Let’s Shank-on

Between an emerging youth movement entrenched in social networking and independent, local musicians pushing the limits of modern sound, Lebanon’s social scene is in the midst of a vibrant makeover.

Whether they were emailed, “poked,” or “tweeted,” attendees of the “This is Shankaboot” launch concert – held on Saturday, June 12 at Luna Park’s incandescent Ferris wheel – were indeed a testament to this evolution in entertainment and communication.

Set among hundreds of Ray-Bans, plaid shirt-clad art enthusiasts and still younger attendees aspiring to be such, the launch concert celebrated the release of web-series Shankaboot’s second season. Marketing also blended the familiar with the cutting-edge, as vendors pitched hot-dogs, cotton candy and interactive media.

The occasion was marked by an impressive line-up of Lebanese independent bands and musicians – RayessBek, Tania Saleh, Mudbone, Jade and Diamond Setter, Scareface, Lazzy Lung and Zeid Hamdan and the Wings.

Hamdan, often referred to as “the founding father” of Beirut’s underground, also contributed one of his own tracks to the show’s sophomore effort – a lively sound that catered to the series’ lighthearted vibe.

Asked about the importance of developing independent music, Hamdan said, “The Lebanese underground scene is essential to suggest another Lebanon far from the materialism and the superficial image the Arab pop industry promotes.”

“[They] only have Arabic pop stars to identify with,” he said of modern Lebanese youth culture.

In contrast, Hamdan believes that both independent music and multimedia efforts like Shankaboot are forging new ground, sharing an unprecedented degree of accessibility to their audience. 

Samira Kawas, who stars as Shankaboot’s female protagonist concurs. “The show speaks about real people and youth that we don't see often in our dramas, most importantly, it’s not preaching anything,” she said.

Providing a practical example of its figurative accessibility, Shankaboot’s actors were present onstage during the launch, and could be found mingling with adoring fans throughout the event.

Hassan Akil, who plays Suleiman, the endearing delivery boy and Ruwaida’s admirer placed that accessibility as among the chief purposes of the event. “It’s an amazing idea to be with the fans face-to-face, it’s  something never done [where] Lebanese actors go and join their fans and dance on the same dance-floor,” said Akil.

In the future, the show will continue to engage its audience on ground-breaking media platforms,which include social online applications like Facebook and Twitter. Toward that end, Shankaboot will invite the public to partake in casting sessions starting June 14 - those interested will have the opportunity to join the show.

Shankaboot is marketed as the first Arab web-drama. Produced by Batoota Films and funded by the BBC World Service Trust, it follows the tracks of 15-year old Suleiman on his various quests throughout Beirut. Already viewed some 61,000 times, the show aims to provide young Lebanese with a new outlet for expression, interaction and learning.

To find out more about Shakaboot, visit the series website here.