Have you ever felt that you have a music genius lying at the bottom of your stomach? Well if you do, you might as well listen to it. At least that’s what Camille Feghali did. At 23, he works as a sound engineer for AMAR, a classical Arab music foundation. His passion? You guessed it, classical Arab music but also, surprisingly, techno music.

When we met Camille, he was sitting in his room that he converted in a personal studio. The place was filled with classical Arab instruments – oud, nye, announ – and surrounded by slight smell of incense.

Can you tell us more about your job?

My main task is to restore old Arab music recordings. We receive those aged lead discs, the ancestors of vinyls, and also some old tapes from private acquisitions. Then we try to digitize them through machines connected to our computers. Finally, we make our best to clean the audios. By cleaning I mean muting the background noises, or removing the scratching effect that is generated by the turntable’s reader.

What did you study that lead you to be a sound engineer?

I actually started with a Bachelor’s degree in cinematographic studies at the USJ-IESAV. I was always interested in music but wanted, at first, to work as a sound engineer for the cinema industry. There, I learned how to record scenes and edit them.

Then I fell into techno music and it was a revelation. I started to create my own music, play with friends… Because I knew that playing in a band would not pay my rent, I looked for a job that I still could enjoy. I was really interested in classic Arab music so I contacted the AMAR Foundation [Foundation For Arab Music Archiving & Research]. From then on, it was easy because I already had learned how to use all the software required to clean a sound during my studies.

You formed a music band, called TaraBeat. What kind of music are you playing?

My friends and I started to ask ourselves: why in the hell would we copycat what is already made all over the world? We Lebanese, have the chance to possess such a rich heritage regarding our musical background. We can use decades of Middle Eastern music history. However, we also didn’t want to completely quit Techno music. Having that in mind, we founded TaraBeat and began to create a style of music that look like us, which is a mix between Techno and Arab music. For example, we would start with a raw Techno beat, and then some nye melody would come from the background.

How would you define classical Arab music?

Let us go back in time, when Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan were not yet countries. In this region, called Sham, musicians used to play in a special way called Takassim. They didn’t have any music scrolls; there were no such things as array of music, like “do, re, mi, fa…” and so on. Musicians were used to memorize repeated notes but, between those notes, it was total improvisation. You then recognize a good musician by his ability to improvise and decorate the music. This is what we can assume to be classical Arab music. It dates back from the 19th century. That’s what I love about Arab music and why people should listen to it. And I’m not talking about Fairuz or Najwa Karam!

How do you see yourself in the years to come? 

Helping future students working in the field of classical Arab music. I want to be the guy you could call if you have questions about a precise artist or musical era. The best thing about knowledge, is that you can spread it easily and for free! And ultimately I would love to live out of the music I produce with my band TaraBeat. The next deadlines for us are by the beginning of summer. We plan on releasing our first album and we have planned several upcoming concerts. 

 

C.K.