Boomkat Product Review:
Marjaa: The Battle of the Hotels is a concept album born of the idea of merging singer & songwriter Mayssa Jallad’s two vocations: music and urban research/architectural history.
"Written in collaboration with producer Fadi Tabbal, the music builds upon Tabbal’s spatial approach to sound and Jallad’s research on Beirut’s Hotel District. The album is a reference to Jallad’s Historic Preservation master's thesis, in which she detailed the history of the “Battle of the Hotels”, a 5-month battle that took place in Beirut at the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War, from October 22nd, 1975 to March 29th, 1976. Jallad saw architecture as a main protagonist of the battle, as she discovered it was the first high rise urban battle in the world. The close of the battle resulted in the 15-year Green Line, an urban rift which split Beirut into “East and West”, restricting movement and communication and creating a violent divide that still resonates today.
The album comprises two parts. Part A: Dahaliz, is a stroll in the city, where Jallad tries (and fails) to follow an old map. Musician Youmna Saba is a companion in this journey of remembering the once winding corridors (“Dahaliz”) of the city, destroyed by new developments since the 1960s. Empty skyscrapers propel her onto a past filled with the violence of snipers, and a present filled with the glamorous injustice of empty luxury real estate endorsed by powerful warlords-turned-politicians.
In Part B: Maaraka, Jallad inhabits the building of the Battle of the Hotels, as its events unfold. She calls the fighting militias the Blues and Reds, respectively the Lebanese Front (Christian Nationalists) and the Lebanese National Movement (Pro-Palestinian leftists), leveling the playing field, and drawing a map of the battle through songwriting. Sary Moussa produces the conclusion of the battle in “Holiday Inn (March 21 to 29)”, which ends with the ultimate severance of the city of Beirut.
The music caters to post-war youth who have never been taught this difficult history. Once we consider the “Battle of the Hotels” as our common heritage, it provides an opportunity to teach the value of civil peace. It is also a call to protest for the renewal, rather than the recycling of the political class that has once destroyed the country and holds us, to this day, hostage of its violence."