On August 7th of 2020, three days after the dreadful Beirut Explosion, we walked into the studio to record “Transmigration”. Now, a year later, I’m commemorating the event by doing something I should have done a long time ago, and that is acknowledging the efforts of all those who contributed to the successful recording and release of the album.

Months before the recording, signs of the Armageddon which we are going through today began to show. Uprisings, street violence, gradual yet uncontrollable currency decline, pandemic, lockdown, authoritarian state measures, fuel crisis, more and more political unrest, and a general moral decline, were just some of the things we had been enduring. I’d like to believe that this is nature’s way, and if we look back on how we, as Lebanese people, have been living for the past 30 years since that last Armageddon which was our civil war, it would make sense why things are going the way they are going now.

And so I ask myself “What is the use of making any artistic endeavor in the midst of a total collapse of things?” The answer is clear: honest artistic projects with clear motives have an orderly quality about them which brings people together in a united effort to tame the chaos in the world. They open the possibility of the human soul being victorious over the difficulty of circumstances. And, that is how the title “Transmigration” came about. To transmigrate is to be born again. If we take it in the literal sense, we would have to experience physical death in order to transmigrate. But, in symbolic terms, we transmigrate many times within one life. We come back from the dead in a better form every time we overcome a difficulty through the raising of our level of consciousness.

I have this superstitious assumption that if each one of us would bring some kind of order to his or her personal life, it will reflect upon the world in a positive way. It would shift our attention away from all that is destructive, malicious, and violent. We would focus on some of our more heavenly qualities like nurturing, complete and unselfish involvement, and it would concentrate our mental energy on the act of creation, rather than destruction. When we are in line with the act of creation, we see God, or nature, or whatever life-principle you adopt in every aspect of life. And, only then can we hope to guide ourselves out of the depth which we have brought ourselves into.

“Transmigration” has received many international positive reviews. Almost all of them described the effort of recording an album during that period as heroic. I couldn’t truly relate to that description for a long time. To me, I was escaping the turbulence of the outside world to seek refuge in an underground studio, and taking my mind off into an imaginary world. I couldn’t relate this escapism with anything heroic. Heroes, as we are told, face the world head-on, they don’t escape.

Of course, heroes of this sort belong more in the sphere of earthly conflicts. But, there is a heroic aspect in man, which refuses to succumb to misery and negativity, and is determined to mend the errors of the individual which are a result of living contrary to the rules of nature. As selfishness, self-righteousness, and aggression seemed to be the norm, we undertook a project which fostered love, attention, and unselfishness in our hearts and souls. Perhaps this is what felt heroic to the foreign reviews of “Transmigration”.

And now, I would like to briefly express gratitude to those who were directly involved in the project, and inevitably I might leave some people out because of pure inability to remember everything, and because it is so hard to isolate individuals in something as complex as recording and releasing music into the world. That is why the primary gratitude goes to God, which we have to come to see as a representative of everything, and everyone. But, below is a list of people that I want to personally thank for caring about my work almost more than I did. This is a very beautiful feeling to experience.

Reine Zahreddine, for helping me tremendously in applying for the grant, and putting together a very clear budget plan, and accompanying every step along the way.

Husam Aboul Hosn, for handling my budget from abroad, and for saving me from the clutches of the Lebanese banks who still confiscate all our savings and would have probably confiscated my grant.

Jamal Aboul Hosn, for being the coolest uncle anyone could hope for, and for being a serious source of artistic knowledge, and for letting me use all his instruments since I was a little boy.

Tarek Yamani, for unselfishly providing me with his experience, musical feedback, and logistic knowledge.

Omar Rahbany, for pointing my attention to some crucial musical details which made a huge difference, especially in “Modjadji”.

Nabil Abdul Khalek, for supporting me in my weakest area: business planning.  

Khaled Yassine, for being a close friend, and true artist who contributed so much of himself to the album.

Christopher Michael, for years of playing together as bassist and drummer, and for his wide and deep musical knowledge of styles and percussive instruments.

Tom Hornig, for his high level of proficiency, and professionalism.

Nidal Abou Samra, for being “Buddha, Ghandi, and Jesus Christ all at once” as Christopher Michael once said.

Tariq Amery, for enthusiastically recording an incredible flute solo on “Modjadji” which enormously contributed to the success of the track.

Sima Itayim, for walking into the studio and singing “WWMD” as if it was the easiest song in the world, while in fact it’s a very difficult feature.

Joe Locke, for his Vibraphone work on “Mine Or Blues” which he gave full-heartedly as he does in every performance, and for being a brother on some other side of the planet.

Jean Madani, for providing us with the subterranean bunker/studio, and for ensuring the highest quality of recording.

David Darlington, for his proficiency, and efficiency in mixing and mastering the album.

Matt Fripp and Arlette Hovinga (Jazzfuel.com), Mark Rini (groovmarket.com) for all the publicity work they did which introduced me to some great Jazz journalists/radio show hosts around the world.

AFAC, had it not been for the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, none of this would have happened. The grant placed a welcome sense of responsibility on my shoulders, which I carried with appreciation and gratitude.

Finally, upon the day of the release (February 18th 2021) I asked many of my musician friends to share a video that I recorded announcing the availability of the album, I thought very few people would help and I was ready for that. But, I was surprised by a great overflow of support. I humbly thank you all!

If you would like to buy the album, please visit this link. Or, you could enjoy it for free on all major streaming platfroms.