BEIRUT: When talking about Luxor, where “Rabab” music space resides, Shadi Rabab’s face gleams with joy.
The historical Egyptian city, that he’s been living in for 6 years, inspired him to found the place holding his family name, along with his friend Ahmad.
It is a collaborative space where authentic musical instruments are made out of upcycled material most of the time, and which aims to spread awareness about music and art for free. It faces the Colossi of Memnon, which are two massive stone statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who reigned in Egypt during the Dynasty XVIII.
“It’s amazing how music is a universal language we carry everywhere we go,” Rabab tells Annahar in an interview in Beirut just a few days before his awaited exhibition “Hawiyat Mazika".
“Rabab” was founded 2 months ago, in what seems like a successful attempt to “let everyone, especially children have the choice of learning a musical instrument,” Rabab says.
Before that, the 27-year old musician was producing upcycled musical instruments at home.
The idea of having an exhibition in Lebanon however, felt feasible and real, after one of Rabab’s friends proposed it. Through the exhibition, Rabab is trying to spread awareness that people are able to create any instrument.
Yet, despite the vast commercialism “attacking” music increasingly in our days, Rabab sees that “as long as there is honesty in any subject, it will just happen alone,” adding that “it is something coming from the inside of a person, from the core.”
The music maker gives names to the instruments he produces; some of which are newly introduced to the music industry.
“Farida,” meaning “unique,” was his first “baby” as he describes it. It was produced after he poured his feelings into it.
That instrument took a week to create, and it was produced by using wood obtained from dead trees, iron bars from windows, a biscuit box made of tin, wires, wire keys, machine head for the strings, in addition to inserting electricity, since Farida is an electric instrument.
Speaking of wood carving, it is abundantly used in Rabab’s instruments for decoration.
Naming instruments makes him feel as if they have a soul, Rabab mentions. “When I name them, they become more interactive,” he says.
Buying a Rabab creation would allow the owner of a Rabab instrument to obtain a unique, handmade piece that looks nothing like a famous band’s musical instrument.
Coming from the “solitude” of Luxor to Beirut for the second time, Rabab is filled with joy; especially from finding some people that have a mutual music style.
“In Luxor, my mind transcends in distant beautiful trips,” he says, adding that Beirut gives him inspiration to make music as well.
One can barely find any use of words in Rabab’s music. It’s mainly focused on the majestic tunes his unique musical instruments produce.
The young musician prefers to see and not hear how his music touches the listeners; their facial expression usually says it all.
“I can see them flying because of my music, and this is really exciting,” he says, adding that there is no specific audience for his music and art, since “Music is for everyone.”
Rabab graduated with a Fine Arts degree from Luxor Fine Arts School, yet he found his greatest passion in music.
At “Hawiyat Mazika” exhibition, people will see new instruments no one has ever seen before, he tells Annahar. The event will also hold an open jam session, where anyone can play the instrument he/she likes.
The prices are suitable for everyone, stemming from the belief that “music should be accessible for all.”
When asked how Rabab space could be described, the musician says that “It’s a place for experimenting, and letting out all the creative things inside me.” He adds: “No one tells me you’re right or wrong or judges me there. It’s a place where I can blow the world and burst with it in my mind, through the materials I make.”
Rabab’s distinct yet simple clothing style also resembles his music; empty of any complications and trends, and focused on what’s comfortable and authentic.
“I am comfortable with my clothing style, which is affected by the African and tribal cultures,” he mentions.
Refusing the word “teaching” music or any musical instrument, Rabab mentions that music is spread and shared. “If I taught someone, he/she would be a copy of me, and I don’t want that,” he says.
For the many children who want to play music but are not able to do so, because it’s very expensive, Rabab offers them a ray of light amid the darkness.
“Just knowing about the idea that musical instruments can be made by using very few materials, constitutes some hope for the children,” Rabab says.
While music is looked at as a luxury and not a basic need in many places of the world, Rabab insists that it is none of those. “Music is a religion” that starts with passion and makes it grow as well, he says.
That passion traveling from Luxor to Beirut seems to be vital to implement in concrete, artistic actions, in any geographical area in the world, and specifically in Egypt where many violations against the environment are being made.
Instead of throwing two or three bottles per day, flutes, bassoons, contraforte, tenoroon, oboe, sarrusophone, and other reed instruments can be produced.
In the exhibition starting March 1 until March 3, old/modern musical instruments made out of ethically used animal skin (used after animals are dead) and horns, will be featured, at Mansion.
Mansion, as its description on the official website mentions, is a grand, beautiful villa from the 1930's situated in Zoqaq el-Blat. Abandoned during the civil war, the house with its spacious rooms, high ceilings and terraced garden has now, once again, come to life in the form of a new artistic space in central Beirut.
Since opening in 2012, Mansion has re-emerged as a multi-purpose collective space, hosting film screenings, discussions, performances and exhibitions for the public, as well as offering 10 working studios for permanent residents. A library and reading space is open for public use. There is also a guest-room welcoming short-time users, and on the second level, a large wooden floor regularly hosting dance and theater rehearsals, performances and yoga classes.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.