Improv Guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui at vs. Interpretation
The guitar player Sharif Sehnaoui (together with trumpet player Mazen Kerbaj) is one of the most important instigators of the experimental and improvisational scene in Lebanon. Not only does he actively perform in the Middle East, Europe and the US, but he is also the guiding light of Irtijal, the only festival in Arab-language countries focusing on improvisation, taking place every spring in Beirut. He also runs the recording label Al Maslakh, which “…publish[es] the unpublishable in the Lebanese art scene”.
A continuous effort has helped establish a new tradition in Lebanon, despite the deep roots of traditional music, which allows for improvisation only within a strict set of rules, and regards complete freedom and unconventional approaches to instruments as something alien. However, the domestic scene is considerably bolstered by the regular import of world musicians who play together with the locals. Looking at the activities of the leading Lebanese improvisers, it becomes apparent that a significant role is played by humour. Be it Kerbaj’s drawings (an inseparable part of the album art of the Al Maslakh label and Irtijal festival posters), the name of the label itself, or not less, the Johnny Kafta Anti-Vegetarian Orchestra. Their promotional posters most often contain photographs of musicians in heavily blood-stained butcher aprons (sometimes with musical instruments, at other times with butcher’s implements), which causes disgust in some sensitive souls. Sehnaoui can only add: “We shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously but you better talk it over with Mazen, this is his number one topic!”
Sharif Sehnaoui will perform at the vs. Interpretation festival together with Mazen Kerbaj, Christine Abdelnour, and the drummer Tony Buck whom we in the Czech Republic have come to know over the last several years mostly from his performances of The Necks trio. He will appear as a shifting member of the Rouba3i quartet, to which the Lebanese trio always invites a guest percussionist.
Read the full article about Sharif Sehnaoui on Agosto Foundation web page.