I had the pleasure of going to another London Jazz Festival gig last night (my 2nd within a week – first one being Herbie Hancock last Sunday!) I went to see cuban jazz pianist Chucho Valdez and his band the Afro-Cuban Messengers. I enjoyed the gig (though I think I prefer Herbie Hancock as a pianist) but what stood out for me last night was the support act Ibrahim Maalouf. His song “Beirut” just blew me away. It was so powerful and so emotional – going from heart-wrenching & hauntingly beautiful to heart-pounding, gut-wrenching emotionally charged power. As I listened it conjured in my mind floating images of the war torn streets of Beirut from the eyes of 12 year old Maalouf.
Before playing he explained the story behind the song, which was a journey – it was in 1993 as a 12 year old that he was able to return to Beirut alone for the first time (his parents having fled to Paris during the war) and he wandered the streets with his walkman, earphones plugged but playing no music, instead composing music in his mind and looking at the bullet marks in the walls of homes which had been rebuilt so many times over during the war that not much of the devastation was actually visible.. but after walking for a while, he sat and rested for some time.. and then suddenly when he got up again he noticed a street in front of him completely devastated and abandoned – something that he had actually been looking to see – but in that moment he was listening to (having just discovered) Led Zepplin and the combination of seeing the devastation and the music actually scared him and he ran away. And so this song tells that journey.
This video is good and in HD, but it doesn’t quite compare with what I heard last night. It simply does not capture to the raw power of hearing it live. And when the song built into a massive crescendo of distorted guitar I could actually feel my blood pounding in response. It was quite an unforgettable experience.Posted in Arts | No Comments »