Now in its 23rd iteration, Beirut’s Irtijal is the city’s longest-running music festival, giving a platform to the regional experimental music scene for over two decades. Along the way, it has also become something of a sonic laboratory, where new collaborations are constantly being discovered and synthesised.
Over the years, it has supported the practice of music outside the mainstream of pop and hip-hop while placing a keen focus on “free improvisation, free jazz, contemporary classical music, post-rock, experimental electronic music, sound-art as well as many other attempts to explore new and uncharted territories in sound,” as described on the festival website.
Organized by MILL, the non-profit was founded by musicians Mazen Kerbaj and Sharif Sehnaoui “with the intent of promoting contemporary and experimental practices in music, and assisting projects that do not fit within the Lebanese mainstream, yet still present undeniable artistic value.”
Irtijal International Festival has become a haven for experimental musicians of all genres and origins. Artists and audiences alike flock to Beirut each year to share their distinctive sounds and collaborate with one another. It's a place where boundaries are pushed, where musicians are free to experiment and explore new sonic landscapes.
As a result, the music is always cutting-edge and boundary-breaking, and perhaps why Irtijal has become one of Lebanon’s most impactful festivals as it is also something of a yearly meeting that “doesn’t confine itself to any specific style or genre of music, but rather tries to advocate an experimental and innovative approach to each and every genre it showcases.”
The performances range from electro-acoustic improvisation to noise rock to free jazz, while also featuring experimental filmmakers and visual artists who work alongside musicians to create immersive, multimedia performances.
Taking place from April 11-14th, this year’s lineup includes Elshan Ghaimi with a tar and vocal performance kicking off the opening night at Zoukak Theatre. Later in the evening, there’s Mayssa Jalllad who will be joined by Julia Sabra and Pascal Semerdjian from the band Postcards, followed by NP with Jad Atoui and Anthony Sahyoun.
On day two at the Beirut Art Centre, the music lineup includes Duo Moment with Hardi Kudra on violin and Khabat Abas on cello, followed by SUB_RATT with Elvin Brandhi on electronics and vocals, alongside Omar Itani on electronics. The evening closes out with a film by the festival’s co-founder: ‘Mazen Kerbaj: The Musical’.
Day three at the Zoukak Theatre kicks off with the electronic musings of Sarah Huneidi in her inventive performance project, ‘xlmxkhfi’, followed by electronic artist, Ziad Moukarzel. The evening will also feature the brilliant curation of Paed Conca on clarinet and electronics, Petr Vrba on trumpet and electronics, Tony Elieh on electric bass, and Malek Rizkallah on drums.
Finally, the night will close out with more electronic compositions, including a live set by C-Drik, and later a DJ set by Andrew Neerman.
The fourth and final night culminates with a program entitled ‘Irtijal meets Frequent Defect’, with live performances by Emmidio Vasquez, Fadi Tabbbal, Mazen Kerbaj and more.
For the full festival programme go to Irtijal’s website here.