Meet the Lebanese indie artists making new waves in the music scene

Need some new, interesting music in your life? Here's our roundup of the most interesting recent releases on the Lebanese indie scene.

Meet the Lebanese indie artists making new waves in the music scene

A musician performs at the Quadrangle bar in Hazmieh on Sept. 26, 2022. (Credit: João Sousa/L'Orient Today/File photo)

Roger Fakhr's soulful folk tunes, Mayssa Jallad's haunting melodies, Yara Asmar's soothing ambience: the latest releases from these talented musicians promise a mix of indie genres that showcase the richness of Lebanon's musical landscape.

A cohort of exceptional artists is making waves not just locally in Lebanon but also internationally. These musicians, driven by passion rather than profit, defy societal norms and explore diverse musical themes.

While indie music in Lebanon isn't new, these artists stand out for their global appeal and dedication to their craft. Despite challenges like emigration and financial instability, they persist, driven by love for their art. Here, we shine a spotlight on these indie musicians, amplifying their voices and celebrating their unique contributions to the cultural landscape. Here are a few worth checking out:


“East of Any Place” by Rogér Fakhr

Song recommendation: “East of Any Place

Lebanese singer-songwriter Rogér Fakhr is so indie that he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, despite having been a trailblazing musician during the 1970s and playing guitar for legendary artists like Issam Hajali, Ziad Rahbani, and Fairouz. Only a handful of bootleggers had access to the 200 cassettes of his own music he recorded right before the Lebanese Civil War broke out.

Fakhr relocated to Paris, then California in the 1980s after playing for Fairouz’s US tour, and decided to start a new career there. But his indie fusion, prolific acoustic and electric guitar skills, and gorgeous tenor voice were never forgotten, and rescued from obscurity by Habibi Funk, a DJ and label that has quickly built a niche focus on the Arab world. Fakhr’s first album “Fine Anyway” was reissued in 2021, followed by “East of Any Place,” another reissue, in December 2023. It racked up over 277,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, from fans in big cities like Paris, Berlin, Istanbul, London and Amsterdam.

As a singer-songwriter, Fakhr captures the essence of acoustic nostalgia, beloved by audiophiles for its hippie guitar vibes. Through beautiful songwriting, predominantly love-themed, Fakhr creates a soundscape that traverses funk, rock, ballad and contemporary folk genres, softly layered with street recordings and oriental harmonies played by instruments like flute, nai, bongos and tambourine. The 10-track album, "East of Any Place," reflects Fakhr's maturity in crafting harmonic acoustic trances with interesting tempo shifts, where his songs exhibit a tumbling quality, achieved through repeated hymns and crescendos. As the songs progressively increase in length, they deliver a contemporary sound, capturing emotions of longing and the inevitability of life's challenges. Similarly, the 18 tracks on "Fine Anyway" maintain his signature style of short, hypnotic harmonies, evoking a beatnik cowboy's journey.

Arabic Shoegaze

“Marjaa: The Battle of the Hotels” by Mayssa Jallad

Song recommendation: “Baynana

Mayssa Jallad began her musical career in 2013 with a strong presence through collaborating with Zeid Hamdan’s band, and co-founding indie-pop band Safar. She continued to release EP albums throughout the decade, but her debut solo album “Marjaa,” launched in 2023, has cemented her signature sound of blending spoken word with singing. Produced by the influential Ruptured label, known for its pivotal support of Lebanese indie artists, Jallad toured her new songs across Europe, performing at the Oslo World and Le Guess Who? festivals in late 2023.

The album recreates a chronological timeline of “The Battles of the Hotels,” famously the site of some of the worst destruction in Beirut during Lebanon’s Civil War. Evoking the ghosts of the conflicts through a blend of instruments that complement Jallad's storytelling, the album delves into the haunting sadness that plays like a soundtrack, as the tracks blend into each other transporting listeners from one battle to the next. Her emotive vocals, characterized by passionate vibrato and resonance, create a deep emotional connection with the lyrics.

As a singer-songwriter and architectural researcher, Jallad's work explores both personal and political themes, as heard in "Marjaa." The limited edition vinyl includes a full-color poster with maps and 3D diagrams appealing to fans of architecture and civil war history alike. With its gorgeous album art and poignant narrative, "Battle of the Hotels" stands as a collector's item. Jallad has a performance scheduled in Tripoli next month at the Rumman Stereo Kawalis festival.


synth waltzes and accordion laments” by Yara Asmar

Song recommendation: “Jumana

Yara Asmar's sophomore album captures the extremes in the tumultuous landscape of contemporary Beirut, encapsulating a raw emotional journey that resonates with themes of longing, bitterness and urban transformation. A strange, eerie, but soulful album, “synth waltzes and accordion laments” earned a coveted spot among Pitchfork's Top 30 Best Jazz and Experimental Albums of 2023, a prestigious listing from the renowned indie music magazine. Asmar added to her international footprint last year at Global Forest's Vogelklang Soundcamp, Jazzwerkstatt, and The Listening Biennial, and is currently exhibiting a sound installation at Sharjah’s 421 Art Campus.

Asmar's compositions offer solace and solidarity to those who bear witness to the city's evolving identity. Each track unfolds like a tapestry of memories, inviting listeners to confront dormant emotions and reckon with the changing landscape. Using the calm of gliding synths, the reverberating melancholy of her grandmother’s accordion and slow-progressing chords with almost no percussion sounds, Asmar’s emotive music captures the essence of a city in flux, encapsulating both the nostalgia of what once was and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. The video accompanying the album shows Asmar in various snippets of her film projects, where she explores notions of time and place through her magical realism lens.


“Untitled LP” by Etyen

Song recommendation: “Untitled

Samer Etienne’s independent release “Untitled LP” under his moniker Etyen showcases his range in the genre, as he matures away from oriental techno toward a fresh take on melodic low-fi. The 2022 album received a lot of international praise, but seems to have received little playback at home, which hasn’t deterred the veteran producer. As founder of Thawra Records in 2019, and its sister Tiny House label, Etyen has committed to providing Lebanese indie artists a platform for resistance and collaboration with voices that deserve recognition.

Since 2013, Etyen has managed to build a discography of original compositions and remixes with some of the best acts in Lebanon, including Who Killed Bruce Lee, Khansa, and Salwa Jaradat among many others. With the album recorded across three continents over six years, "Untitled" serves as a diary of Etyen's experiences, capturing moments of profound introspection translated sonically through his performances on guitars, vocals, piano, synthesizers and found sound textures. The result is a genuine, warm and diverse body of original musical work.


“Metropolis” by Japan, Man

Song recommendation: “Air Conditioner

The musical project of 17-year-old Laeticia Acra and her composer uncle, Julian Cassia, has built up a fast following since her launch four years ago. Her band name pays tribute to Acra’s fascination with Japanese culture and multicultural exposure growing up in Lebanon. Having released her debut album “Metropolis” late 2023, the songs reflect Acra’s penchant for writing about teenage angst in catchy lyrics that can appeal to all ages, especially with the talented Cassia lending a mature sound to the music.

With plenty of singles and music videos already under her belt, Acra has shaped her image as a laid-back singer and performer, using humor and realism to drive home her brand. As a coming-of-age story, “Metropolis” mixes existential questions and love stories that sound like an early No Doubt sound: sad, but make it fun.


On the stars” by Domina

After conquering the live stage in Lebanon, Lily Ghandour, known as Domina, expanded her reach to Doha last year by rocking the Doha RPM Festival. While abroad, she updated her fans that new material was being cooked up with international producers and to expect a new sound. She delivered with “On the Stars” this year, framing the song as a tribute to the inner child and a playful escape from adulting. More of a tribute to 1990s RnB, the song is an airy invitation where the lyrics imagine a kind of magic carpet ride away from borders, complete with a Santana-meets-Slash electric guitar solo.

As a dancer-turned-singer, Ghandour has a strong identity statement and purpose in being an artist. Her lyrics are about living and speaking freely, about the exhaustion of being a non-commercial artist, and not wanting to conform to normative standards. Domina has been experimenting with singing in multiple genres, between swing jazz, rock and soul for some time. Her original song, a swingy jazz tune dubbed “Time,” propelled her to a sold-out Amy Winehouse cover concert in Beirut with her band in 2022. 

Roger Fakhr's soulful folk tunes, Mayssa Jallad's haunting melodies, Yara Asmar's soothing ambience: the latest releases from these talented musicians promise a mix of indie genres that showcase the richness of Lebanon's musical landscape. A cohort of exceptional artists is making waves not just locally in Lebanon but also internationally. These musicians, driven by passion rather than profit,...