Everywhere around the world, music makers and music lovers have been coming together virtually, often because it’s the only way we can thanks to COVID-19. However, what began as a necessity has now evolved into an expansion of accessibility: now, we can enjoy music from the far reaches of the world, broadcast right into the comfort of our own home. The removal of geographical and physical boundaries leaves only the possibility of discovery. And our latest is Beirut Jam Sessions.
Founded in June 2012, Beirut Jam Sessions is a music organization that promotes concerts in Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East featuring a variety of international, regional and local artists and groups. Anthony Semaan, the founder of BJS, was inspired to take action by the art and music around him, that he wanted to support. “The inspiration behind founding Beirut Jam Sessions was, and always has been, to promote artists”, Anthony shared. “The main objective at first was to fill the void of small to medium sized concerts in Beirut and then to shed a positive light on the country via our videos.”
The videos Anthony mentioned are the recorded Jam sessions, now immortalized through their popular Youtube channel. There, artists from around the world and local to Beirut perform together or alone in an unplugged, raw, setting within the city. This platform was the first of its kind in the Middle-East, creating an incredible opportunity for exposure for up and coming artists, and a way for fans to see more prominent artists perform that they may not otherwise see, including Joss Stone, Ibrahim Maalouf, Aziz Maraka, Keziah Jones and many more.
When asked who Anthony would love to see perform with BJS, his answer was Canadian group Arcade Fire. “Whether it’s a live gig, a session for our channel or even a virtual one, they are arguably the best live act I’ve ever seen.”
In the past, BJS concerts in Beirut would typically gather approximately 400-500 attendees on a regular basis. But due to the horrific Beirut blast, the pandemic and the extraordinary economic crisis that ensued, life in Lebanon has been altered significantly, and the music scene has been decimated, leaving venues, artists and the industry around them struggling.
In response to the original lockdown, BJS launched #BJSINSTAFEST, an online festival with over 160 Live Concerts on Instagram. The music streamed for free, and featured artists from 25 countries around the world over a period of 9 weeks. Following the success of this online festival, BJS launched TINY GIGS, a series of 6 physically distanced live concert events in Beirut. 100% of the ticket sales went to the artists at the price of their choosing, providing much needed support to the heavily impacted sector. Check out the first Tiny Gig here:
TINY GIGS went virtual in January 2021 and once again brought live music from Lebanon to the world, with a goal to continue to host the concert even throughout the year. “Whilst Beirut’s future in itself is way too volatile and unpredictable, we’re always going to have to be on edge,” Anthony said. “In the immediate future, I can say that we’ll continue doing our Virtual Tiny Gigs as a means to support the artists and keep ourselves active. We’re always adapting to the situation of the country.”
Check out the amazing work being done by Beirut Jam Sessions, and continue to discover amazing live music from around the world!