Marc Codsi is a main actor in the development of the Lebanese musical scene. He started as a guitar player for 6 years and 5 albums with post rock band Scrambled eggs, then played with different ensembles within the Lebanese Free Improvisation scene before creating and developing successful pop duo Lumi which released the album "Two tears in Water "(virgin records) . In 2010 "Faded Postcards " his first recorded solo work was released . The album is an exploration of time, an immersion into forgotten moments and places. It opens up with an 11 minute (almost) intrumental track. The outcome is a dark post-rock album driven by drone guitars.
Many collaborations followed mainly with Zeid Hamdan, Yasmine Hamdan and with different cinematographers.
In 2013 the second solo Album "Works and Coincidences" is being released.
Interview with Marc Codsi
It seems you’ve done a lot of stuff. You started with Scrambled Eggs, mixed for Mashrou’ Leila, Lumi, played in Zeid and the Wings and Lumi, did a few soundtracks, and you also have a solo album, Faded Postcards. What is your musical background, and who are/were your influences?
My musical career started with the punk band Scrambled Eggs – a great school and ‘laboratory’ for me. I remember that at some point, we used to play whole concerts improvised, and I didn’t have my guitar tuned for six months. It was my experimental phase, and I was also doing a lot of things with people in our small but talented experimental scene in Lebanon, with whom I united for a festival called Irtijal.
Later, I sought to develop more of a ‘song’ approach to music, and that’s when I created the band Lumi with the singer Mayaline Hage. Back then, it was more pop and electro-oriented, and we had some mainstream success. After two albums and a lot of touring, I decided to work on a more personal and intimate project, which then became Faded Postcards, released under my own name, for the first time.
As well, I was having fun here and there playing guitar with my friend and fellow musician Zeid Hamdan, and remixing Arabic songs. Lately, though, I’ve been more involved with cinema and soundtracks. I co-composed the soundtrack of Danielle Arbid’s film Beirut Hotel with Zeid Hamdan – which was later banned in Lebanon – and just recently, I co-worked on a song with Yasmine Hamdan (of Soap Kills) for a film by Jim Jarmusch. I hope to release my second solo album soon – it’s almost finished.
You worked on the soundtracks to two Lebanese films by Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige – A Perfect Day (2005) and Je Veux Voir (2008) – that attempt to tackle the absence of the memory of war in Lebanon, which is quite a thorny issue. What can you tell us about your participation in these projects?
Indeed, memory plays a very important role in contemporary Lebanese art in general. This is obvious, because of our recent history, as well as the fact that we all come from the war generation. Also, the collective re-working of the history of the Civil War – something which usually takes place after such dramatic events – had not yet taken place before those films.
For those two movies, the directors asked Scrambled Eggs to write some music based on the images they had, and the music was mostly composed based on a series of improvisations. Hadjithomas and Joreige recognised in our music something of the essence of Beirut they were after, and I think it worked out pretty well.
Your solo album, Faded Postcards was released in 2010 under your own label. The album is a truly experimental work suggesting a complicated relationship with memory, and seems to build upon fragments – or rather, postcards. What led you to produce this album, and what was the creative process like?
Faded Postcards was like a collection of tunes, which were composed at different moments, yet all had in common the expression – or the attempt – to express one thing, albeit seen from different perspectives. I wanted to explore the essence of a certain inner feeling that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I tried to venture as deep as I could inside myself, with the belief that the more you ‘touch’ your own specific individuality, the more you can reach a certain universality. I was very happy afterwards, when people told me that they were touched by the music, because it meant to them the same things I felt. It was something that everybody could relate to, on different levels.
In 2008, you formed Lumi with Mayaline Hage, and released the album, Two Tears in Water. This was during perhaps one of the most difficult times in Beirut’s recent history, with the airport closing during May, as gun battles took to the streets, preventing you from travelling to Dubai for a gig. I particularly enjoyed the number, Not Our War – what was this album all about?
Two Tears in Water was meant to be the expression of a sparkling, dynamic, chaotic, and yet falsely naïve Lebanese lifestyle. At the same time, it’s a cult and criticism of our social life. Somehow it’s an ‘anti-memory’ album, as we were sick of the old patterns of history, with its wars and everything else. What we wanted to express was something more positive and more in touch with us – the young generation – and our lifestyle, as well as what was happening with respect to nightlife in Beirut. Accordingly, the album was very upbeat and ‘glamorous’, except for the number you mentioned – Not Our War – which was actually written in 2006 during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The song was recorded while planes were flying overhead, shooting and pulverising a neighbourhood two kilometres away from where I live. It was a spontaneous call.
You’re working on a new solo album, due to be released this October. What can you tell us about this new project?
It’s the continuation of Faded Postcards. Somehow, it still has the same spirit, although it’s conveyed in a different way. There is more composition involved, and more instruments – especially the piano that imposed itself naturally in the album. I think composing for cinema has perhaps influenced me, because I feel that the music has a strong visual impact. I also moved to Montreal a year ago, as I needed some calm and concentration – which is really hard to find in Beirut – and in that sense, it’s the album of an émigré.
There is a lot of talk in the international art scene about the Lebanese ‘Underground’, which came into being after the end of the Civil War (if there was such an end), although few actually know what it is. I myself write about Lebanese art, so I’m fully aware about this non-descript place. You have played a role in this underground scene – what on earth is it all about?
I don’t know – a certain label that is good for export? The funny thing is that Beirut is a small city, and small scene where everybody knows everybody else, as well as what everyone is doing. It’s pretty easy for any piece of art to reach a certain degree of attention, especially because the usual filters of art – critics, managers, and labels – don’t really exist, or work properly. Therefore, it’s not an underground scene, but more like a local scene that thinks of itself as the centre of the world.
Lebanon has to be one of the world’s most improbable places – devoid of a national ‘project’, split between cultures and conflicts, resilient in one way, driven to despair in others, humorously sparkling, yet melancholy and sardonic. How does contemporary music in Lebanon reflect on this?
Contemporary music from Lebanon reflects pretty well on this, I think, by being the mirror image of the society embodying all you’ve described – all those conflicts between the past and the future, East and West, ecstasy and despair, hope and resilience, etc. We’re a pretty extreme society, so whatever we do or express is done to the extreme.
This weekend, for example, in the neighbourhood where I live – Achrafieh – they implemented for the first time a no car zone. For twelve hours, no cars can drive in this big, crowded neighbourhood, so that people can enjoy walking their dogs, discovering the architecture of old houses, biking in clean, empty streets, and so on, while only an hour’s drive away, people are shooting each other because they’ve decided they don’t like each other, or are from different sects! That in itself is contemporary art to me. We are a big piece of contemporary art, whether that be good or bad art.
As Romain Rolland famously remarked, ‘Art is a great consolation to the individual, but it is useless against history’. It is perhaps true that music, like all art, can bring about no revolutions and cannot stop any wars – although I refuse to think of art merely as a consolation. What are your views on this? What is your music intended to ‘achieve’?
I’m not sure I agree. Music, likes sport, can create bridges between people who think they have nothing in common. I often receive messages of praise from young people in Israel, for example, who have fallen in love with Lebanese music, and identify with it – how could they not? Those people might think twice before shooting into a Lebanese village when it will be their turn to shoot. That in itself is a victory.
In speaking with Marc Codsi, a steeper edge to the music scene in Beirut is revealed that finds itself not in sweet melancholy sounds from other ages or in bitter lamentations, but rather somewhere in between. It is architecturally impure, and more interesting than beautiful, causing it to become beautiful in the end – not by parallels, but by extravaganza.
Perhaps the terms ‘abstract’ or ‘experimental music’ are a bit exaggerated for the sounds coming out of the noise of an improbable history, and the possibilities afforded by this music do more than please or entertain; they’re fabulations. Sarah Kofman, the late French philosopher, expresses this feeling much better than I do, though, when she says that ‘There is no art, strictly speaking, without intoxication, without an overflow of life that becomes creative by spilling its excess of life into the universe’.
Interview published by web magazine Reorient edited by Arie Amaya-Akkermans
Marc Codsi, interview + live performance (30 August 10)
Lebanese musician Marc Codsi (Zeid & The Wings, The Incompetents, Lumi, ex-Scrambled Eggs) caught on Ruptures, for an interview and improvised live performance.
Listen: Track 01 + Track 02
Track listing: Scrambled Eggs / Marc Codsi / Lumi / RGB / Zeid & The Wings / My Bloody Valentine / Jacques Brel
(source : http://rupturedonline.com)
Marc Codsi – Faded Postcard
01 Faded Postcard 1 [ Features Scrambled Eggs ]
02 The Wolf That Got Me
03 What If We Were The One
05 Offensez Mimsez
07 Take Me Where I Want To Be Final
08 A White Rabbit In A Hole
09 Piano Part 2
10 When I Was Young
Marc Codsi - Works and Coincidences
2 Piano Work 1
4.Piano Work 29
5.Sonate for Guitar
7.Piano Work 31
8.Piano Work 19