aftermath of Israel’s war on Lebanon – releasing three albums in quick succession for Lebanese imprint Incognito. In 2012, he started working with Lebanese slam poet El Rass, and the two musicians released two albums exploring the darker sides of rap and hip-hop, reconfiguring the genre to include elements of bass and electronica. Between 2013 and 2015, Munma collaborated with Belgian electronic producer Kirdec on several releases for his label Syrphe; “Three Voices”, his full-length release from 2016, explored the possibilities of the human voice within an ambient electronic framework. In 2019, Nawfal self-founded label VVVA, a platform dedicated to showcasing his collection of unreleased tracks and experimental side projects.

Julia Sabra is a Lebanese musician, songwriter, composer and sound engineer. She co-founded acclaimed Lebanese dream pop outfit Postcards in 2013 and is the band’s lead singer, lyricist, co-composer and multi-instrumentalist. Postcards have released 3 EPs and 2 albums between 2013 and 2020, with a third full-length due late 2021, and have regularly been touring Europe and the Middle East since 2015. She was also a member of Lebanese rock bands The Incompetents and Interbellum, and is currently working on an ambient duo with Fadi Tabbal. She has been the manager of Tunefork Studios since 2017, and works in live sound and composition with the studio.

Nour Sokhon is a Lebanese sound artist based in Beirut, Lebanon. Her creative explorations have recently taken the form of sound compositions, sound performances, interactive installations and moving images. In 2019, she received the Emerging Artist Prize at the Sursock Museum, for a moving image piece entitled “Revisiting: Hold Your Breath,” and has recently been awarded the Braunschweig Project Sound Art 2020 scholarship.

Irtijal’s ISTIMRAR commissions series is made possible with generous support from Gwaertler Foundation and hcmf//
Special thanks also go to Goethe Institut, Al Mawred Al Thaqafy, AFAC, and Prince Claus Fond, for their general support of our activities.