"And then the revolution turned into a rave" may become one of the historic stories Lebanese revolts will tell future generations when recalling the October protests, thanks to one DJ in the northern city of Tripoli.
Mahdi Karimeh, known as Madi K., played music to a fully packed crowd in his hometown's El-Nour Square on Oct. 19 — just two nights after Lebanese nationals (including himself) took to the streets to protest corruption and major reforms. The video of the united, energetic, and hopeful crowd dancing as the beat dropped amassed hundreds of thousands of views and shares online. Credit all goes to the 29-year-old who made news headlines for his revolutionary party spirit.
Though DJ-ing is just a hobby for Karimeh, he decided to take it up a notch and stimulate revolters on a Saturday night. It all started with a simple social media post earlier that day in which the 29-year-old shared a video of his performance at a local color run, asking people if they're ready for the protests in Sahat El-Nour that night.
"My phone started pinging with messages asking if [I] was going to perform or not and I seriously had no clue what to do. I couldn't reply to them not knowing what I was about to do," Madi told StepFeed.
Though a friend of his attempted to convince him to push the performance one night so that they could properly organize it, he just couldn't sit idly for another hour.
"Seeing the revolution on the streets, live, full of tension in the air, I just had to do something to make the scene more enjoyable."
The swift organization process began soon after and, to his luck, it turned out to be an "unforgettable night."
The 29-year-old had some friends help arrange the DJ set and called another crew to help set up the speakers in the area. During this time, Karimeh had to find a location to set everything up. Who knew a residential balcony would become the legendary spot of the night?
"From a far distance, I saw people peeking out from a residential balcony and had the idea to ask for their permission in order to settle there. Luckily, he [the owner of the house] knew my dad and welcomed me in right away," he told StepFeed.
The DJ, who has played in Lebanon, Jordan, Sierra Leone, and Turkey, did not have a playlist ready for that night because it all happened "within seconds." But, that wasn't the case when he played for the second time when it was a planned performance "to motivate and give resistance to our Tripolitans."
"The first time I played, it was totally live. Nothing was prepared whatsoever. No set was ready during that night. I didn't even plan on playing on the streets that night."
All he had to do was take a few moments to think about the type of songs he would play that night and it turned out to be a huge success.
Nicknamed "Revolution DJ"
At some point, the protesters held Karimeh up on their shoulders and began chanting "Revolution DJ," a nickname he's proudly been granted following his historic performance. To him, this was the best reaction he got in the aftermath of the night. So was seeing the unity of the people.
"Seeing them [the protesters] gathered together peacefully, enjoying their time and having fun was extraordinary, touching and very emotional at the same time." He's proud of himself, his people, and all the messages they've been sending the past 12 days. He believes each individual fights for their rights in their own way and his approach is dependent on music. All he hoped to do was bring peace to the stage when he performed that night.
"All I wanted was to show the beauty and true image of Tripoli to Lebanon - and Lebanon, as a whole, to the world."
Karimeh reassures the world that the aim of the protest isn't violence. It is opening a road the government has been blocking for decades. That road is one of unity, stability, and security. People are not giving way to sectarianism in a country that has already suffered enough from it. People are speaking out against the political elites, even in cities where political affiliation is incredibly high. People have had enough and they're demanding concrete change for once.
The protests began on Oct. 17 and they've been described as the largest in the country in 14 years.
While the movement has been widely peaceful, there have been several clashes between protesters and authorities. On the 10th day of protests - Oct. 26, to be exact - several people were wounded following clashes with the army in Tripoli's Beddawi area.
The countrywide demonstrations were partly triggered by the government's introduction of now-canceled personal taxes including an excise on internet-based phone calls happening on apps such as WhatsApp. People are demanding the resignation of the government. They're not willing to accept any "reform plan" unless it is led by a new and freely elected government that will implement clear laws while holding corrupt officials accountable for their crimes.
The ongoing protests aren't just a reaction to the proposed excise but also came in response to the government's passivity, corruption, and lack of proactive plans and solutions to soothe the country's many crises including the deterioration of its financial and economic situation.