31st January 2016Koufar – Lebanon for Lebanese
Koufar’s Lebanon for Lebanese caught my attention because of its cover: a three-sided swastika-like symbol with a green pyramid at its center. Yet, its mystery devolved after my research unveiled the Lebanese Phalanges Party. Lebanon for Lebanese is a work of Christian nationalist power electronics that is enveloped in Islamic violence. Koufar’s celebration of the Lebanese Phalanges Party is a hope for a way out through the Christian God.
The dominant symbol on the cover—a black triskelion—is a retired symbol of the LPP. The brown-and-green cedar belonged not only to Lebanon but also to the militant wing of the LPP, the Kataeb Regulatory Forces.
Koufar (otherwise known as Alexandre Chami) is a vehicle for caustic romanticism of the LPP (also known as the Kataeb Party), which the album artwork depicts as heroic and misunderstood by much of the West. Much like Con-Dom’s study of Lawrence of Arabia on The Eighth Pillar—A Confession of Faith, Koufar’s LPP asks for the listener’s immersion.
Pierre Gemayel, the group’s founder, modeled them after the Italian Fascist and Spanish Falange parties in the 1930s and copied their Roman salute, but the LPP is more complex than its role models. The LPP holds a Maronite Christian majority (a sect born from the Christological schism resulting in the decision that Jesus Christ is both divine and human; the Maronites are miaphysites), celebrating a pluralistic but non-Arab character. Rather, they celebrate Lebanon’s Phoenician identity as a commonality between Christians and Muslims.
Yet, LPP militias—allies to the Israeli Defense Force—have murdered Palestinians and Shiite Muslims because of the fear of an eventual Muslim majority in Lebanon, which Koufar doesn’t seem to question. Instead, Koufar propagandizes the LPP’s position in Lebanon’s ongoing turmoil. Lebanon for Lebanese, being a Maronite Christian declaration, adds another battle cross to Koufar’s discography. For Chami, who has the same cross tattooed on his head, Christ is a symbol of suffering Lebanese Christians.
Koufar has been active since 2009, when Chami released حيوان followed by Purity of the Cedars. 2015 saw the return of Koufar along with a split, Born and Raised, with Full Blooded, concluding the year with Glory/Snobbery, and he’s still not finished. Recently, Chami posted the track list to his new cassette, Minority Report.
Chami also plays in Terror Cell Unit, Disgust, Crown of Cerberus, and records using the name of the assassinated Lebanese president, Bachir Gemayel (son of Pierre Gemayel); all of which are of similar quality. In Terror Cell Unit, Chami assumes a similar wrought and bitter vocal approach as Koufar over rhythmic political noise. Crown of Cerberus is essentially a project that is geared towards minimalism/drone. On top of his prolific work as an artist, Chami also curates the Crown Tapes imprint.
Lebanon for Lebanese would be a simple celebration of the LPP if a displaced person hadn’t composed it. Chami resides in Oakland, California. The distance is audible in his vocal techniques beginning with “Damascus in Flames,” and is heard in almost every song. Koufar’s rabid pronouncements set Lebanon for Lebanese apart from the other swath of power electronics releases to hit the underground in 2015. His looping vocals add a level of depth to the album that is scarcely heard in the genre. Chami describes the subject:
“‘Damascus in Flames’ is a track that more or less praises the current civil war in Syria. Growing up and learning about the countless atrocities that they (The Alawites/Baathist Party) have committed against the Maronites, I always wondered and often wished for a total collapse of the current Syrian Regime. And now, with the current events, that is the case.”
Chami’s vocals state and then—through a series of loops—obscure his message. It is thrilling. This audibly obstructed speech on God and country adds layers to Koufar’s politics, at least what can be deciphered of it. The loop acts as a second and third voice. The second grants Chami the illusion of multiplicity, but it just repeats his speech at the same volume. Thus, Chami’s speech is almost incomprehensible. The third voice is muffled, underlying, and still more distorted.
Pieces of Lebanon for Lebanese are purposed to be autobiographic, giving the illusion that this is the work of an entire people’s voice, which the loop grants. Still, there is an acknowledged element of separation of the Lebanese patriot watching from afar. Chami’s status is a further distortion of a barely comprehensible sonic world.
Koufar’s oration is supported often by martial beats that splinter apart as the melody goes to the dregs. At waning moments, Chami has a knack for ambiance. It doesn’t overwhelm, but settles the mind to wonder until the next crack. Ringing with the beat are miasmic tones that structure the songs, especially on “Kiss the Hand You Cannot Bite and Implore God to Break It.” Koufar is at his best performing audio decimation that carries hints of amateur junk-noise.
The songs are not all as developed as this, however. The compositions are long except for “Checkpoint in Achrafieh“ which, at two minutes, breaks the piece like an intermission. The title connotes a forced halt and assessment. Still, the song only undermines Lebanon for Lebanese so much. The album concludes with the magisterial “Flares over the Bay of Jounieh,” displaying the range of Koufar’s artistry. Chami describes:
“‘Flares over the Bay of Jounieh’ lyrically tells the story of an older maronite man with his son, watching the flares fall as fighting takes place in the adjoining neighborhood to Jounieh. The man speaks of great fervor and how the child will one day take his place and fight not only in his name, but his people’s’ name, and their culture.”
For Koufar, the strife in Lebanon will not end. Instead, Lebanon for Lebanese is autobiographical and propaganda—a rare odyssey transcendent above the persistence of shoddy serial-rapist narratives. Koufar, who is indeed both American and Lebanese, is a reflection on heritage and current events, the anger that wells up at injustices that are, in his mind, too far gone to be repaid. He finds his vengeance through sound. Mostly, though, Koufar is another voice speaking out about the Middle East from a personal perspective. Lebanon for Lebanese joins the new blood of Herukrat with old masters like Grey Wolves to usher power electronics into a new era. In this writer’s opinion, if there was a “Best Album of 2015,” it was Lebanon for Lebanese. It is another, albeit clearly symbolic, victory for the LPP.
Written by: Colin L.https://heathenharvest.org/2016/01/31/koufar-lebanon-for-lebanese/