One afternoon you’re playing dodgeball with your brother and your friends, the following day you’re choosing your major and prepping for college and next thing you know, you’re a classic 9-to-5er collecting your annual leave days to finally get on that plane and have 10 days of peace in Côte d'Azur. Only to get back to another 300-something days of misery. Every. Year.

I was fortunate enough to break out of that loop, and relatively early in my career. How? The answer is circumstance.

Circumstance is when you love chocolate, and can’t stop eating chocolate (like me,) and reach out to the fridge one night and can’t find any. All shops and delivery services are closed, so you just face it and sleep through the night. You wake up the next morning as alive as the day before, if not a tad healthier. So basically, you can take a decision to start or stop doing something, but it’s just much easier when the circumstances force you. By easier, I don’t mean easier to accept, but easier to apply. That’s what happened to me, but at a much larger scale than chocolate.

I started building my own comfort zone in my country Lebanon, which is where I grew up, got my education, and embarked on my professional journey. Now everything was going well, until the country went into complete financial failure in 2019, followed by the Covid outbreak. The first field that got affected was the construction industry, which is my main occupation as a civil engineer. In a nutshell, my typical day was 50% bouncing between construction sites, coordinating tasks among my team, and the other 50% answering phone calls and emails to keep my clients happy. I loved it, I really did, especially since most of my work was in renovations, which made my artistic side very fulfilled on a daily basis.

This disappeared before my eyes in a matter of weeks as things went south really quick: Protests, banks closing, political and economic deadlock. Things escalated fast; it was too much to get your head around in such a short period. People losing their jobs, foreign investment vanished in the blink of an eye, and then came the infamous Covid-19 outbreak. Game over. It was not enough hardship for us living through economic collapse in Lebanon, we also had to face the pandemic, alongside the rest of the globe.

Lockdown! Boom! As a self-employed engineer/contractor, that forced me out of my typical daily in-office and on-site routine, and into my “sanitized” apartment. Circumstance strikes again, but this one – on a brighter note – got me reconciled with my guitar. I’ve been playing music for about 20 years now, and never gave it a shot to actually dig deeper into music. It was all so new to me; in no time, I was living like a recording artist in his creative residency and working on a new album. It was fascinating, I finally got the chance to breathe and bring out my long-forgotten love of creating music, this time with significantly more experience.

I started music in 2002, and never stopped since then: From performing live to teaching and eventually launching Maestro Music Center in Beirut in 2017. But this was different, this was me being completely disconnected from all the daily duties I had in both the construction and the music industries, and bringing out the musical ideas within me. Last time I actually tried to make my own music was around 2006, which ended up on the shelf. The 2020 lockdown was my only chance to have a clear mind and revisit my composer side ever since. Inspiration was flowing, or as I like to call it “disciplined inspiration”, because I know better now, I’ve subconsciously absorbed so much around me all this time that after 15 years, the songwriting process is seen from a fresher and more mature perspective.

And there it was, my very first composition “Bikaffi” with the words of my dear friend Ehab Hamdan. The idea took less than 5 minutes, and then a few days of polishing and trial-and-error and it was good to go! It was such a proud moment because the last trial in 2006 was nowhere close – which is completely normal – and now there’s a legit song, of my own making, in my hands! Following that major ice break, many songs followed: “Sayf”, “Aribi”, “Zaman” and more came to life, all written, rehearsed and ready to record.

Next up was the studio work. I was fortunate enough to have bought some decent equipment over the years with the money I had collected from teaching and performing live, and was ready to start recording. My good friend and producer Majed and I sat down as we started to lay down the ideas of how we wanted those tracks to sound like. Majed started with rough sketches of the production, I started recording some demo takes, he was tweaking the knobs, then I re-recorded, then he added some beats, then I stacked some harmonies. The tracks were coming to life; after weeks of production, mixing and mastering, I finally had the first couple of singles ready to be released - and released they were!

I dropped my first single “Sayf” (Which means “Summer” in Arabic) in 2021; the fresh Arabic disco-funky dance tune was a hit, especially for a new artist joining the industry, with an unconventional avant-garde style. It gathered hundreds of thousands of streams on all platforms like Spotify and YouTube and Anghami (The largest music streaming service in the Arab world.) Then it started climbing the local charts and playlists, then you had fans sending you messages and comments like “I Love your music. Make more please”, “Your song is stuck in my head”, “Love it! Your voice touches the soul”, and more. It was beautifully overwhelming, I felt like I was not just making music anymore, but I am now committed to a certain group of people: Listeners who strongly related to my music, and who are now eager to hear more!

“Bikaffi” – a rather dreamy, chill, indie-pop song – followed some 2 months later. It had an even bigger impact than “Sayf”! The feedback I got from those who loved my new downtempo song was as good as that of my previous upbeat dance song. I then knew that I should not limit myself to a certain style, the only limit was my creativity and my musical ears! Soon after, I started seeing that my fan base is growing all over the world, thanks to the amazing technology of Spotify for Artists, YouTube Studio, Apple Music for Artists, Anghami Artist Dashboard, SoundCloud and more!

My song streams extended beyond Beirut, as the algorithm was pushing plays in Cairo, Amman, Dubai, all the way to Geneva, Paris, London, Montreal, Los Angeles and more! There’s even Shazam discoveries in Toronto, São Paolo and Jakarta! It’s crazy, we’re so lucky to live in an era where technology can be such a generous friend of yours. I felt the true meaning of “the sky is the limit.”

I cannot describe the constant feeling I have every hour of every day, knowing that there is always someone out there listening to one my tracks, maybe dancing, maybe reflecting, maybe even crying. This is the mark I want to leave in this world, to touch hearts and souls and connect with people without the limits of territory. I don’t believe I will ever stop making music and sharing it with the world, it’s an integral part of me now. Imagine there was no lockdown; imagine I never had the chance to make that first song, where would I be now? I don’t know, but surely not happier and fulfilled as much as I am today. I would have not been writing this article, or any other article. All it took was that circumstance to make all of that resurface and be put out there in words and music, for the whole world to listen to!

Every country goes through turmoil at some point in time, but the will to live always prevails, especially that of the Lebanese people. So as things are relatively “adapting” in Lebanon and some jobs are getting back on track (set aside the fact that the currency devaluated big time and many businesses unfortunately closed down,) I know I will be back in my daily work that I have always loved; this time with more purpose, more sense of achievement, more stories to tell and definitely more music! Piece of advice: have yourself a small lockdown once a year (like me) to clear your thoughts and find what truly lies within your heart and soul. Every human being has a certain talent, very few figure it out, so don’t waste yours. You will be surprised how much potential you hold.