Image Credit: Gabriel Ferneini for Beirut & Beyond International Music Festival 2023

Ten Years of Cultural Odyssey: Beirut & Beyond International Music Festival

From hip hop to dreamy folk, traditional Arabic music to electronic beats, even melodic pop to a bit of rock.

Beirut and Beyond (B&B) strives to create a musical tapestry. Their aim is to transcend not just music genres, but also to embrace diverse nationalities, and ensure gender balance for the equal provision of opportunities for everyone. Most importantly, they aim to support independent artists from the region.

Established in 2013, Beirut and Beyond has championed musicians from Lebanon and SWANA region. Now, Beirut and Beyond presents ‘Beirut and Beyond – 10 Years” launching on March 29, 2024, as a celebration of their ten-year journey and commitment to uplifting the local music scene during challenging times.

“Working in the music industry is not very sustainable, especially in our region, so reaching the ten-year milestone and feeling genuinely proud of our accomplishments is worth celebrating,” says Yara Mrad, the Program Manager from Beirut and Beyond.

This compilation is a collaborative effort with Bachar Mar-Khalifé and his Paris-based label, balcoon.

Ten tracks, countless vibes

In July 2023, ten artists from Lebanon, selected by a committee featuring Bachar Mar-Khalifé, Anthony Semaan, and Yara Mrad, gathered at Tunefork Studios in Beirut. Each artist dedicated a full day to recording a new original track.

The committee sought out artists who were either at the beginning or mid-level of their careers.

“We were looking for artists with potential who may just need a little push to guide them in the right direction. We like taking chances,” said Mrad.

The compilation features an impressive lineup of local musicians, including Abe Younan, Amal Kaawash, Joe Pretzel, O V II D, and Salwa Jaradat ft. Khaled Allaf, Sami Serhan, Sundowner, Tilt, Whyvsef ft. Al Nasik, and Yal Solan.

With these artists, Beirut and Beyond aims to capture the vibrant musical landscape of Lebanon. This collaborative effort crafts a mosaic of sounds, providing listeners with the chance to discover something they like and, perhaps, fall in love with something new, with the lineup’s mix of both familiar and unfamiliar artists.

Audience interaction

The musical journey of the 10 tracks will be available in both digital and vinyl formats. The vinyl package includes a 12-page booklet featuring the lyrics from the recording sessions, adding a touch to the experience for music listeners engaging with the compilation.

Empowering homegrown talents

At the core of Beirut and Beyond’s journey lies a passionate commitment. Their aim is to breathe life into the independent music scene in a region where a thriving industry is amiss. Born out of the realization that local and regional artists lacked the necessary support, the initiative was a response to this void.

The mission goes beyond financial aid. It extends to providing essential support that musicians in Lebanon need in the face of struggles to sustain themselves solely through music.

“Music is one of the things that keeps a lot of people going, and that is what we aim to support,” Yara Mrad says.

Through workshops, panel discussions, and an open-to-the-public professional program, they endeavored to create opportunities for musicians. This effort weaves a narrative of a nurturing environment for local artists.

In the aftermath of the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the Beirut port explosion, the festival alone seemed insufficient. Yearning to offer more substantial support, Beirut and Beyond launched the first edition of the Musician Support Program. 

Global sonic canvas

Beirut and Beyond weave connections between the local music realm and the global stage. Welcoming international delegates to the festival, they engage in discussions with local professionals, creating a vibrant tapestry of shared insights and experiences.

Beirut and Beyond have already initiated listening sessions in France and the United Kingdom, and are actively working on arrangements in Belgium, Germany, and Lebanon. These sessions serve as a journey for the artists, guiding them through the compilation on a tour of diverse sonic landscapes.