About Irtijal 2016

Founded in 2000, Irtijal is currently 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 belong 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.

For the current edition, we are proud to present a dense program that revolves around Germany’s thriving experimental music scene, as seen through the eyes of two of our most notorious Lebanese musical expats: Mazen Kerbaj and Rabih Beaini, both currently residing in Berlin, and who collaborated on the curation of this year’s astoundingly rich edition, from vocal ensemble Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart’s revisiting of Zad Moultaka’s compositions to the alien Asian punk of Indonesian duo Senyawa.

Faithful to its tradition, Irtijal will present several collaborations between visiting musicians and their local counterparts, including rock musicians Marc Codsi, Tony Elieh, Fadi Tabbal and Salim Naffah, electronic producer Munma, newcomer Rayan Haidar, as well as Festival founders Mazen Kerbaj and Sharif Sehnaoui.

Day 1

Wednesday March 30th
8:30pm - Masrah Al Madina, Hamra

"Mediterranean Voices"by Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart (DE/LB/PS/SY)

Works of Zad Moultaka - Samir Odeh-Tamimi - Zaid Jabri
* Johanna Zimmer: high soprano
* Susanne Leitz-Lorey: lyric soprano
* Truike van der Poel: mezzo-soprano
* Daniel Gloger: countertenor
* Martin Nagy: tenor
* Guillermo Anzorena: baritone
* Andreas Fischer: bass

Their name says it all: seven concert and opera soloists, ranging from coloratura soprano via countertenor to black bass, who view themselves primarily as researchers and discoverers. To pave the way for new discoveries, they are involved in a constant exchange with both established and young composers to research new sounds, vocal techniques and forms of vocal expression.

This involves a particular emphasis on current music theater, which incorporates the resources of electronics and video art in innovative ways. Interdisciplinary work with visual art, literature and elements of early music are also part of this concept. In this context, the Neue Vocalsolisten have established the genre of vocal chamber music theater with works by Lucia Ronchetti, Luciano Berio, Carola Bauckholt, Luca Francesconi, Claude Vivier, Georges Aperghis and Oscar Strasnoy, among others.


Wednesday March 30th
8:30pm - Masrah Al Madina, Hamra

Beaini/Sommer (LB/DE)

* Rabih Beaini: electronics
* Günter «Baby» Sommer: drums

A truly exceptional and kinetic pairing between Lebanese-born producer and DJ Rabih Beaini (formerly known as Morphosis) and Günter “Baby” Sommer, one of the master musicians of contemporary European jazz.

Beiani’s genuine musical ability and range of influences —from krautrock to new wave— seep into his inventive, dark and emotional productions and immersive DJ sets. These influences also find their way into Beani’s productions with the Upperground Orchestra, an improvisational ensemble that explores the terrain between electronica, techno, and improvisational jazz. While his productions join the dots between raw, elementary electronica and jazz, his Morphine label has released an equally forward-thinking selection of experimental music, from the likes of Buchla synth master Charles Cohen, pioneering American composer Pauline Oliveros, French mechanical-orchestra creator Pierre Bastien, and explosive Indonesian duo Senyawa. He has also helped to organize concerts and tours with Cohen and Senyawa throughout Europe and Japan.

As for Sommer, after studying at the “Hochschule für Musik” in Hanover, he played with some of the most important jazz groups of the GDR, such as the Ernst-Ludwig Petrowksy Trio, Zentralquartett and the Ulrich Gumpert Workshopband. This paved the way for a number of high-brow international collaborations, including Wadada Leo Smith and Peter Kowald, as well as frequents meetings with Peter Brötzmann, Fred van Hove, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Evan Parker and Cecil Taylor.
The two musicians played widely applauded concerts in 2015 at Berlin’s XJAZZ Festival and Watergate, and Irtijal is especially proud to host them on its opening night.

Day 2

Thursday March 31st
6:00pm - Onomatopoeia the Music Hub, Sioufi
(Free entrance)

Solos (LB/DE)

* Salim Naffah: electric guitar, electronics
* Andrea Neumann: inside piano, electronics

For the 2nd consecutive year, Irtijal will offer its audience free concerts by selected musicians from the Festival in small-scale venues. A chance to experience these special performances up close and personal!

Salim Naffah aka “Al Ko” is a Lebanese singer/songwriter, guitar and bass player. He started his musical career with electronic indie duo Loopstache, before becoming a full-time guitarist with Lebanese renowned blues-rock band Wanton Bishops. He works with Fadi Tabbal at Tunefork Studios, and the two musicians also play together in an experimental duo called Once More with Feeling.

Following studies at the illustrious “Hochschule der Kunste” in Berlin, Andrea Neumann became active as an improviser and composer in the areas of experimental and new music. In the process of exploring the piano for new sound possibilities, she has reduced the instrument to strings, resonance board and metal frame. With the help of electronics to manipulate and amplify otherwise inaudible sounds, she has developed new playing techniques and ways of preparing the dismantled instrument. Neumann has collaborated with numerous Berlin musicians such as Annette Krebs, Ignaz Schick, Axel Dörner, Robin Hayward and Burkhard Beins.


Thursday March 31st
8:30pm - Metro Al Madina, Hamra

Gratkowski 4tet (DE/NL/USA)

* Frank Gratkowski: saxophones
* Wolter Wierbos: trombone
* Dieter Manderscheid: double-bass
* Gerry Hemingway: drums

German musician Frank Gratkowski began playing the saxophone at the age of 16. In 1990, he started giving solo performances throughout Europe, Canada and the USA, and founded the Frank Gratkowski Trio in 1995, accompanied by German bassist Dieter Manderscheid and American drummer Gerry Hemingway. In 2000, the trio was extended into a quartet with Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos. The quartet aims to create a synthesis of musical composition and improvisation, where all instruments have equal functions to build a unified whole. Gratkowski is also a co-leader/composer of the Multiple Joy[ce] Orchestra. He has played in nearly every German and in numerous international jazz and contemporary music festivals, including Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Quebec and Nickelsdorf. He teaches saxophone at the Cologne, Berlin and Arnhem Conservatory of Music and gives workshops all around the world.

Sawt-Out (LB/DE)  

* Mazen Kerbaj: trumpet
* Burkhard Beins: percussion
* Michael Vorfeld: percussion

Since he moved to Berlin in the summer of 2015, Lebanese musician, visual artist and comics artist Mazen Kerbaj has been hard at work creating and spurring a variety of projects with different collaborators from Germany and elsewhere, and “Sawt-Out” sees him sharing the stage with outstanding German percussionists Burkhard Beins and Michael Vorfeld.

Kerbaj is widely considered as one of the initiators and key players of the Lebanese free improvisation and experimental music scene. He is the co-founder of Irtijal and Al Maslakh, the first label for experimental music in the region operating since 2005. As a trumpet player, Kerbaj pushes the boundaries of his instrument and strives to develop a personal sound and an innovative language, following in the footsteps of pioneers like Bill Dixon, Axel Dörner and Franz Hautzinger.

Beins is known for his use of percussion in combination with selected sound objects. He also works with live electronics and analogue synthesizers. Alongside his solo work he is a member of the ensembles Polwechsel, Mensch Mensch Mensch, Activity Center, Glück, The Sealed Knot, Perlonex, Trio Sowari, Tree, Fracture Mechanics and Splitter Orchester.

Vorfeld’s music is centered on his use of bowed cymbals and homemade string instruments to create shimmering, microtonal music rich in overtones. His sound and light installations generally focus on the spatialization of light, using minimalist architecture and sound design to attain pure, crystalline shapes.
“Sawt-Out” played to a captivated audience at Berlin Acker Stadt Palast in February 2015.

Codsi/Elieh/Tabbal (LB)  

* Marc Codsi: electric guitar, effects
* Tony Elieh: electric bass, effects
* Fadi Tabbal: electric guitar, effects

An unprecedented team-up of talented Lebanese guitarists Marc Codsi, Tony Elieh and Fadi Tabbal, convened especially for Irtijal’16.

Born in 1979, Codsi is a Lebanese composer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist. He was a member of emblematic Lebanese rock band Scrambled Eggs for many years, before focusing his attention on electro-rock duo Lumi and his own solo activities. He released his first solo album in 2010, a poetic manifesto entitled Faded Postcards, followed by Works & Coincidences in 2013. Codsi composed music for several film soundtracks, including Je Veux Voir (Khalil Joreige & Joana Hadjithomas), Beirut Hotel (Danielle Arbid), and most notably Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch).

Elieh was also a member of Scrambled Eggs, one of Beirut’s most prolific and talented rock bands of the early 2000’s, and remained with the group from its beginnings until its precocious demise in 2015. Elieh is nowadays a member of improvising experimental ensembles Karkhana and Johnny Kafta’s Anti-Vegetarian Orchestra.

Tabbal is a Lebanese musician, producer and sound engineer, known for his numerous contributions to Beirut’s alternative music scene by way of the specialized studio he opened in 2006, called Tunefork. Tabbal is a full-time member of several Lebanese rock bands, including The Incompetents, Under the Carpet and Bunny Tylers. He has released two solo albums, entitled On the Rooftop Looking Up (2013) and Museum of Disappearing Buildings (2015).

This concert is the first reunion between Elieh and Codsi since the break-up of their former band, and the first collaboration between Codsi and Tabbal. The musicians are working on a piece reminiscent of Steve Reich’s “Piano Phase”, adapted for electric guitars and bass. An absolute must-hear!

Day 3

Friday April 1st
6:00pm - Onomatopoeia the Music Hub, Sioufi
(Free entrance)

Solos (LB/DE)

* Rayan Haïdar: electric guitar, electronics
* Burkhard Beins: percussion

Rayan Haïdar is a Lebanese experimental and ambient musician. He is equally at ease performing and experimenting with different instruments, including bass guitar, electric guitar and electronic synthesizer. He has contributed music to several film soundtracks, and released his first EP in 2015.

Burkhard Beins is a composer and performer working in the fields of experimental music and sound art. He is known for his use of percussion in combination with selected sound objects, and also works with live electronics and analogue synthesizers. Alongside his solo work he is a member of the ensembles Polwechsel, Mensch Mensch Mensch, Activity Center, Glück, The Sealed Knot, Perlonex, Trio Sowari, Tree, Fracture Mechanics and Splitter Orchester. Beins gives lectures and workshops and has published several articles on music theory.


Friday April 1st
8:30pm - Beirut Art Center, Sin el Fil

Ignaz Schick Solo (DE)

* Ignaz Schick: turntables, electronics

Turntablist, sound artist, performer and composer Ignaz Schick is an active and integral force of the so-called “Berlin Nouvelle Vague” and the blossoming “real time music” scene. His interest and activities are focused on live electronics, and he has developed his own unique electro-acoustic set-up which he calls “rotating surfaces”. Various objects and materials (wood, metal, plastic, paper, violin bows and cymbals) are played directly on the rotating metal plate of the turntable and the vibrations are amplified with a small condenser microphone. This set-up allows Schick to cover different styles of contemporary experimental music –from extreme reductionism to ambient, industrial, musique concrète, electronica and harsh noise.

Mayas/Wassermann/Yassin (LB/DE)  

* Magda Mayas: piano
* Ute Wassermann: vocals
* Raed Yassin: double-bass

Irtijal’16 brings together three outstanding solo performers for a unique, improvised collaboration.
Over the last decade or so, Magda Mayas has developed a captivating vocabulary utilizing both the inside and exterior parts of the piano, using preparations and objects. She also performs on a Clavinet/Pianet, an electric piano from the 60’s with strings and metal chimes, where she engages with noise and more visceral sound material. Mayas explores textural, linear and fast moving sound collage, extending the instrumental sound palette by means of extended techniques and devices.

Vocal artist Ute Wassermann is a composer, performer, improviser and interpreter of contemporary music. Following studies in vocal performance and classical singing, she developed several multi-voiced vocal techniques, catalogued by register, timbre and articulative sequences. She has given numerous performances of her own solo work and performs regularly with many improvising musicians.

As a plastician, Raed Yassin‘s work often originates from an examination of his personal narratives and their workings within a collective history, through the lens of consumer culture and mass production. He has exhibited and performed in numerous museums, festivals and venues across Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Japan. He is one of the founders of prominent Lebanese music label Annihaya Records.

Neumann/Sehnaoui/Thieke/Vorfeld (LB/DE)  

* Andrea Neumann: inside piano, electronics
* Sharif Sehnaoui: acoustic guitar
* Michael Thieke: clarinet
* Michael Vorfeld: percussion
“Nashaz” CD release concert – Al Maslakh Records

On the occasion of the release of its first album for Al-Maslakh Records, Irtijal is proud to present a rare performance by the formidable quartet of Andrea Neumann, Sharif Sehnaoui, Michael Thieke and Michael Vorfeld.

Neumann is an active improviser and composer in the areas of experimental and new music. She has collaborated with numerous Berlin musicians such as Annette Krebs, Ignaz Schick, Axel Dörner, Robin Hayward and Burkhard Beins.
Free improvising guitarist Sehnaoui plays both electric and acoustic guitars, with or without extended and prepared techniques, focusing on expanding the intrinsic possibilities of these instruments without the use of effects or electronics. He has performed his music worldwide and as the founder of Irtijal Festival, actively contributed to the emergence of an experimental music scene in Lebanon.

Thieke is equally at home across a broad range of musical environments, including experimental song forms, collective composition projects, improvising groups and music on the fringes of jazz. In his clarinet playing he explores the minutiae of sound, timbre and noise, with a particular interest in micro-tonality and related sound phenomena, with a preference for long-term collaborations and collective work.

Sound and visual artist Vorfeld’s interest in percussion started in rock with the usual teen groups in high school, before eventually turning to experimental and improvised music. He relies on bowed cymbals and homemade string instruments to create shimmering, microtonal music rich in overtones. He has performed in Europe, Japan, and America solo or with other improvisers and occasionally dancers.

Day 4

Saturday April 2nd
2:00pm - Dawawine, Gemmayzeh
(Free entrance)

Wassermann/Yassin “Song Cookbook" (LB/DE)

* Ute Wassermann: vocals
* Raed Yassin: composition, cooking

True to its tradition, Irtijal proposes an entirely different and unexpected collaboration, with this duo combining the cooking talents of Lebanese Raed Yassin, manning kitchen utensils rather than musical instruments, and the vocal acrobatics of German vocal artist Ute Wassermann.

Yassin graduated from the theatre department at the Institute of Fine Arts in Beirut in 2003. He has exhibited and performed in numerous museums, festivals and venues across Europe, the Middle East, the United States and Japan, and received several awards and prizes, notably the Abraaj Capital Art Prize in 2012. Yassin is one of the organizers of Irtijal Festival, and founded the prominent Annihaya Records label in 2009.

Wassermann studied sound installation and vocal performance as well classical singing. Since 1984 she has developed several multi-voiced vocal techniques, catalogued by register, timbre and articulative sequences which may be deconstructed and/or superimposed and used to explore spatial resonance phenomena. She has given numerous performances of her own solo work and performs regularly with many improvising musicians, in venues ranging from lofts to international festivals (Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires…).


Saturday April 2nd
8:30pm - Yukunkun, Gemmayzeh

Tony Elieh Solo (LB)

* Tony Elieh: electric bass

Irtijal is looking forward to present Tony Elieh‘s first-ever solo performance on his instrument of choice, the electric bass guitar. A founding member of Lebanese influential rock band Scrambled Eggs, Elieh is nowadays a member of improvising experimental ensembles Karkhana and Johnny Kafta’s Anti-Vegetarian Orchestra, and divides his time between music and photography.

Two Or The Dragon (LB)  

* Abed Kobeissy: bowed buzuq, electric buzuq, effects
* Ali Hout: daholla, zill, effects

Another first-ever performance taking place in Irtijal’16, Two Or The Dragon is the electro-acoustic duo of Abed Kobeissy and Ali Hout.

The two musicians started collaborating as co-composers for a number of theater plays and dance performances, before developing this collaboration into a purely musical duo project, based on their common interest in contemporary urban sounds and traditional Arabic music. The project’s main axis looks into the haunting absence of violence, as a sonic aesthetic, from Arabic music in its different genres, and seeks to establish an organic relation between Arabic music elements and textures with urban soundscapes and sonic details.

Kobeissy’s main focus is composing original scores for film, theater productions and dance performances, with the intent of introducing urban and contemporary sonic textures into Arabic musical aesthetics. He is a member of the Asil Ensemble for contemporary classical Arabic music, and a lecturer on the history and aesthetics of Arabic music at the Lebanese American University in Beirut.

Hout is a percussionist and member of the Asil Ensemble for contemporary classical Arabic music. He has composed music scores for theater productions and dance performances. His practice consists of integrating contemporary sounds and aesthetics into traditional Arabic and Persian percussive instruments.

Senyawa (IDN)  

* Rully Shabara: vocals
* Wukir Suryadi: self-made instruments

Thanks to the efforts of co-curator Rabih Beaini, Irtijal is honored to present the first Middle Eastern concert of renowned Indonesian duo SENYAWA, in what promises to be the highlight of this year’s edition!

Performing together since 2010, Senyawa uniquely manage to embody the aural flavors of Javanese music while exploring the framework of experimental music practice, pushing the boundaries of both traditions in the process. Their music strikes a perfect balance between avant-garde influences and cultural heritage, to create truly contemporary Indonesian music.

Senyawa’s sound consists of Rully Shabara's extended vocal techniques and the modern-primitive instrumentation of instrument builder Wukir Suryadi. One of Suryadi's inventions is his handcrafted “Bamboo Spear”, a thick stem of bamboo strung up with percussive strips of the plant's skin alongside steel strings. Amplified, it fuses elements of traditional Indonesian instrumentation with garage guitar distortion. Sonically dynamic, the instrument can be rhythmically percussive on one side, while being melodically bowed and plucked on the other.

Menjadi, Senyawa’s latest full-length album, was released on Rabih Beaini's Morphine label in 2015. Look for it on Irtijal Festival’s merchandising stand!

Daniele De Santis Solo (IT)  

* Daniele De Santis: percussion, electronics

Daniele De Santis is a Berlin-based percussionist, drummer, electronic music producer and creator of musical instruments from Bari, Italy. Grounded in jazz, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern percussion styles as well as in electronic music and sound engineering, his work is driven by spontaneous multi­instrumentalism and eclecticism.

Not content with working as a session and solo percussionist in the fields of contemporary jazz improv and chamber music for a number of years, De Santis was also active in the electronic music realm as a producer, prolific performer and curator. His most prominent electronic creation is “GRÜN”, a project collecting a specific cycle of experiments in addition to recordings and performances.  

Irtijal’16 will present De Santis’ new solo for prepared and self-made electro-acoustic drums, a performance which creates a connection between his peculiar approach to acoustic percussion and the GRÜN experiments. 

Munma & Fadi Tabbal (LB)  

* Jawad Nawfal: electronics
* Fadi Tabbal: electric guitar, effects

Irtijal’16 hosts the first pairing of talented Lebanese electronic producer Munma, a mainstay of Beirut’s prolific electronic scene of the 2000’s, and brilliant producer/sound engineer/multi-instrumentalist Fadi Tabbal.

Nawfal created Munma in the aftermath of Israel’s war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006. This solo project explores oriental harmonies and rhythmical patterns, with a strong reliance on sampled traditional musical beds, excerpts from radio speeches and an overall somber, ambient mood. In 2012, Jawad started working with Lebanese writer and slam poet Mazen el-Sayed, and the two men released two albums which explored the darker sides of rap, and displayed deep electronica and dubstep musical influences. In 2012, Nawfal collaborated with Belgian electronic producer Cedrik Fermont, and released 3 albums on his label Syrphe Records with different contributors. Munma’s next album, Three Voices, will be released on vinyl by Lebanese label Ruptured in 2016.

Tabbal is the one-man wonder of Lebanon’s alternative music scene, and takes turns recording and producing a large majority of bands and artists from Beirut and elsewhere, engineering concerts and live performances, composing music for rock bands The Incompetents and Bunny Tylers, writing music for films, and even finds the time to release his own solo work (2 albums to this day).

Rashad Becker (DE)  

* Rashad Becker: electronics

Around Berlin, Rashad Becker’s name is synonymous with sonic brilliance — a mastering engineer at Dubplates & Mastering, the studio established by production team and record label Basic Channel, Becker put the finishing touches on over 1,200 of your favorite Techno, Dub, and House records. Today he is one of the world’s most sought-after mastering engineers, splitting his time between Dubplates and his own studio Clunk.

He has also mastered all but a handful of the releases on Bill Kouligas’ PAN record label. Becker’s name has become one of the label’s calling cards, a fundamental element of the label’s aesthetic project. His debut LP Traditional Music of Notional Species Vol. 1 was released by PAN in 2013.


TICKET PRICE 25.000 LBP (week days) / 30.000 LBP (Saturday) / FREE (Afternoon)

Tickets available through Ihjoz, and at the door

With the support of