Words by:

Rabih Beaini wants to take down borders.

Ever since he ventured from his native East Beirut into the city’s West side after the civil war, the Lebanese producer has sought to build bridges, not barriers, with music. “It actually goes back to that moment where I crossed the city’s border from east to west for the first time. I went to this record shop in West Beirut and I met these people, I listened to the music that they were making and buying and listening to over there. It was astonishing for me at the time,” Beaini explains. “It’s this continuous discovery of genres and instruments from different places of the world, different artists of the world… This is what keeps me excited about music. Even when you think you’ve heard it all, people can still surprise you.”

It seems almost too perfect a match, then, that Beaini, better known by his moniker Morphosis, would join the team for CTM Festival’s upcoming 17th edition, which boasts New Geographies as its theme. Taking place at various Berlin venues over a week, CTM is one of the world’s leading experimental electronic music festivals. Guest co-curator Rabih Beaini joins festival directors Jan Rohlf, Oliver Baurhenn, Remco Schuurbiers, and repeat contributor Michail Stangl in assembling a roster of musicians, artists, and performers from every corner of the globe: Singapore, Indonesia, China, America, Japan, Spain, Italy, and Morocco to name a few. “When we think about electronic music, we tend to narrow it down to cities like Detroit, Berlin, New York, Chicago,” Beaini says. “But scenes exist in more than just Europe and America. Music festivals exist in Tehran, a city where you cannot dance, you can’t play music at all. There’s a label in the Middle East called Sahel Sounds that released a vinyl of songs collected from cellphones in the Saharan desert. We even did a CTM event in Siberia… The world is a very big place.”

Beaini is working on bridging these gaps, and Berlin – a city with its own history of borders – seems the ideal place to do it. Amidst the current socio-political climate, CTM’s ‘New Geographies’ theme is more relevant than ever. “Of course, the refugee crisis we’re experiencing is not really recent, we’ve been living it for years. But it’s important that we’re aware of these issues, and that’s something I love about CTM Festival. After the attacks in Paris and Beirut recently, the message became even more essential,” Beaini explains, “Different cultures, different countries, types of passports, visas to go in and out… Let’s throw down these borders, not only musically but mentally.”

CTM Festival is at the forefront of what it calls “adventurous music and art”. The Berlin staple is known for the peculiar music it showcases, and its risky curation where, more often than not, many of its artists are largely unfamiliar to its attendees. “This took years of work, of good work, to build this kind of trust that comes in. You don’t need to be aware of everything that happens around you to attend, and at the same time, I don’t need to compromise in my choices.”

Beaini’s interpretation of “adventurous” is perhaps the festival’s most ambitious venture yet. “This year we’re focusing on people that don’t really realise how adventurous they are. It’s funny, people living in different places in the world make music that is for them, quite natural… but we consider it very adventurous,” he continues, “We want to present music from different parts of the globe, artists who transform their culture’s own traditional music into something new. Let’s find out how people around the world understand electronic music, not just those who go to clubs in Europe.”

"Let’s throw down these borders, not only musically but mentally”

So what does this mean for the CTM bill this year? Beaini’s co-curation welcomes artists like tape music pioneer Pauline Oliveros, taarab music legend Abdel Karim Shaar, transgender artist One Man Nation from Singapore, Indonesian post-punk band Senyawa, and French videographer Vincent Moon, a personal favourite of Beaini’s. Art collective Norient will also present their Seismographic Sounds exhibition to coincide with the event – exploring the themes of war, money, desire, exotica, loneliness, and belonging.

Reminiscing on that first trip from East to West Beirut, Beaini affirms that moments like discovering that record shop in his teenage years remain at the heart of his love of music. “Crossing that border introduced me to a culture I had never heard of before. And even now, discovering new cultures and new geographies is still so amazing to me. I think we are all small elements in this huge universe that is called music. We take and give back and that’s the thing that makes us who we are.”

CTM takes place from 29 January – 7 February across various venues in Berlin