Mazen Kerbaj: Playing with Bombs

Considerable attention in the program of this year’s vs. Interpretation festival will be devoted to the Lebanese free improvisation scene, which has been steadily on the rise ever since the first freely improvised concert in the Middle East in 2000. Naturally, the name of the trumpet player, comic book and visual artist Mazen Kerbaj, who belongs with Sharif Sehnaoui among the main initiators of the scene, will not be lost on the list of performers who are going to appear in Prague this April and May.

Kerbaj was born in 1975 in Beirut. He studied graphic arts and advertising with special focus on illustration at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts. During his studies, Kerbaj discovered the mesmerizing world of comic books and started contributing to various magazines. It was in this medium that Kerbaj found the perfect outlet for his playful and insidiously provocative style. To this day, he has had 15 books published and has contributed to dozens of magazines and newspapers. Nevertheless, he captured the world’s attention mainly with his blog, which he tirelessly updated during the “Summer War” of 2006 when Beirut was declared a war zone and was repeatedly bombed. Unlike most Beirutians, who fled to the mountains, Kerbaj decided to stay in the city and reflect on the events of his immediate surroundings through art.

As far as music goes, Kerbaj grew up mainly on rock. He experienced his first encounter with a musical instrument when he was 18 and his friend Sharif Sehnaoui gave him a used trumpet. Initially, Kerbaj attended lessons, but he soon dropped them and decided to explore the instrument on his own. After Sharif brought him a couple of Pharaoh Sanders and Evan Parker CDs from France, Kerbaj fell for the intoxicating temptations of unrestrained play and started to experiment with various non-idiomatic improvisation techniques and trumpet preparations.

Whole interview on Agosto Foundation web page.

Mazen Kerbaj: Playing with Bombs