Date: June 11, 2024
Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS University of London
Address: SOAS University Bloomsbury London WC1H 0XG
Time: 19:00
Organized by: Marsm + AM Management
Event Type: Film Screening

A talk on the Lebanese Alternative Music Scene by Mazen El Sayed (aka El Rass), Anthony Semaan and Nasser Shorbaji (aka Chyno with a Why?).

The SWANA Region has become a main talking point in the boardrooms of almost every major record label in the Middle East. The Arabic music industry is developing at such a rapid pace in places like the Gulf due to the funds that have been allocated for its cultural development, or Egypt where the sheer population of the country guarantees the longevity of its music industry. By contrast, countries like Lebanon, which have had a long history in creating avant-garde music and pioneered alternative culture youth movements, seem to be lagging behind due to being affected by constant socio-political unrest.

In this talk we will explore whether Lebanon is doomed to simply be a vessel bringing cutting edge alternative music that shapes the region but remains very niche in its regional appeal, or if the Lebanese Alternative Music Scene can have enough commercial success in the region to be sustainable.


Mazen El Sayed (aka El Rass)

A rapper and music producer from Tripoli, Lebanon. His discography includes 8 albums, the most recent is titled “Ard El Khof” , as well as more than 200 singles in collaboration with other music-makers and rappers from the region. El Rass’s work has earned recognition and visibility in the Arab world, specifically for his dense lyrical content, versatility of styles and subject matter, and his personal sonic approach. El Sayed worked as a journalist before devoting his time to music, and has been described as a subversive voice inspired from traditional and contemporary expression, from the spiritual and the worldly.

Anthony Semaan

Anthony Semaan is the co-founder of Beirut Jam Sessions, an organization that has produced numerous concerts and sessions in Lebanon and the Middle East for artists such as Joss Stone, Ibrahim Maalouf, Papooz and many more. He is also the co-founder of nos // nos productions, an events management company in London that organizes and promotes concerts, comedy shows and parties for artists from the SWANA region in the UK.

He has also worked with the Byblos International Festival, Deezer and, in his current role, at Patch, he is the Events & Partnerships lead.

As a music consultant he has collaborated with numerous artists and brands such as Red Bull, Sofar Sounds and many more.

Nasser Shorbaji (aka Chyno with a Why?)

As a founding member of the legendary Beirut-based Hip Hop crew Fareeq El Atrash and a prolific artist who toured Europe and the MENA region multiple times, he is no stranger to the scene.The Syripino (Syrian-Filipino) rapper-producer, based in Beirut, became the first artist to be signed by Warner Music Middle East in 2020. In 2021 he dropped his 2nd solo album: Mamluk. It explores the marginalization of migrant communities affecting millions around the world and pairs Chyno’s unique perspective and upbringing with his intense rhymes and infectious flow over a range of beats.Apart from his artistic endeavors, Nasser is the cofounder of The Arena: “The Middle East’s First Arabic Battle Rap League” that has garner millions of views on Youtube. He is also one of the founder of Beirut S.C.U.M. Week, and manages multiple hip hop artists in the SWANA region.


Lina Khatib

Dr Lina Khatib is director of the SOAS Middle East Institute and MBI Al Jaber Chair in Middle East Studies as well as Professor of Practice at the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS University of London.

Prior to this, she served as director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Chatham House and director of the Carnegie Middle East Center at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

She also co-founded and led the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law and was a senior associate at the Arab Reform Initiative.

She has published several books and is a frequent writer and commentator on current affairs in the Middle East.