It took Adonis just 10 years to assert themselves as the Fab Four and to become key figures in the Lebanese indie-pop scene with their graceful, intoxicating music that is both addictive and noble. Our four knights (Anthony Khoury, Joey Abou Jawdeh, Nicola Hakim and Gio Fikany) have been masterfully carving their magnificent groove since 2011. Patiently and wisely they’ve set aside loud and noisy stunts and favored undeniable elegance and energy.
Why are they knights, you ask? Because the boys of Adonis are fighting for a calmer, more serene and more tolerant (Arab) world using words and tunes as their only weapons. Transitioning between bittersweet nostalgic melancholy and pure, fierce optimism, they fight for love that is for them, without a doubt, the most painful yet most perfect and fundamental connection between two human beings – they are alchemists of love. The love for, and with which, they fight is a love for art in general and music in particular, a love for an audience growing in harmony with each passing concert, a love for the Arabic language and Arab identity, and, mostly, a love for Beirut, the epitome of the ideal and idealized Arab city, waiting to be reinvented as it has ceased to exist. Four modern day knights who, on July 10th, will fulfill one of their wildest dreams: to perform in Baalbeck, the temple of Arab temples.
To say that these Fab Four are worthy of Baalbeck is an understatement. These guys are far more than just artists. They are craftsmen, lace makers, they are musical Stakhanovists, able to spend days creating, discarding and recreating – a hundred times over – melodies that will slowly and organically travel outbound and graft themselves onto simple and sumptuous words tirelessly sought for and researched by Anthony Khoury. Through the progression of their albums, from Daw el-Baladiyyi in 2011 to A’da in 2021, including Men Shou Bteshki Beirut in 2013, Nour in 2017 and 12 Sa’1 in 2019, Adonis tell tales that we claim as our own – at a certain moment in time and in a specific setting. They have universal appeal, or are nonsensical. They are tales of resistance through art and culture in a toxic world that is increasingly both weary and wearisome. In five days, in Baalbeck, one of the most prestigious beacons of cultural resistance in the Arab world, an infinitely obvious and natural coming of age will take place.
“In these difficult times, the Baalbeck Festival is committed to fostering the creativity of young talents on the Lebanese musical scene. Last year we showcased unsung artists in abandoned Roman temples. It was a bold step forward, of which we are proud. This year, as we are heading back to an audience-filled acropolis, choosing Adonis, a band that has proven its worth and that stands out, was a no-brainer. It is these young people who give us the courage to continue fighting. It is they who will hold high the new Lebanon that we aspire to. It is they who wield music to broadcast their message, who use it as a cultural weapon that sharpens creativity and emotion and counterbalances the violence and misery that surrounds us. They are the ambassadors of a vibrant youth that will not disappear,” said Nayla de Freige, President of the Baalbeck Festival, in an interview with Pulse.
In this one of a kind “FTA Meets”, Fashion Trust Arabia pulled off a shoot of the Fab Four in the ruins of Baalbeck, quite an event, since no shoot had taken place there in over a half century.
To go along with these pictures, Adonis members answered Pulse’s questions. And here they are
A concert in Baalbeck, where some of the most prestigious local and international artists have performed… How does it feel? What are your expectations? Do you prepare differently for this show?
Anthony: It feels fantastic! We’re anticipating a magical night, it’s been a while since we’ve performed in Lebanon, plus the Baalbeck Festival is such an important part of our local cultural landscape, so there’s a lot of excitement about this concert in general. We usually prepare for all our shows with the same dedication and focus, but there’s no doubt that Baalbeck requires a little bit of extra care.
How can your music help change Arab mentalities, build bridges between the Arab and Western worlds and bring cultures together to create more tolerance and diversity?
Joey: Our objective is not to change our listeners’ mentalities, but rather, to bring them to question the status quo. By simply telling unheard stories, and talking openly about our emotions and vulnerabilities, and about issues of belonging, identity, and faith, we are exposing different perspectives, a different way of looking at things, which, ultimately, hopefully, will lead to more acceptance and tolerance in our society.
What creation of yours are you most proud of and why?
Gio: It will probably have to be our latest album A’da – because we conceived, wrote and produced it as a single unified work, rather than as a collection of separate songs. To achieve that unity, the sounds, lyrics, stories, and visuals of that album were all planned ahead of production, so it was also definitely one of the most challenging projects we’ve ever worked on as a band.
Nicola: Also, pulling it off in a time of confinement and instability makes us extra proud.
Who do you dream of performing with, or composing and writing for, and why?
Gio: Jacob Collier, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone as talented and he’s always having the time of his life on stage.
Nicola: Coldplay, their live shows are simply unforgettable.
Anthony: Rufus Wainwright. Both his voice and songwriting are divine.
What is your favorite Arabic song, that is often stuck on repeat in your playlist?
Anthony: “Wen El Kalam” by Jordanian rock band Hayajan
Gio: “Meen Gallek” by Aziz Maraka, the acoustic version.
Joey: “Alla Allah Ta’oud” by Wadih El Safi.
Nicola: A little hard to narrow it down to one, but recently “Lala” by Shkoon has been stuck on my playlist.
Um Kulthum or Fairuz? And why?
Nicola: Fairuz, I was raised listening to her songs and she’s the kind of icon that’s hard to come by.
Gio: Fairuz. I grew up listening to her songs every morning on my way to school on the bus, so every song triggers a nice memory.
Anthony: Love both, but I’m gonna say Um Kulthum just so she gets a vote.
Name five people, dead or alive, that you’d like to invite to a private dinner party at your house.
Gio: Stan Lee, Bill Burr, Tim Minchin, Gandhi and a translator.
Anthony: My mom, dad, and brothers. As we’re all currently living in different cities we haven’t had to chance to have dinner together in years.
Joey: Um Kulthum, Robert Plant, Freddie Mercury, Wadih El Safi, Michael Jackson and a karaoke machine.
Nicola: Elon Musk, Bob Marley, Michael Jordan, Gad el Maleh and my wife, Jen.
How is “Young, Arab and Proud” translated in your work?
Joey: “Young” and “Arab” are more or less a given in our work. “Proud” is a constant work-in-progress, and comes with a lot of questioning and self-doubt.
What is Arab DNA made of?
Anthony: A lot of spirit, and a lot of spirituality.
What is the most common misconception about being an Arab?
Gio: That we don’t get sunburns. Still recovering from last Sunday’s 20 minutes on the beach.
If you could travel in time to meet any Arab icon, who would it be, and why?
Nicola: Melhem Barakat, because he is inspirational, genuine and a musical genius.
Anthony: Sabah. I’d stalk her into becoming my best friend.
Joey: Philemon Wehbe, just to thank him for his (very underrated) contribution to Lebanese music.
What is one Arab tradition you would want to change, and what is the one you adore?
Anthony: I adore the over-the-top extravagant weddings. On the other hand, the airport welcome dance troupes are a bit too much for my taste.
What is the Arab dish you could eat every day?
Gio: Cheese man’oushe, I probably already do.
Joey: Zaatar man’oushe.
Nicola: Shawarma, any day.
Anthony: Kafta with grilled potatoes and rice.
What is the one city in the MENA region you could live in forever, and why?
Gio: No place like home: Beirut. I can’t imagine myself living away from home.
Anthony: I would also choose Beirut over any city in the world, every day. If I had to pick a city outside of Lebanon, it would be Muscat.
Nicola: Batroun, for its quiet lifestyle and beautiful beaches.
Joey: My hometown, Broummana.
How would you describe your relationship with fashion? Is “Show me how you dress and I’ll tell you who you are” accurate, in your opinion? Who are your favorite Arab fashion designers?
Nicola: I’d change that saying to “Show me how you dress and I’ll tell you how you’re feeling at the moment.”
Gio: I enjoy fashion as an art form. When it comes to what I wear though, I’ll always end up sticking to the good old black-on-black.
Joey: I’m in love with Hussein Bazaza’s work.
Anthony: Same. My other favorites are Maison du Mec and Ahmed Amer. I’m also in awe of Krikor Jabotian’s work.
What would the title of your Netflix documentary be?
Anthony: The title of one of my favorite Adonis songs: Al Ati A’zam (The Best Is Yet To Come).