Musical therapy, from the chalet to the club

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From the beach to a bunker, the journey of Mr Naji Gebran is one of the more unusual tales to emerge from Beirut and the world of clubbing. “I am a musician firstly, and was also a DJ. Back during the war I used to make ‘musicotherapy’ from my chalet on the beach; that’s where this all started.”

This is the B018, Beirut’s most famous, successful and enduring nightclub, named after Mr Gebran’s beach chalet. Opened since 1994 it continues to be the ‘go to’ venue after seventeen years and not without good reason. “I don’t like to do or be the same as everyone else,” said Mr. Gebran, “so I had the club designed and built on a piece of land I bought.” The history of the architectural design is a story in itself, and is quite unique, not least the fact that B018 is a totally subterranean venue with a retractable steel roof.

Until the civil war in Lebanon, the current location of B018 was a quarantine zone housing up to twenty thousand refugees from all over the Middle East. In 1976 however, a massacre and subsequent bulldozing totally eradicated any trace of previous life anywhere near the area. The ground level was increased by three-and-a-half metres. Familiarizing himself with the history and topography of the location, the architect Bernard Khoury set out to design a metaphorical structure whereby the historic scars of the location would not be buried. The result is stunning and has seen coverage by every major architectural journal in the world."

“I like to do things that don’t exist,” he said with justifiable pride, “and secondly the music is also critical to success. When I opened the club people in Lebanon only listened to disco and easy listening.” Even as he says these words you can hear the unpleasant taste they make in Mr. Gebran’s mouth. “Now they’ve learned what is good and meaningful; all these years later we are still the leader, that’s why we invest so much in the audio system.”

Supplied by Seebeck Audio, the B018’s latest system is comprised entirely from the d&b audiotechnik catalogue; Youssef Aoun founder of Seebeck explained the rationale behind it. “We first put a d&b system in here in 2005; it worked really well but Mr Gebran is not a man to relax, he listens to the young people and is always refreshing the music, bring in new DJs, and of course every so often he changes the décor. The most recent changes exposed the clubs concrete walls; previously they’d been covered by heavy drapes.”

Aoun and the team at Seebeck have been a d&b Distributor for several years; well versed in the principals of system design they immediately set about changing the installation to correct the direct to diffuse ratio, as Aoun said, “to suit the new environment. The wider Q1 gave the precise pattern control required. Positioning them away from the walls, effectively surrounding the dance area made for the perfect solution. That and using Q-SUBs in CSA mode kept most of the energy off the walls and especially off the roof, when it’s closed that is.” The clubbers it seems are in full agreement.

“The quality of the sound is beautiful,” said Mr. Gebran. “With electronic music people always want it louder. Open till seven in the morning, we are very much an ‘afters club’; people come here in the early hours when they have tired of the newer clubs. They like what they hear.” There’s no doubt the clubbers of Beirut are refreshed by what they find at B 018, as recently as 2009 it was awarded 5th place in the World ranking of the 'Best Bar Award', by 'World's best bars'. As Mr Gebran said, “the secret is not to do or be like everyone else.”

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