As you may have previously read, the restaurant Walimat Warde’, located on Makdessi street in Hamra, had relocated earlier this year. Walimnat Warde’II (as you could call it) settled down on the corner of the street it was previously located on. Now, WWII (yes, I’m so using this, just watch me) boasted of many things before opening its doors to the public; better ventilation, better sound-system, better performance area, etc… I had not been to WWII since its grand opening, so tonight was a chance to truly see if it really did live up to its own hype.
The eighth installment in the performance series “The Greedy Ears Sessions” would play host to an experimental musician I had heard of but never actually heard before, who’s name is Vahan Papazian, older brother of Haig Papazian, Mashrou3 Leila violinist. He would be joined by Haig himself, as well as other accompanying performers, a mystery percussionist (actually two), and “Ranah” on vocals.
-Before the Show: Arriving to WWII (told you), I was greeted by Serge Yared, the man responsible for this series of gigs, at the door. Entering through the door, I found myself facing… another door. Entering that door, I found: WWII in all its new-and-improved glory. The look was different that’s for sure, more modern, a contrast to ol’Walimat Warde’s “vintage” aesthetic. I paid the charge of 7,000 L.L; honestly I preferred the old 5,000 L.L fee over this. Dividends of 5 are more practical.
Soon enough, the mystery percussionists arrived. One I was not familiar with, but the other very. It was Aram Papazian (no relation to Vahan and Haig), who happens to be the drummer in the cover band I currently play in (I am the synth-FX guy). But of course, I shall remain unbiased.
I tried killing time until 10:00 PM (sharp), the time the shows supposedly start. Most of it was spent chatting with Haig, for I don’t see him that often.
10:05 PM, performance starts… sharp my ass.
-The Show: Vahan was seated on the ground with his sitar in hand. Before him lay a series of machines: a multi-effects pedal, a keyboard synthesizer, and a drum-machine(?). He began playing solo on his sitar. It was certainly interesting, but in my opinion, there was too much of a buzz, not very “spacey”. The diner’s didn’t help either. Following that, he put down the sitar and grabbed… an electric sitar! I am a big big, very big fan of amplification. In this day and age, if it plugs into a guitar amplifier, you’re set to rock, no matter what it is you play.
The percussionists began playing. One tapped on an instrument comprised of a ring with a skin stretched across it, the other on a traditional Indian percussion instrument made of clay (not sure of its name). They got a rhythm going and Vahan joined in on sitar playing a hypnotic melody. I was impressed by how the sitar is able to “fill up” the sound. No bass guitar was necessary. The jam went on for quite a while, it was all very loose, nothing pre-planned I think. I have a tendency to mentally improve anything I’m hearing and feel has something missing. What was missing was a good hip hop drum break.
After that, Ranah took the mic and sang some traditional Arabic song with Haig adding delicate violin taps. She has a very beautiful voice.
Following that, my wish would be fulfilled. Vahan played a synthesized drumbeat and the percussion section joined in. It was sort of a repeat of the previous jam except with the drumbeat being added. I mean, there isn’t exactly anything planned, so of course you’d expect something to come up again and again.
Then Vahan sat down on a chair in order to lay his instrument across his knees. He played a drumbeat and joined in with some apocalyptic sitar-playing, with distortion, and using a slide. But eventually the sitar was in its upright position and was being played once again mesmerizingly, this time more so with his use of a flanger effect from the effects pedal on it.
Afterwards, Vahan and Haig had a sitar-violin duet. It went from melancholic to powerful, with Haig going from slowly dragging the bow across the strings of his violin to vigorously thrusting it back and forth, and Vahan, from loosely plucking the strings of his sitar to forcefully striking them.
Finally, concluding the night was a jam with all previously featured elements, except for violin. Sitar and Indian percussion played to a synth drumbeat with the lovely Ranah interjecting with “ya leil”s and “ya 3ein”s. Her voice later took on an orgasmic quality with her “ohhh”s and “ahhh”s. Accompanying the bit was lusty belly dancing by a fellow named Alex, whom you might have also seen during the Mashrou3 Leila CD launch concert. Eventually, the drumbeat stopped, the sitar stopped, leaving only percussion tapping away, only to fade out as well. I felt like I had just heard the next SoapKills track…
-After the Show: On the music, it was certainly something new. I was expecting something psychedelic, but actually it was that and danceable as well. It did get a bit repetitive however and some of the melodies were overused. Oh and, I didn’t mention the despicable diners. They were actually trying to drown out the music. When it was turned up, they turned it up as well, in order to muffle it, AND drown out one another as well. God, I mean, why come HERE to THIS restaurant which you already know has LIVE FUCKING MUSIC EVERY TUESDAY if you don’t want to hear it. Chatty diners, lots of equally good restaurants out there that DON’T have something culturally enriching to offer you while you dine, they’re not hard to find… unbelievable. Second-worst crowd ever. Which was the first? The crowd from International Day of Peace, but they were children. Yes, WWII patrons on March 30th 2010, you actually came this close to being worse than a crowd of children. Too harsh? My ears are greedy, deal with it. And about the new performance space, though old Walimat’s performance area was makeshift, there was still room for several people to sit down on the floor and stand up too. It was sectioned off in its own room. Just going into that room was enough for you to see the performance. But now, in WWII, it was all one big room. Not much sitting-space, not much standing-space, unless you go between the tables and awkwardly shuffle around every time a waiter has to pass through. The music was great, but it was set in an extremely inappropriate backdrop.
For more on the Greedy Ears Sessions visit: http://www.facebook.com/omaralfil?ref=profile#!/group.php?gid=118734329783&ref=ts
The Wrap-Up: http://www.mediafire.com/?0mkumkzzrym