Concrete Sampling, arrangement for derbekah and jackhammer is a performance displayed at night by a crew of laborers in a construction pit in Beirut. I invited sound artist Joe Namy to collaborate on a performance project where he created a site-specific composition for the site to be performed live by the laborers. The project is conceived as an interference to the urban soundscape, as the set up of a new rhythm within the existing one. The proliferation of construction sites in Beirut has inadvertently become a distinct ubiquitous sound-mark. The performance attempts to deconstruct this soundtrack, creating a rupture that engages the (social/physical) space as the actual material of work.
The sonic identity of the site is partially constituted by the performers themselves - the actual builders of the space. The project was born from the discovery that during lunch breaks they dance the music they carry in their mobile phones, the shaabi (arab popular folk). They are Syrian nationals, and the construction sites are often their temporary homes. During the training sessions they were introduced to different music genres, to notions of rhythm and ambient sound. Namy and I spent three months of rehearsals with the crew after-work. Every day the workers rehearsed and developed new possibilities of creating sound out of their daily working tools. The project’s research explores the evolution of shaabi music and dance, its relationship to labor, and the influence of contemporary digital production and consumption in shaping this music.
The performance consisted of a sound piece (by Namy) with processed samples culled from the research database of the site itself, infused with live execution of work tools by the workers, and broadcast with microphones placed strategically within the space, exploring its resonant qualities. The audience experienced the piece from above the cusp of the location.