It is not easy to run an independent label. People tend to listen to music more and more online through legal or illegal channels. These small independent labels are the pulse of the industry because they give local artists the opportunity to release their music and without these labels many artists would have been unheard of.
When someone wants to write about the independent music scene in the Lebanon he or she will probably come to Ziad Nawfal. (The latest article was an interview with Ziad Nawfal and Rami Abadir at Ma3azef). He has been a music producer, promoter and DJ now for over twenty years in Beirut, and due to his work with international and local artists his vast knowledge of the music scene makes him a source of information on the independent music scene.
The idea of Ruptured emerged back in 2008 when Ziad Nawfal and Fadi Tabbal, a Lebanese artist decided to establish a label for local artists in Beirut. In an interview with Beats and Breath, he says that: “I felt compelled to document what I was hearing, the stuff that musicians were giving me, the music performances that I was attending. the performances that were taking place at the radio station.” In additon to this he further explains that “We started working mostly with electronic artists and with experimental and electronic music. That was the intention, it is still today. The last five releases are either experimental or electronic music from Lebanon.
The beginning of the label Ruptured is to be found in the work as a radio DJ that Nawfal is still practicing. The show Ruptures was for the audience to discover new artists from the local scene. Deriving from the radio sessions Nawfal hosted, the idea of the Ruptured Sessions emerged which was one of the first releases of the label. In the book Untitled Tracks: On Alternative Music in Beirut (2009) he notes that “The idea behind these sessions was to bring to light the various actors and actresses from Lebanon’s alternative music scene, and to enable them to reach out to a wider audience.”
While browsing through the list of musicians at Ruptured, you will notice that their music is somewhere between electronic – experimental – alternative music. Fadi Tabbal who is considered as “the hardest-working man in Lebanon’s alternative music scene” has released his latest EP How’s Annie with Ruptured. How’s Annie, which switches between a musical landscape of guitar and electronic sounds lasts more than 30 minutes and provokes with a dreamy David Lynch-esque atmosphere and an eclectic sound that Fadi Tabbal has created over the years.
Other artists for example like Kid Fourteen play a somewhat Joy Divisonesque sound. The album was produced by Khodr Ellaik, the man behind Kid Fourteen, Ziad Nawfal and Fadi Tabbal, characterizing it as “Noise Pop from Beirut with a “Post/Synth” Punk, Electro flavor”.
Another band, Safar, released their first album In Transit with Ruptured. It was created by Mayssa Jallad and Elie Abdelnour. They are playing both in Arabic and English and they are a hopeful mix of indie music and experimental sounds.
With the label Ruptured, Ziad Nawfal and Fadi Tabbal created a rich archive of experimental and alternative music which is far away from the mainstream sound. But Nawfal knows how difficult it is to maintain a label. He is organizing events, concerts and workshops with other artists, in order to keep the scene going. He says that „it is very hard to sell and distribute in the rest of the world, and it is hard in the Lebanon as well. People tend to listen online and download it. It is tough to sell records. Most of the selling is made during the initial album launch. After that it soon stops.“
Ziad Nawfal writes in the 2009 published book: “The musical panorama seems to renew itself constantly, and holds frequent surprises for the patient listener. While it is difficult to establish accurate points of comparison with international or regional counterparts, it is worth noting that these Lebanese musicians operate in an institutional void.” How much the scene has changed since his inception as a Music DJ and producer becomes apparent in the beautiful article “Beirut Sounds Like this” written by Lina Mounzer.
There he says “When I first started out, I would play one or two local bands during my show. Now, I can compose an entire DJ set out of only local musicians.” On the current development of the music scene in Beirut and if he would write the same article again after eight years has passed since the book was published he says that: “All of these scenes I described, the different types of alternative music are still here today, only on a bigger scale. They are more competitive. They desire to collaborate. It is the same type of music and they come from the same social background, but there are more musicians now.”
The scene which Nawfal described still exists today and is becoming bigger every day. Not only local but also artists from Egypt and Syria are starting to collaborate, coming to Beirut to perform. While artists and musicians come and go, the label Ruptured with Ziad Nawfal and Fadi Tabbal will hopefully stay another twenty years or longer, supporting and sustaining the local music scene in Beirut.
The latest release by Ruptured was the album of Kinematik.