A few days ago, I shared the video of a beautiful Lebanese woman dancing to the sound of a Oud at a gathering in 1980. The scene was taken from Maroun Baghdadi‘s ‘Whispers‘, which follows the Lebanese Poet Nadia Tueni (1935-1983) on a journey across different regions of war-torn Lebanon. The film depicts the fall of a country struggling to survive and find hope. At every station, between sites filled with poetry and nostalgia for a bygone era, the poet’s dashed dreams and idealized vision for her country coincide with the director’s own.
Now, we turn our attention to, in my opinion, an even more memorable scene from Baghdadi’s movie. Here, Nadia Tueni meets a student, Haitham Haddad, from the American University of Beirut (AUB) who talks to her about his love for music and his hatred of war. She follows him as he rehearses with his band and then performs at AUB. This moving exchange was one of the inspirations behind ‘On the Responsibility of Students‘, which was also published in Outlook AUB.
Here’s a transcript of the exchange:
Haitham Haddad: I’m a student in Architecture at the American University of Beirut. I really love music, and now I’m playing in a band at AUB. And I love drawing as well, which is why I studied architecture. And this is how I spend my time. I spend my whole time surrounded by music. I keep on thinking about music..Drawing and Music.
There is something that bothers me though, about the fact that I’m playing music while there’s a war in Lebanon. But I also think that music, in a way, helps people.. I don’t know, to change their way of thinking.. When we have events at our schools, and it isn’t a good thing when people start saying that we’re not thinking about the war and that we’re living in a different world. On the contrary, we are helping, as though it were a strength against the war. Maybe one can see it that way.
War is everything that is against Life. I recently saw a movie that came out in Lebanon, “Apocalypse Now”. I really liked it. It’s very powerful. It bothered me a bit, because it reminded me of war. Of course, it’s about war, but I really liked it. It has a lot of violence, and it convinced me that War makes no sense, that it’s not necessary to get to the desired results.
Before the war we use to have Scouting in our school. Of course, when the war started everything stopped. And 2 years ago, at the International College (IC) School next to the university, some of us decided to restart the Scouting program. We contacted students, and now there are students Scouting. And we let them play, and sing and a lot of other things. Of course, the most important thing in Scouting is camping. But now we can’t do anything.
I love Lebanon. I don’t know, I’m very attached to this country. The the people, and the weather, and nature, and everything. There is everything in Lebanon.
Nadia Tueni: Haitham loves music. It protects him from the war. Music is a strength against war, that’s what Haitham says. And that’s what Haitham’s friends say. Young men and women living on an island, in the middle of Beirut, in the middle of fear. A piano, a guitar, and a violin, to cover the sounds of war. I wonder where Nabil is. Maybe he’s filming a military parade. And Ghazi, has he found work? Did he receive a letter from his beloved? What did Ziad (Rahbani) do with his play? And the songs of Marcel (Khalifeh) for children? How will they sound like?
Tomorrow, I am going. I will miss.
[End of Movie]
These students are now our parents. Do let us know if you see a relative!
Ps: I couldn’t find the song they’re singing online, so I figured it’s an original.