Beirut blasted clubbing district: ‘I don’t know how we’ll recover’ music

BThe people of eirut are broken. The devastating eruption in the port and surrounding areas on 4 August destroyed any remaining optimism in the city, which was prolonged by economic problems and regional instability. Out of 2.4 million residents, more than 300,000 are now homeless. About 200 people died; 6,000 were injured. The cost of the devastation is currently estimated to be $ 15bn. The cities closest to the center of the blast are in ruins, including the nightlife district, which has been virtually wiped out.

The city’s club culture, once one of the finest in the Middle East, was a reflection of the hostility overcoming the Syrian civil war and the misery of a hostile economy during the past decade. “We had one of the biggest outlets, just to dance to it,” says Rand Shamma, 34, art director of the nightclub, Berhaus. We all belonged to different religions under one roof. I do not know what it will be full of, but it is full of anxiety right now. ”

Beirut has always been a cultural center, a gateway between Europe and the Middle East where there were scenes of disco and jazz ever. A civil war broke out in Lebanon between 1975 and 1990, prompting many civilians to seek asylum abroad. Some returned after the end of the war, and music, art, film, and theater were all revived. The club’s mission states that electronic music was filtered with the launch of the B018, one of the early clubs in Beirut in 1998. “B018 was an idea … the music that Lebanon needed could be music” “It unites the Lebanese underground when they hit the surface.”

By the 2010s, club owners and promoters in Beirut had built a globally recognized visual innovative club spaces, retracting the roof of the B-18 in the evening, so you could party under the stars – and booked international talent while nurturing local artists. Clubs such as Gärten, Ballroom Blitz, Discotek Beirut, Grand Factory and AHM have a strong following. “Beirut is one of the most vibrant, metropolitan cities I’ve ever seen,” says Seth Troxler, a globally renowned DJ who has played B018 and hausberhaus, adding to the nightlife in the region. Nowhere else but thanks to its mixture of religion and history. “The people of Lebanon live as if this is their last day, they all enjoy life with love, gratitude and hope,” he says. “When the world opens, Beirut will be one of the first places I go.” German techno star Dixon Hills “Lebanese culture, the mindset of the promoters, the energy of the people and the beauty of the city – it’s important for me to come once a year”.

But Lebanese people have faced years of snatching away their basic human rights, with neglected sanitation systems, garbage on the streets, high unemployment, drug-running pharmacies, and frequent blackouts due to a dilapidated grid. – Will cancel the operation of hospitals due to power cuts, and in May, Beirut’s traffic lights also stopped functioning. Hberhaus co-founder Ali Saleh describes it as a “slow death”.

In October 2019, protesters faced off against the riot police in Beirut. Photo: Mohammed Azakir / Reuters

In October 2019, in the wake of wildfires and a proposed tax on WhatsApp messages, people ransacked and took to the streets in what they called a revolution: essentially ending governance and ending corruption that destroyed the country’s economy sought to. . Lebanon saw a huge, predictable decline in the value of its currency – there was an increase in government debt, making it the third most indebted country in the world. During the revolution, banks freeze accounts and instituted “capital control”, drip-feeding people their earnings each month; GDP and public finances shrunk, poverty increased, though many were left untouched. Foreign currency was made inaccessible, available only in the black market at forced rates. Clubs could not afford to book international acts and many could not afford to go out.

“It cost me 15m Lebanese pounds to book an artist for € 10,000. After the revolution and economic collapse, that ended up to £ 150m,” says Saleh, one of the city’s key players Usually lighthearted, his shivering fury is audible. Since the explosion, he has been volunteering and is now the Director of Communications in the Beirut Forward Emergency Room, the official unit dealing with the crisis. He has two clubs, his The hotel has lost a large part of its house. “I’m still in shock, I have tears in my eyes every day,” he says. “I watch the news and the politicians are not even taking responsibility. I understand. Can’t know what’s going on. ”

The collapse of the Lebanese economy paralyzed nightlife businesses but persisted during some difficult winter months. Saleh says that in March, an epidemic swept through. “Even though we wanted to rely on local and regional talent, Kovid came along, which meant we couldn’t even open our doors.” “Not because the government told us, but because we have a social responsibility.” After a few months, restrictions were relaxed as the number of daily cases decreased. The campaigners held open-air events on the beaches and mountains. But it was a small revival as the explosion gave Beirut’s nightlife one final, fatal blow.

The Gärten nightclub is in full flow, with the roof destroyed after the explosion;  The dance floor is now used as a car park.

Gärten nightclub in full flow and right, with the roof destroyed after the explosion; The dance floor is now used as a car park. Photo: Uberhaus Beirut / Drawster

“Our Summer Club, AHM, is destroyed, along with 45% of our offices and grand factory,” says Jade, who owns the two clubs. “This is a major disaster for morale.”

“It’s impossible to see the future right now,” says Joe Morani, co-owner of the Ballroom Blitz Club. “Some families are deciding not to rebuild their homes because they are afraid of another explosion or attack. Every time we take a step forward, we are several steps back the next day. “Fear of insolvency of insurance companies, lack of assistance from the government and general uncertainty have replaced any idea of ​​rebuilding other clubs.” Even if they get enough help to start again, or a miraculous payment from insurance companies, the idea seems unlikely between Kovid and the economic disaster.

“It left us with very little hope,” says Ronald Hajjar (AKA Ronin), DJ and booker at the ballroom. But Ekta was once seen on the dancefloor, and was shown in opposition to the human chain that extended the length of the country in October 2019, now being repeated in the wake of the explosion. “People from other cities in Lebanon were coming to Beirut to help,” Hazzar says. “This is a huge moment which is truly unprecedented. It has surpassed any political or religious allegiance. ”The Ballroom Blitz, which opened in 2018, is one of the few clubs still standing relatively uneven and operational. Along with donating to charity, Morani and his team have rebuilt the program as a co-working space and a temporary broadcasting station for radio hosts who have lost their studios, or lacked electricity and good WiFi .

That unity has translated into new anger, and activism. Nocturnal protests began immediately after the explosion. Witnesses say private security services opened fire on the protesters with ammunition. “We are not able to claim our basic human rights, we are not able to stand up against corruption, and they are shooting at us when we protest,” Jade says. “We need protection. The whole world needs to know that we are hostage to this messed up regime. ”

Ph Berhaus Talent Booker and logistics manager Ralph Nasr stopped working when the club closed during the winter, and DJs stayed from classes week-to-week. He now has no income and is back with his parents. “The cherry on top for me is that I was shot by police during a protest last week,” says the 27-year-old man, who was left with gunfire in his hand and thigh. “Every time you say it can’t be bad, it gets worse. I don’t know that we’re still standing on our feet.”

No income ... Ralph Nasar DJing earlier this year.

No income … Ralph Nasar DJing earlier this year.

Romax Nower, 45, is a resident DJ in .berhaus. He moved to Beirut from the Netherlands in 2004, drowning in the city’s nightlife. Fearing a sudden loud noise, the explosion left her. “I feel numb. I am in the midst of grief and anger, a place I have never been before.” Like many of his colleagues, he now has no income and is taking things day by day. . “It’s really hard not having income and not being able to get anything. You feel anxious and frustrated about how you’re going to manage. But Knorr also acknowledges that the present There is no place to party in. “Reconstruction of the city is the most important thing right now.”

“This is a poet. No matter how I spin it in my head, it is hell, ”said 49-year-old Ziad Nafal. He debuted as a radio host in 1993 and has since been involved in the alternative scene in Beirut, launching a label, Broken, and co-running Irtijal Utsav. He says that there are few professional recording studios in the city, so musicians work from home – the explosion has now destroyed these workplaces. His former partner at Footy Tabbal, now runs one of the city’s only studios, Tunfork, which has set up a relief fund for musicians. But as Nawafal says: “Some people may have recovered the equipment, but will they fix their desire to build?”

Other fundraisers have been launched by many musicians around the world, including Lebanese tech star Nicole Maudabar and pop star Micah. Saleh says such international assistance is important. “This is not a time for pride: we need help. We don’t have anywhere else to go – do you know how hard it is to get a visitor’s visa to go to Europe and America? And how will we be treated in these countries? “But money alone gives no tonic to the feeling of despair. As Nawafal says: “This is the first time in my personal history that I can say that I have no idea how we will overcome this.”

Half-Palestinian and half-Lebanese, Shamma fortunately has an American passport, and now wants to leave. “You feel like you are leaving your people and leaving them in the dump. It feels so unfair and so heavy. “She says she doesn’t want to listen to the club track – it’s as if the music itself has been drowned by the explosion.” “Many people say that listening to music is also difficult now. The number of times I’ve tried it doesn’t feel good. I keep silence ”


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