Listen to “Ecstasy in Beirut” Ep 04- A musical love story during the lockdown
Love in The Times of a Pandemic is a weekly podcast by Fuerteventura Times airing every Saturday night, May 2020 onwards, where the sound artist and writer Akanksha Krishnani takes us through a musical storytelling experience narrating memoirs of falling in and out of love, of remembering someone when locked down to even rethinking togetherness with those currently homebound.
It was a beautiful, summer day in Beirut. Everyone was heading to the beach, the restaurants were bustling and the smell of Mezze was wharfing my mind in such a nuzzling way. It was the first time I was visiting Beirut. I was bewitched by its captive diversity. People spoke a mixture of Arabic, French, and English all within the same sentence. The heritage trails to the souks to the underground music scene of this truly beguiling city, everything was making me wish that I could stay a bit longer. I was on a two-week music residency, and that was the first city of my fellowship. My project was to record the sounds of Beirut and present them in a new-wave style.
That night, I was taken to one of the underground clubs with the other artists of my residency. The bizarre twist of fate for this war-torn city now swimming on hip bars, luxurious brands and thriving arab electronica was something that jostled me.I could feel a movement of fostering electronic music education in the clubs of Beirut which was highly inspiring. A local dj was playing, some mellifluous mix of arab scales and pumping acid, laced with melodic techno. It was perfect! I made my way to the console in that thumping crowd to get a glimpse of the DJ. He was wearing a neon blue floral shirt, carried a visible tan, and was interacting and dancing with his friends behind the console, he looked at me and smiled, sliding his delectable, fuzzy hair to the back as he continued mixing. There was something about him, that was drawing myself to him, the music, his vibe , that smile or just him entirely,I didn’t move from that spot, my friends joined me ahead and we danced on.
Towards the end of the set, I wanted to go tell him how amazing he was , but the crowd was out of control and it was getting congested so we decided to leave and head for an after party at one of the resident’s friend’s place downtown. It was one of those penthouses with a panoramic sea and mountain view, there were already 10 people there when we reached, the host was super warm and welcomed us with Arak, a drink I was hooked on to since my arrival, the licorice taste put me in such a good spot everytime. When I was talking to the host about my residency , someone interrupted our conversation. He hugged the host who then went on to greet the other guests that had arrived and then he looked at me and said, ‘ Hi, I saw you at the club, I looked for you after my set but couldn’t find you.’ It was the same DJ from the party. OOH he looked like a painting upfront, emerald eyes, kohl filled , a slithering smile and that heinously luring tan. ‘ Oh hey! You played such a great set. What is your name, I just know your moniker name dj lkorelu?’ His name was Jalal. I asked him , ‘ Why were you looking for me?’ ‘I don’t know, I just thought I should. You had a very enticing aura on the dancefloor, made me want get to know you.’ I replied , ‘ It’s funny, as I thought the same about you.’ ‘ Yet you left?’ he asked demandingly. I just managed a drowning smile at his tempting intent.We both were very conscious of the sexual tension that was brewing between us . I told him about my residency and the sounds that I had so far recorded of the markets of Souks, and the diverse recordings I had collected of the troubled past and uncertain future of this city through its bylanes, monuments, culture and history.
He looked rather impressed and asked if I managed to record the sounds of some traditional Oud music yet. I said, ‘ unfortunately no, I didn’t know where to go there were a places that some of my friends suggested but I need to check which ones the best. He said ‘There is an Oud night happening tonight at Note cafe not so far from here, a friend is playing. Would you like to go? I have a pocket audio recorder if you want to record the Oud sounds and the sounds of the cafe in general.’ I jumped at that idea and we escaped the penthouse party . Note cafe was a cozy, place nestled in the heart of Beirut, he got us a table at the corner , waving at his friend who was playing the Oud accompanied by a lute – the short-fretted instrument, while the crowd cheered on. I started the audio recorder , as the music escalated and the sounds of the people at the bar lifted dancing and moving to that mystic sound that had me transported to a world of daunting yet soothing contemporary influences.
We then went to my apartment as he insisted to listen to the sounds I had recorded and the composition that I was making. I played the incomplete track for him, as I added the sounds with my synthesizers . He looked at me so intently. I was feeling a bit nervous, was he liking the music or not? It’s after all the history of his culture that I was composing in a new wave manner. He said, ‘I love it.It is the best fusion of the sounds of beirut I have heard in my life. Your style is unique, inviting and so new-age. We need to collaborate. At first I was in awe of your vibe on the dancefloor floor, then I was smitten by your curiosity at the cafe, and now I am a fan of your sound.You are like ecstasy for my mind. The more you reveal, the more layers of you I want to unravel ’ I smiled boisterously as he came closer and kissed me. His kisses were like sweet knafeh, filling in between my spreads, the more I got the taste the more I wanted it to stay.
We have been sharing our sounds ever since I got back to berlin. He was supposed to be in Berlin this march for a gig but the global holt had it cancelled, I hope that he can come this summer when things hopefully stabilise a bit.But in the meantime, he has been sending me famous lebanese poems that he recites for me translated of course with some sounds that he has composed. The last one was by Nadia Tueni,
For the first time I too sent him some of my scribbles, something that I wrote thinking of him, ‘ When we locked eyes for the first time in the crowded club, i felt this arising ecstasy right around my gut, it got stronger when we moved together to that sound you behind the console me in front , transcending all over my body when we made love , tickling me , caressing me round and round . Even if it was a brevity, I knew you were my destiny. I am looking for that felicity in these virulent times , will you be my ecstasy one more time?’