x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sight and sounds: Alternative music in Beirut, in pictures

A new collection of photographs and essays shines its light on contemporary Beirut's underground music scene.

The Lebanese capital has often been described as a photographer's dream. From the narrow streets and French-influenced architecture of the Christian east to the Muslim west's sparkling minarets, its twin narratives of diversity and conflict have long been rendered in the most explicitly visible and visceral forms. The work of Tanya Traboulsi, however, reaches beyond the surface tensions and bullet-pocked walls, concentrating instead on the city's newly vibrant musical community. In Untitled Tracks: On Alternative Music in Beirut, Traboulsi's arresting depictions of rappers, breakdancers, lavishly dressed chanteuses and bohemian singer-songwriters are accompanied by essays from noted journalists and academics, presenting a complex and nuanced view of cultural rebirth. Often shot in low light, the best of the images - including a sumptuous shot of the singer Hiba performing at the Sporting Club in September 2009 - reference the shadows cast by the past heydays of artists such as Fairuz as well as the city's present and hoped-for future.

Combining evocative portraiture and moments of dramatic action with intimate interludes, Traboulsi places the observer squarely within her frame of reference. As such, from its outward-looking indie acts and avant-garde noise artists to its traditional folk musicians, Untitled Tracks presents a vivid and involving document of contemporary Lebanese culture. Untitled Tracks: On Alternative Music in Beirut, photographs by Tanya Traboulsi and edited by Ziad Nawfal and Ghalya Saadawi, is published by Amers Editions.