Music connects Cork and Lebanese youths

Young people in Cork have showcased the ability to create beyond borders, with a collaboration with teenagers living in Lebanon utilising the universal language of music, writes Maeve Lee
Music connects Cork and Lebanese youths

Cara Cullin, Seán Downey, Sophie McCarthy, and Ava Collins who took part in the rock project Collab Beyond, where young people in Cork teamed up with a school in Lebanon to write and record their own songat The Hut, Gurranabraher and Churchfield Community Centre. Picture Dan Linehan

‘COLLAB Beyond’ is a European Solidarity project focusing on culture, skills development, education and training, with the aim of getting young people from different cultures and diverse backgrounds to collaborate through music.

Through the project, young people in The Hut in Gurranabraher teamed up with a school in Lebanon to write and record a song with the help of The Kabin Studio, Garry McCarthy (GMC Beats) and Youth Work Ireland.

Following plenty of Zoom calls with the young people in Lebanon, the song was officially completed this summer, showcasing the hard work and successful, virtual collaboration.

Co-ordinator of The Kabin Studio, Garry McCarthy previously worked with young Palestinian rapper MC Abdul, whose videos received a lot of attention online.

Following his work with MC Abdul, he helped with the development of the song and the overall Collab Beyond project.

Garry described the project as being about “building connections and relationships between young people from different countries and cultures”, adding: “This is just, I think, the first step in a bigger direction we want to take.

“We’d love to take some of our young people abroad and get them collaborating creatively through music, through art from different backgrounds, different cultures and countries.”

He recalled the shocked expressions from some of the Cork participants when they heard about the experiences of the young people in Lebanon on their Zoom calls.

“It gets people thinking a bit more globally, internationally, and I suppose having a bit more understanding of people from different backgrounds,” he said.

The inspiration for the project came from Garry’s work with MC Abdul, who reached out to him in 2019. Since then, MC Adbul has gone viral with his music video for his song Palestine receiving millions of views earlier this summer and grabbing the attention of celebrities such as DJ Khaled.

“From working with him, we were really inspired by his determination and ability that we realised we can be creative with other people, no matter where they are in the world, no matter what the blockages or the borders or the obstacles are,” said Garry.

“There’s a lot you can do online through a simple Zoom call or a WhatsApp.”

With that in mind, young people in Cork teamed up with students in Lycée Célestin Freinet in Lebanon and created their own original song virtually.

The song opens with a poem in Arabic, with a backing track by one of the young people in Lebanon, and includes lines rapped and sung by young people in both Cork and Lebanon.

Nineteen-year-old Ghina Sabeh Aayoun was one of the participants in Lebanon and wrote a number of lines for the song.

The biology student described the collaborative project as “enlightening” and said she has made many friends from her participation.

“The point of the project was sharing our experiences and to give a product that adequately expressed how we are feeling and how we feel towards sectarianism, and the product of that was the song with GMC Beats along with all of the wonderful people,” said Ghina.

However, the situation in Lebanon meant that electricity and the internet would sometimes be shut off for the participants during their video calls, though this sparked conversations about life in Lebanon.

Speaking on the issues with the internet and electricity, Ghina said the situation while they were making the song was “a bit better than it is now”.

“We still at least had a bit of electricity so we could count on the electricity coming for example between 6pm and midnight so we would be able to conduct a call then, but otherwise, the internet was very unreliable,” she said.

“I think it goes to show how much we wanted to participate, and [how] we wanted to express ourselves, that despite all of this, we were conveying our ideas even through WhatsApp if we weren’t able to go on a call because it’s something we really wanted to talk about.”

One aspect she noted in particular was the devastation caused by the explosion in Lebanon’s capital in August last year.

“When I went down there, I was helping people volunteering in the clean-up, it was a sight that I really hope that no-one ever gets to see in their life. I would not wish anyone, not even my worst enemy, to see their city in ruins.”

Having the opportunity to share their experiences with young people in Cork and their own thoughts and the topic of sectarianism was an important aspect for the participants in Lebanon, who Ghina said enjoyed taking part in the project.

“From talking to them while they were in the songwriting classes, they were very excited especially because sectarianism is not a topic that is accurately addressed in Lebanon…it is a taboo topic that nobody wants to talk about.

“So, to give these young people the opportunity to talk about it, was new to them so they jumped on the opportunity, they were very excited and ,honestly, it couldn’t have been as good as it was if we didn’t have such amazing collaborators [in Cork].” Ghina described the project as “an amazing opportunity”, providing the opportunity to talk to people from a different culture and different country.

“And you still connect to them — so that was very nice for people on our side. I feel that Ireland has come a long way and it’s reflected in the ideas that the youths we were talking to were able to convey to us, so it gave us hope really for Lebanon.”

Chatting to those young people, the topic they wanted to speak about was sectarianism, said youth worker Joe Curtin, who helped to organise the project in Cork.

During the time of the collaboration, there had been a lot of talk about the Leaving Certificate exams and discussions around whether the formal exams would be going ahead, which was a big concern for the young people taking part in the project in Cork.

“While the Leaving Cert is important and it’s important to be vocal about it, it’s a small issue compared to the stuff that young people in Lebanon were going through,” said Joe.

Joe said that the project was “an eye-opening experience” for the young people taking part in Cork.

“I remember hearing about what was happening in the Lebanon, it was really powerful when the young people spoke and we were all kind of just shocked and we just concluded really by saying we might be complaining about Covid, being stuck indoors, can’t go out of your 5km, but we have electricity and generally easy access to food and water,” Joe explained.

“It did put things in perspective. It was interesting, we had two sides of things; we had the Lebanon groups as well and then we also had the original guy from Palestine, MC Abdul.”

“It was really an eye-opening experience for the Irish young people to be involved in.”

The song, ‘In the End - Collab Beyond & Lebanon Youth is available on Soundcloud now.

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