(Video via YouTube.com)
“The world starts and ends with your black eyes.” –Ma Kan Mafroud, Adonis
“Ma Kan Mafrood” (It wasn’t supposed to be) is the song that will have you instantly hooked. Lebanese band Adonis conjures a mood - like a David Bowie song covered in Portuguese, along with a perspective - like a slow camera pan out to a bird’s-eye-view of Beirut that could easily lend itself to the soundtrack of a Wes Anderson film.
Their music is something to fall in love with. The five boys from Adonis – drummer Nicola Hakim, guitarist Joey Abou Jawdeh, bassist Fabio Khoury, along with Vladimir Kurumilian on keys and vocalist Anthony Khoury on the synthesizer – produce songs that are, at times, achingly gorgeous, charming, whimsical and enchantingly Lebanese.
The album is, in its own way, a homage to the country – its places, spaces and memories – as seen through the eyes of a couple of young boys; boys who exude a kind of raw emotion and romantic spirit that would seem driven by the impunity of their youth, by that brief moment in life when we find ourselves at once irreverent, rebellious and innocent.
They sing about love, relationships, partying on rooftops and one-night stands. They sing, with intuitive ease, about Lebanon and its often beautiful contradictions; a connotation embedded within the band’s name. Vocalist and songwriter Anthony Khoury explains, there’s “the very boring town in North Lebanon and also… the Greek god [of beauty and desire]. There’s a very poignant contradiction between the mundaneness and banality of the town and the magic that the god insinuates. Our music does that all the time. It takes simple elements of everyday life… and brings out the magic.”
Khoury is, without a doubt, the standout member of the band. His voice swoons with a rich texture and deep tone that would appear profoundly mature for his age. The 24-year-old says he grew up listening to Arabic music, mostly Fairuz, Majida al-Roumi and Um Kalthoum. With this influence in mind, he has melded the indie folk sounds of contemporary artists like Andrew Bird, Rufus Wainwright and American indie-rock outfit Beirut to carve out a niche sound that is uniquely Adonis’ own.
Laundry wires, brooding lovers, shitty luck, ashtrays and bottles, the use of local imagery throughout the lyrics achieves the seemingly impossible feat of making you feel nostalgic for, not the past, but the present – for something you want to be a part of, but don’t quite understand yet. With a deliberate pop-inspired simplicity, their music is something intuitive, like an old lullaby you haven’t heard in years, but that remains ingrained with child-like essence in the soul.
You weren’t supposed to be promised that you’d return
The kids have grown up
And they’ve become grandparents
And what was a “home”
Has become a border
And mountains fall
And there’s still something missing
And generations pass
And whoever is gone never comes back, never again
(“Ma Kan Mafroud,” Adonis)
As for the musical composition, Khoury uses a synthesizer to introduce subtle moments of depth into the band’s arrangements. There’s the harpsichord, for instance, in the song “Stouh Adonis,” (Rooftops of Adonis) or the sound of the mizmar, a classical Arabic wind instrument, used in the song “Ma 3andy Fikra” (I have no idea).
This kind of attention to detail has driven Adonis’ vision. “It took a lot of work and involvement to get the sound right,” says Khoury. “Also, we were thinking of recording even before performing and had an obsession with how the music would sound. So the songs were there before we even had a name for the band.” Adonis formed in December 2010 and recorded their album just a few months later in the summer of 2011.
The band returns to the studio with prominent Lebanese producer Fadi Tabbal, who produced Adonis’ debut album, next month to begin recording their second album, which is due to be released sometime this summer. They’re also slated for performances in the region over the next few months, including Jordan, Egypt and possibly Syria.
With a shy demeanor and unassuming air, there’s a certain loveable awkwardness in the band’s live performances. But it’s because they are a fledgling group that the five boys from Lebanon offer so much promise. With more work and experience, we can expect big things from Adonis.
For more information, please visit the band’s website here and follow them on Twitter @Adonisband.