Lynn Adib: Jazz of the Levant

Lynn Adib is a musician and a pharmacist walking the line between musical genres the same way she does across professions. She is based in France but often performs in the Middle East, especially Beirut. Her music is a case in point of the endless creative combinations and maneuvers of instruments, tunes and vocal cords. This article is an appreciative walk through her musical production recounting my personal favourite stops.

The first time I heard Lynn Adib sing was during the Global Week for Syria 2018 when she improvised with Under the Surface, a Dutch group famous for making heavily instrumental music. The audible piece below illustrates the great affect her music generates. From a back seat in Assembly Hall, the music was heartbreaking and heartmending at once.

Photo of Lynn Adib’s performance at AUB’s Assembly Hall, taken by the author.

If you liked what you heard but are wondering what it is, you are not alone. Lynn Adib merges Byzantine hymns with Jazz music. Her debut album Youmma is a fresh musical experience in its own right. The song Titi speaks to Lynn’s daughter with a jazzed-up traditional Damascene hymn. Ode to Mary is Lynn’s all-immersing take on a prayer. Lynn visualizes her artistry in Chi Chi, a one-take music video in a Beiruti apartment. I can only describe it as uniquely Lynn Adib.

Alongside Lynn’s vocal range, she experiments with an amusing emotional range in her covers of Dizzani. Dizzani is a song about an impossible love from the Iraqi heritage. Her first take is an upbeat rendition similar to the original version by Yusuf Omar while the second take explores the emotional height of the lyrics and leaves a bittersweet taste in your throat.

The way music transverses the auditory into the visual, the spatial and the heartfelt is clear in Lynn’s work. Self Portrait in Three Colors in Youmma playfully evokes a multiplicity of images, vocal layers and affects. Ballad has a strong textural aspect as if the notes build onto each other then trickle down.

Lynn documented her encounter with taxi driver Abou Oudai, a Mejwer player in Damascus on Instagram. She superimposed Byzantine hymns onto the tunes of the Mejwez, a traditional instrument in the Levant. Abou Oudai told her about the tradition of playing Mejwez, the circles of teaching, and the body of knowledge around it. This is a further example of the way Lynn works on local musical heritage with a contemporary twist.

One of her latest events, Duet Tuesdays بين الطاولات in Riwaq Beirut with pianist Christopher Ibrahim held even more creativity. Lynn and Christopher played a rich program and improvised several times. Lynn performed new songs of her writing and composition for the first time. Riwaq Beirut will be publishing the Duet Tuesdays series in an effort to document the musical memory of Beirut.

While Lynn’s artistry is a leap much characteristic of the present and future of Middle Eastern music, she does it organically drawing the listener into her element. Her music enchants everyone in the room be it Metro al Madina, Cairo Jazz Festival or the Parisian Sunset-Sunside Jazz Club. Between improvisation, Levantine heritage and contemporary Jazz, Lynn’s vocal cords are sure to reverberate into your whole being.

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