My experience at the Red Bull Music Academy – Bass Camp Beirut 2012

When I got invited to the Red Bull Music Academy – Bass Camp Beirut, I knew it was going to be something big but I did not know what exactly to expect. My relationship with music goes back to when I was very young. I used to sing in a chorus, write songs and dance. I used to collect more than a thousand lyrics from magazines (Oh, dear). Today, I get the warmest feelings when I remember these activities that I stopped doing for some reason, a long time ago. So I went to the Red Bull Music Academy with an open mind.

Day 1: Friday, 23 March 2012

I got to DRM at around 10:15 AM, a group of people were having breakfast. I recognized a couple of familiar faces amongst the crowd and started to meet people for all over the Middle East. After breakfast it was time for a previous Red Bull Academy participant, Zeid Hamdan to share his experience.

After that, the first lecture started.

Ben Zinc shared his experience with the 40 participants chronologically. He has been a DJ for 25 years now. It was interesting to see how things went for him as he went from vinyl to digital, worked 4 jobs before he made a living from what he loved to do the most and difference before and after the internet. He also played some tracks and explained the process he followed to get to the  final desired result he was seeking.

After the lecture, participants were given a few seconds to get on stage and introduce themselves in order to know who’s who.

The second lecture kicked off after a yummy lunch served by the Deli in DRM.

Fadi Tabbal’s story was interesting. He is multi-talented and a bit reserved. His contribution to music and musicians is massive; he guided many in their musical endeavors. He pointed how important it was to understand all the limitations artists may be faced with in order to come up with something realistic. Fadi has to keep up with all kind of music and all kind of musicians which is quite a challenge.

Soon after that, it was studio time! The participants had to put their names on  board to indicate the studio they were interested in as well as the time slot.

That’s when the magic started. Artists were jamming and getting to know one another; see what works and what doesn’t. This was a pretty unique experience for me as I witnessed how people from diverse genres and countries speak the united language of music and can still some up with something in a matter of few hours!

After dinner, it was time to party! 4 different venues, Bodo, Mojo, Dany’s and Pasteur were booked at the same time and some artists would rotate from one venue to another and start jamming. That was pretty cool!

Day 2: Saturday, 24 March 2012

The day started after breakfast, of course, with a lecture I am not ready to forget.

It was Young Guru’s first visit to Lebanon. He literally blew everyone away. Like all the lecturers, he shared his experience and a lot of technical details. I loved the “Keep It Real Wednesday” part: This was the day when the crew made of 20 people would drop all the “niceness” and be honest about their opinions, no matter what. According to Young Guru, this helped solve all dormant problems: “The way problems are dealt with are more important than the problems themselves.” Communication is essential if one seeks to have a coherent crew to work with.

He also spoke about how people tend to try to copy a successful sound thinking they could copy its success as well. Young Guru thought that was “corny”. Then, he went technical explaining rhyme levels and how the text says a lot about where people come from; actually sound is also influenced by the environment. He believes that if rappers wanted their music to be heard and make people gravitate around it, they have to understand what the feeling is when partying in a club. Rapper should not over saturate tracks with message (rap); people wouldn’t get it. He also went on about how to work with sound samples and stay original.

“Hip-Hop is about who is the best tonight” said Young Guru and “It’s about the feel much more than the EQ of the sample, feel is the most important thing”. Artists should acknowledge what happened before them and try to envision the future. Young Guru goes on and says: “As a music maker, you have to understand what the audience only cares about what’s coming out of speakers in club, in the car on in their home; how does that make them feel. That’s the most important thing! Equipment matters but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day.”

Young Guru also spoke about music maturity. For him Hip-hop is about keeping it real. A man in his forties shouldn’t be talking about family, kids, work life etc… The text should mature with the rapper. He also spoke about the importance of helping the neighborhood and educating youth to keep them away from gangs.

I could go on about Young Guru all day 🙂 In the end, he kept answering participants’ questions for an hour!

After that, participants had more studio time after lunch.

That’s when things changed for me on every single level.

I mean, it’s really hard to spend so many hours surrounded with music and not hum. I was jumping from studio to studio like a mouse to see what was going on here and there. Some participants got interested and started to ask me all kind of questions. I was in a chorus a veeerrryyy long time ago and I used to collect lyrics and write a lot of poetry in French and English. But again this was a looooonng time ago. And just like that, Belime asked me to sing something. I tried but was obviously shy. A minute later, I went to another studio where I found Ragheed on the keyboard and Rakan S singing. As soon as they started jamming, Rakan pushed me to sing on a mic in the studio (1st time) – I will never forget this!; soon, Sandra Arslanian – I love her voice – joins and we make some noise 🙂

Then somehow things calmed down, I went back to make some photos and hanged around until Bass guitarist Bashar Farran – forever thank you -came and asked me what exactly I was doing in the camp and what I thought I’d get from it. 5 minutes later, he played a base line and asked me to write lyrics. My brain started boiling… I wrote down a few lines that Hamdan Al-Abri – awesome voice – used during the live jamming session – my heart skipped a beat – with Ibrahim Maalouf in DRM.

There were so many people that night that no one could move from his/her place! It was epic!

Day 3: Saturday, 25 March 2012

After partying so hard, it was hard to wake up 🙂 Breakfast time at DRM. I sat with Nour Nimri, Dany Baladi and Marc Ernest. I had the paper with me and was trying to write more verse. Nour read the paper and said: “I want to sing this” – my heart skipped another beat – What? But he was very serious. He took the paper and went down to studio. Sandra joined and the most surreal thing happens. My lyrics get a tune as well as Sandra’s and Nour’s voice – I’m forever grateful for this. For a moment, I needed someone to pinch me, I felt like it was an awaken dream. A bit later, Avo Demerdjian came in with his electric violin, Saeed Salameh and Tareq Abu Kwaik showed up and they started jamming on my lyrics. The way I felt at that moment, what this amazing group of artists did is something I cannot describe. I was in a trance – thank you tears for doing the rest of the talking. They revived a passion that was in a coma for several years; I will never be able to thank anyone enough.

It was clear that no one wanted these 3 days to end. We had farewell BBQ at Zico House. I did not sleep that night. I was too busy writing lyrics…

You will be hearing my words coming from different artists soon!

In short, it was a life changing experience, and I ended making friends for life!

You can check more photographs of the Red Bull Music Academy – Bass Camp Beirut 2012 album on my Facebook Page.

NB: There were 40 artists and only 3 days, so I didn’t get the chance to meet all of them. Besides the already mentioned artists here are the people I actually had the chance to talk to:

  • Aziza – A powerful oriental vocalist.
  • Babak Safarnezhad – A super duper harmonica player
  • Big H – A very nice and well informed man.
  • Ceasar K – A super sweet man and a dj/producer/ ill “turntablist”
  • Dan Sin – A talented man who uses his voice as an instrument to make the eeriest sounds.
  • DJ Lethal Skillz – A DJ who will keep you dancing the night away.
  • Hadi Oueini – A drummer with style
  • Imad Jawad – Bass guitar player. He makes it look like it’s easy to play.
  • Jad Mroué – All he needs is a software!
  • Kay Nassef – Singer. Electronic style.
  • Malikah – Arabic rapper and a very nice person.
  • May Alqasim – R&B singer.
  • Nicola Hakim – The best young drummers I know.
  • Zeinedin – The calmest person who can rap! A beast on stage!

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