Artfully fusing oriental classics with western beats, there’s no mistaking the sound of Lebanese rock act Arnabeat. We caught up with band members Paul Garabed (guitarist), Hisham Hallak (Arabic lead vocalist and buzuk player), Charbel Nacouz (pianist and lead vocalist) and Eli Elijah (bassist and vocalist) to learn more about what makes them tick.
Since forming in 2016, Arnabeat has been playing to packed-out venues across the Middle East as well as Europe. The band’s unique style, coupled with the exceptional talent of its four members, has earned Arnabeat a huge following, which only grew after the release of the first original single, “In My Brain.”
As the band’s guitarist, Paul, what is it that you enjoy most about being on stage?
Life isn’t always butterflies and rainbows; each one of us searches for his/her window of escape. My escape is being on stage doing what I love with people I love and seeing the crowd enjoying it.
Apparently, you’re quite the fashion enthusiast Hisham. Which Lebanese designers do you admire most and why?
I won’t name a designer, but I really admire the effort made by all the Lebanese designers to put Lebanon on the global fashion map. Using the identity crisis we have in this country to create styles and designs is something I really value.
Personally, I just like to take simple clothing and fit my own style by accessorizing my jackets, pants and vests. I don’t wear famous brands; I just try to collect vintage items and blend them with other clothes, and add my touch (or ruin them, I don’t know!) I like it that way.
Charbel, how does Lebanon inspire you musically?
First of all, being in Lebanon is in part if not the main concept behind Arnabeat. This fusion of culture, politics, religion, tastes, etc. pushes you to smoothly mix oriental and western music. In the end, Lebanon is where I grew up. No matter how far I go and how long I stay away there is always something certain, safe and somehow complete about it. And that inspires me to go beyond the limit, musically.
If you weren’t in the music industry what would have been your second career choice, Eli?
Believe it or not, I’ve never even given this a thought. I do what I do because I love doing it and I’m so grateful that I get to be on that stage with all the passion I have for music, where I can also entertain people and contribute to making their evenings memorable.
Thinking about it now, my second career choice would probably be a life coach. I’m so into self-growth and life coaching myself and that would be the closest in terms of what makes me love my current career: doing something I love to do while making a positive impact on people.
When you’re not performing, what would we find you all doing?
Paul: You’ll find me at my day job in an engineering company; yes, that’s what I just said, engineering! Also, I never miss out on any activity that involves friends and family; oh, and I hit the gym every now and then.
Hisham: Well, before my injury I used to be a school teacher four days a week. I would also work out on a daily basis and play basketball from time to time. Now things are a little slower so I spend my days writing and reading. I’m taking advantage of this period and using it to reconnect with myself.
Charbel: I spend a considerable amount of time in my room, whether rehearsing with the guys, playing and singing on my piano or composing and arranging music. I teach in a music school and try to play basketball once a week. Being out in nature also brings me peace.
Eli: Spending quality time in nature, hiking, camping, travelling and definitely working on my own projects.
We talked Paul, Hisham, Charbel and Eli about their influences, what drives the band and forthcoming music.
The Lebanese band Arnabeat has been rocking their way across the Middle East in the past few years, and more recently, performing in Europe.
With the band set to release a single and an EP in the coming months, we caught up with the four guys behind the unique musical style and sound. We caught up with Paul, Hisham, Charbel and Eli, who told us a bit more about their influences, what drives the band and their forthcoming music.
In the past few years, quite a few indie Lebanese bands have popped up. What sets Arnabeat apart from other Lebanese musical acts?
Through time Lebanon was characterized by a diversity of cultures, traditions, and religions. Lebanese people fuse French, English and Arabic in one phrase. For some this is an identity crisis, for us this is who we are.
We believe that we represent the people of this world. And with the diversity of backgrounds, interests, and different characters that we have in the band, we sometimes feel like we’re a focus group whose objective is representing the world. So, what actually sets us apart is that we’re not about to make music that only a certain community can relate to. We aim to create something for everyone in this world to relate to.
Tell us more about your upcoming EP. Where does the band find inspiration for your original songs? What are the themes you write and sing about?
We started writing this EP three years ago. The Arabic text of one of the songs was actually written seven years ago. We edited the songs through the years, and we even changed the musical texture many times until we found a format that sounds like us.
Our inspiration is mainly our daily life in Lebanon and abroad. Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time, and the themes we write about are simple, daily life occurrences. Sometimes we use dark humor, and sometimes a more serious approach.
Take as an example the lyrics of “Hana”. You have a peaceful day away from any stress, and then someone comes and crumbles your whole existence. In “What the Four”, we chose to write about love, hate, dreams and ambition, youth’s struggles and observations. We believe these topics will get the attention of the youth in the world.
We don’t know how much this EP will be accepted, but we put our hearts into it, and at least we are sure we are being honest to the people.
Why did you choose the name Arnabeat?
People ask us this question more than they ask about the apocalypse!
Our art has beat in it, and that’s what we do. If you put art and beat together, you get artbeat and Arnabeat makes the perfect pun.
Arnabeat in Arabic means the cauliflower … And three of us are vegans, so there you go.
Can you introduce each member of the band? Who are you all and what do you do beyond your music?
I’m Paul, co-founder and the guitarist. I feel the same way Michael Jordan feels about basketball, except I am not even close to being a Michael Jordan. I hit the gym every now then, I play basketball weekly, and I let cigars poison my blood every once in a while. I believe we mentioned that three of the band members are vegan and we’re four. You know what am saying right?
I’m Hisham Hallak, co-founder of Arnabeat and also writer, composer, and Arabic lead vocalist. I’m a fashion enthusiast. I have a thing for style that gives me a certain rush. The opportunity to shock others, giving them a weird first impression and a certain judgement just because of what you wear or what you like is something i just love. I live with lots of shapes, colors, words, and rythms inside my head. Sometimes I transform my thoughts into a painting, or into a song. And sometimes I would break up with a girl I am dating, I really don’t know how to explain that. But it’s there, I see music in colors, in patterns, as much as I see patterns and colors in music. I see our existence marked by melodies and patterns. Every event in our life leaves us with a certain music in the back of our head and a defined color grade. I tend to be as resourceful as possible so I keep myself extremely busy. To me, being stable and relaxed are two things that should happen after our death not before. So untill then, I have plenty of work to do, plenty of knowledge to catch. And for having the opportunity to do so, I am so grateful and lucky.
I’m Charbel, pianist, songwriter, arranger, co-founder and lead vocalist of Arnabeat. I prefer notes over letters, which is only how you can understand me. Give me an idea, I’ll make it a melody. Give me a stage, I’ll explain the melody. Give me an audience, they’ll reflect all the energy. But don’t try to limit me, music is powerful in me. Whether a weird noise in a room or a mysterious animal squeaking in nature, any unusual sound would have my curiosity. This keenness for noises made it somehow perfectly natural for me to compose the way I do. I’d also go wherever a plane takes me, wandering about all the beautiful things each place implores me through nature, food and music, of course.
I’m Eli, co-founder of Arnabeat and my instrument is the bass. The stage for me is a low gravity zone. Put me on a stage and I am happy. No stage? Fine, put me in the midst of nature where the universe keeps its magic and energy, and that’s all I would need to be happy. I’m intolerant to perfection and I hate brand new shoes. I’d be taking a pair of shoes straight from the box to a hike so I can at least feel comfortable looking at it. That’s it I guess. I am all about nature, environment, healthy living and fitness. Oh, and I am an animal lover.
You’ve already performed shows across the Middle East and recently had your first performance in Europe. What was the experience of performing in Amsterdam like? Also, do you have any future European or maybe American shows on the agenda?
See, every show we put out there is like a rebirth to each and every one of us. The party that happens on that stage, with the chemistry we have among us, combined with the insane crowd interaction, is something euphoric. Each performance touches us in a way that is actually hard to describe. We are in love with the people, and we do what we do for them, because it is as much of an experience to us as it is to them.
Amsterdam was something beautiful, because of the surprise we had. We went there not knowing if people are showing up or not. Before we hit the stage, some fans were at the backstage door requesting to come in so we can take pictures together. We’re used to that in the Middle East but in Europe? It felt great!
When we went on that stage and saw that the place was full, and people from all around Europe and the Arab world came specially to see us, we can’t lie, it was a shock. Europeans were singing “Leh Ya Hana” man … You don’t see that every day.
Who are some of your influences? Are there other Arab or Lebanese groups you guys are fans of?
We come from different musical backgrounds. We have lots of influences, some of them are Lebanese, and from our generation. To us, supporting each other as Arabic bands and rising artists is something essential. So yeah, we support and follow many of the Lebanese and Arabic performers from our generation.
When it comes to Arabic indie music and Lebanese in particular, Mashrou’ Leila gets a lot of hype. Do you think Mashrou’ Leila helped pave the way for more bands to get more international exposure? What do you think about Mashrou’ Leila’s music?
Mashrou’ Leila is one of the great bands, and they’ve had significant success in 11 years. But Lebanon always had its share when it comes to Indie music. Have you heard of the Sea-ders? An original Lebanese band established in the 60’s!
We do not actually consider ourselves an indie rock band. We don’t want to be framed or labeled. We want to speak to the world. That is more like us. “Leh Ya Hana” is a song anyone can listen to and sing along with, regardless of their age, language, interest or background. That’s more like us. Again, we want the world to relate!
Is there anything else you’d like to share about the band, your EP and your future plans?
We’re currently focused on releasing a single by the end of September, which will pave the way to the EP release in November. That’s what is keeping us busy right now. We have a lot for the future, and we hope that the future has a lot for us too.
Leh Ya HanaArnabeat4:33
Batwannes Bik Medley CoverArnabeat5:12
SanferloIt Wasnt Me Medley CoverArnabeat2:41
Up Up Coldplay Medley CoverArnabeat4:06
Al Helm Al ArabyWe Are the World medley coverArnabeat3:46