Kid Fourteen at Ballroom Blitz. Taken by: Nadine Makarem

Acoustic, electric, wall-shaking drumbeats. 

Synchronized dreary projections and hundreds of twisted colorful wires pouring out of machines like a sonic hardware Christmas tree.

Pedals and guitars, DJ decks and cellos, distortion and acoustics, an entire range of music galore over the course of one weekend across Beirut and its most popular spots. 

All this and more made up the Beirut and Beyond International Music Festival 2020: The Homegrown Edition during the last two days of February. 

Previously postponed in light of the tumultuous situation in Lebanon, BBIMF returned on Feb. 28 and 29, this time with a unique twist and local line-ups constituting some of Lebanon and the region's most talented musicians. 

Founded in 2013 in partnership with Oslo World Music Festival, BBIMF is dedicated to promoting independent music from all over the world, accentuating strong artistic merit and unique musical aesthetics.

NAR at Internazionale. Taken by: Helene Tarabay

Sensitive to the country's circumstances but straying away from any socio-political messaging or identity, the festival was honest and straightforward in its objective. 

"We tried through this year's homegrown edition to adapt to the situation in Lebanon, with all the financial and administrative challenges, and we exceptionally made concert access free to encourage attendance," Amani Semaan, the director of BBIMF, said. 

"We also responded to the need for support which the local scene needs during these times."

BBIMF's impact within the city is tastefully subtle and two-fold; it encourages networking and collaboration while activating local nightlife venues across the city to their utmost capacity. That, and it makes sure to shed light on the most talented acts of the Arab world — the alternative vigor, the classical expertise, and the unconventional artists who blur the line between the two.

Ballroom Blitz. Taken by: Nadine Makarem

As part of the support to local talents, the festival hosted a professional program with talks as well as meet and greets between producers, artists, record labels, and companies like Spotify. The latter serves the role of providing artists with different opportunities, some exposure, and the chance to evolve their practices under professional guidance and feedback.

On the opening night, Studio Zoukak, nestled beneath the industrial landscape of Karantina, overflowed with people eager for a Friday night experience. Attendees got to witness Bachar Mar-Khalifé's unique blend of sounds from the Levant and familiar international tunes. 

Toni Geitani, performing with a backdrop of scenic projections moving in sync with the music, also fused the familiar with the foreign, paving the way for an innovative and invigorating set by Beirut's favorites Tarek Yamani and Liliane Chlela. 

"This year, BBIMF gave us a much-needed breather amidst the external chaos," said Farah Fayyad, the designer of the festival's visual communication and merchandise. 

"It's nice to remember that we have so many beautiful people around that are producing such great work." 

The night ended with Beirut's electronic scene's own pioneer Dj Ziad Nawfal, who took the swaying crowd on a journey into the night.

Zeid Hamdan, Metro el Medina. Taken by: Helene Tarabay

The incomparable undertone of BBIMF's intention is to provide local artists with a platform while also inviting people to acknowledge the range and charm of Beirut's bars and venues. 

On the second night of the festival, the hidden gems of the city were packed with hard-headed music fans, socializers, ravers, and curious spectators. 

The classic scene on Saturday - live instruments, optimized acoustics, exceptional vocals, and notions of Lebanese folklore and jazz with unique twists - featured the likes of The Jazzmine Bey Quartet, The Donna Khalife Trio, and Daline Jabbour at Mezyan, Salon Beyrouth, and the music hub Onomatopoeia, respectively. Such events are made for a more seated, focused, and momentary joie de vivre experience. 

Hamra's famous Metro Al Madina hosted Lebanon's favorite local groups Gizzmo, Zeid Hamdan, and Gurumiran with their kaleidoscopic compositions and unmissable sounds. Brazzaville's discreet, spacious location near Beirut's Souk el Ahad was the performance space for PÓL and Calamita, who combined a variety of genres and tonalities. 

Across town at Tota, Alan Abi presented his groovy eclectic approach to a guitar-driven electronic sound loaded with "dirty fat bass lines." Writer/rapper Touffar dropped beats and poetic verses at Mar Mikhael's renowned cocktail bar Anise.

Daline Jabbour at Onomatopoeia. Taken by: Karl Sfeir

In parallel to the city's captivating spots, different set-ups brought to light the most talented favorites and the up-and-coming musicians, all entrenched in the limitless dimension of electronic music with synth, drum, and noise beats serving the best quality music. The famous Riwaq Beirut was packed with fans and curious spectators there to witness the wide range and cerebral extremities of the incomparable Munma and Mme Chandelier. 

With small gadgets, pedals, and machines sprawled across the floor of Mar Mikhael's Internazionale bar, returning artist NAR evoked a sense of curiosity and wonder in the huddled crowd. 

At Demo in Gemmayzeh, an array of colorful neon wires on a modular synth moving with the fingers of the artist, accompanied by the intensity of live drum sounds, scream signature set-up of Escalier 301B whose grand performance was unconfined by the parameters of the cozy space. 

The inspired and enthralled festival-goers began to pour into Beirut's beloved Ballroom Blitz for the final stage of the dynamic and diverse program. Kozo performed first, setting a tone of ominous guitar sounds, followed by the distinctive music and vocals of The Bunny Tylers as crowds started to levitate towards the stage and settle into the experience. 

Eyes then fixated on the eccentric, unparalleled performance of Kid Fourteen, who brought to the stage his honest and dynamic persona. The DJ sets of Beirut Bel Loge, Mawada, and Essabbagh released the raver in every spectator to end the night with a plethora of distinct music that ignites the body and mind.

Escalier 301B at Demo. Taken by: Karl Sfeir

A happening like no other, BBIMF achieved much within the difficult context and provided a space for Beirut's vivacious night-scene dwellers to escape their troubles and indulge in fine quality and innovative music. 

"We were very pleased by the huge attendance to all venues and the positive feedback we got from audience, partners, and international professionals who attended BBIMF this year," said the director of Beirut and Beyond Festival. 

We already look forward to next year's event and the possibilities of seeing Beirut's ever-growing, constantly shocking music scene booming.