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By rights, new electro-rock band Lumi ought to be celebrated far and wide as one of the most original and interesting music acts to emerge this year. But that will only happen if they can make it out of Beirut. Band members Marc Codsi and Mayaline Hage talk to James Wilkinson about shaping dreams, living in Lebanon and fighting ‘the war of living’.

For Marc Codsi and Mayaline Hage, aka Lumi, this month should have witnessed one of the greatest moments of their lives: they were to travel from their home city of Beirut to Dubai, where they would officially launch their first album, Two Tears In Water, to a full gathering of press and photographers. Then disaster struck: the Lebanese government declared a number of measures intending to curb the political group Hezbollah, who subsequently took up arms, resulting in a week of conflict that left 60 dead, the city divided and the airport blocked off.

Compared to the loss of life occurring across the city, the impact on Lumi’s career is a minor tragedy, but one that has still taken its toll; the weariness in Mayaline’s voice is still obvious despite the shaky international phone line. ‘We’re very frustrated but we’re OK,’ she says. ‘We were supposed to have our gig in Dubai, launch our album, and go to a music festival too, but now everything is on hold.’ ‘Hezbollah is still in control of the next neighbourhood,’ adds Marc, ‘but it’s peaceful at the moment – there are no battles here.’

But the ‘peace’ is far from concrete, explains Marc, which makes something as simple as leaving your house a tense event: ‘It’s the uncertainty that is very frightening – if it’s a war, you know what the targets are and where you should avoid going, but if it’s your own people fighting, there’s no limit to what can happen and no rules. You don’t know what can happen and when.’ And so the pair are spending much of their time indoors, waiting for the airport to open so they can resume their fledgling careers.

One thing that makes the situation especially frustrating for Lumi is that Two Tears In Water is the culmination of six years of work and friendship, the pair having first met in 2002. ‘We met at a party,’ says Marc. ‘It was an improvised jam and I was playing guitar with a few other people. I saw Mayaline and she had a Cranberries music book. I used to like them in the 90s, so I said, “Hey, do you want to sing?” And she said, “No I don’t want to.” I guess she was shy or something.’ Mayaline laughs at this point, and Marc audibly smiles as he continues: ‘We became friends, and we had a lot of things in common in the way we approached music – and sooner or later we had something complete, which was Lumi.’

What resulted was a friendship and creative partnership that flourished through good and bad, from times of peace to times of war, and both of these inform their deceptively punky, poppy, electro-rock first album in ways both subtle and overt, such as in the ethereal yet faintly sinister ‘Not Our War’.

‘We wrote ‘Not Our War’ during the conflicts of 2006,’ says Mayaline. ‘Mark lives on the 13th floor, so from his window we could see the bombing as it happened. The song was written very spontaneously and it was about expressing the absurdity that we feel about our situation.’

Their music has not only become a way to confront the war, but also a way to escape it, something influenced by the pair’s mutual love for the surreal, dreamlike films of David Lynch and Luis Buñuel. ‘Escaping reality is a very important part for all of us regarding everything we have lived [through],’ says Marc. ‘I guess it’s important to believe in something beautiful and to make our reality something beautiful, and art can certainly develop this illusion. But at the same time, we are very conscious of our reality and we try to describe that as well.

‘Music is our weapon. Everyone else has a weapon and we are going to use ours... We think it is possible to make things better.’ But circumstances haven’t made things easy. ‘We worked so much for this album and we want it to be played all over the world, and still we are stuck here,’ sighs Marc.

Wartime in Beirut may leave them feeling claustrophobic and tense, but Mayaline is quick to point out that neither of them look upon the city negatively, and that this is reflected in their music: ‘I always wrote something optimistic about what was happening – there is always a bit of nostalgia and something very, very positive in our songs, because Beirut is the city where you live, where you meet people, where you have intense relationships with friends and it will always be like that – at least, I hope so.’

For Marc and Mayaline, this love for their city is at the root of their frustration with its political and military troubles, especially since they are largely apolitical. ‘We stand for ourselves,’ says Mayaline, ‘We’re not fighters, we just want to live and evolve and let our country be democratic and free. But I don’t know if I still believe in that either, because people are always fighting their war in our land and basically every time we build something, there is always someone that comes and destroys it. I hope we don’t have to leave, but I’m starting to despair a bit – I will leave Beirut if things continue to go that way. I will have to.

‘It’s a very big issue, because we always write about what inspires us and the city inspires us a lot. It’s an intense place with a very intense history and very intense people, and those things are present in our music,’ she concludes. But Marc believes that they can find things to write about outside of Lebanon’s troubles. ‘The war of peace and the war of living – that’s interesting to us,’ he says.

Still, with the situation in Lebanon calming down, things are looking a little brighter for Lumi. ‘We want to travel and tour and go everywhere we can,’ says Marc. ‘We have a European tour planned and we’re really looking forward to it.’ Just watch this space…

Two Tears In Water is out now.


"Western sound but with a distinctive Lebanese flair"

BEIRUT: Mayaline Hage has the unnerving habit of staring straight into your eyes when she speaks to you. Six years ago, the stylish vocalist came together with guitarist and synth-meister Marc Codsi at a workshop for improvised music. In 2005 the pair co-founded Lumi and immediately found a following among Beirut's middle-class underground.

The band reached a major watershed this month with the release of their first album "Two Tears in Water," with EMI Arabia. The band's debut is a feverish collection of diverse rhythms and musical influences drawn together to keep time with the heartbeat of their idiosyncratic home town.

If you have ever yearned for a band like the electro-clash queens Le Tigre without all the political self-righteousness, you may find a likely candidate in Lumi. Nodding to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Spektrum, We Start Fires and other international rock and synth-tastic start-ups, Lumi are all about having a good time - as is apparent in their amusing single "Don't F!?$ With My Cat." That's not to trivialize their work. Lumi's self-generated MySpace site declaims that they "embody the glamour and chaotic dynamic of Beirut."

"We wanted to do something popular but intelligent," explains the 26-year-old Hage, "intense and happy."

Although he and Hage don't like to be restricted by musical genres, Codsi, 29, has no problem with "pop." "It was a challenge for us to do something that could be heard and felt by everybody," he muses. "Pop music nowadays has a bad image as being commercial, and there is definitely a lot of very bad music on the radio. But I think pop is something to respect because it is expressive music that can be shared."

A veteran guitarist with Beirut's post-punk heroes Scrambled Eggs, Codsi also produces solo work and movie soundtracks, which may explain the rich musical diversity of the album. Lumi's sound is unique. It sounds a little like two kindred spirits with broad musical tastes have taken hunks of their favorite artists and smashed them together. The resulting sound slips in and out of glam rock, emo, new wave, electro and punk. "We wanted to create music that would last," says Hage, "and that would speak to people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures."

Though both are French-educated - Codsi has a degree in Finance, while Hage holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology - Hage sings in English. She says it came naturally. "I just felt that, aesthetically, French didn't go with that type of music." Still, her understated vocals often have a French flavor - indeed, "Lumi" is taken from the French word "Lumi�re" ("light") - adding an extra field of magnetism to the songs.

One of the more formidable tunes on the album is the mesmerizing "Banging," which recollects the vocals of Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and is a great example of Lumi's fusion of new wave, rock, electronica and unabashed experimentalism.

"Staying Here," where Codsi assumes the rare role of lead vocalist, will certainly resonate with the more emotional among us. With Hage's high-pitched backing vocals, it is bound to provide a soundtrack for someone's broken heart - simultaneously evoking Sigur Ros and Daft Punk and even a touch of New Order.

Beirut clubbers will already be familiar with "Second Thoughts," which has become a staple in electro clubs like Basement, excellently remixed by the band's friend, DJ Jade.

Despite their Western sound, Lumi still very much identify with their Lebanese roots. The duo says a lot of the noise on their album is inspired by Beirut car horns and playing kids. "We are using Western-influenced music to create something very Lebanese," Codsi says.

Hage seems dismissive of their music's possibilities on the Arab market but Codsi is more enthusiastic. "I believe in Arab potential, he says, "and I think it's important for us to have a presence in the Arab world."

Lumi have a captivating stage presence. Unlike other electronic bands whose synth-fiddling can be dull, Hage and Codsi have a post-punk concert band for live sets and seem to enjoy themselves on stage, perhaps because they don't have the chance to perform live all that often.

Political problems in Lebanon have forced Lumi to cancel some gigs. In May, street fighting saw the airport closed and the band missed a Dubai appearance. "The trouble here may help us on an inspirational level," says Hage, "but it limits us in whole other ways. There are very few places where we can play and we're not interested in playing at the same places to the same crowd all the time.

"Every time we work on something, boom! There is a bomb, a catastrophe, or something," she continues. "It's not that encouraging."

When they do get to the stage, as during their recent CD-release party at Beirut's Ajram Beach, Lumi can make up for lost time - engaging with their audience and inviting them to dance onstage. Even the unlikeliest of dancers may find themselves twitching to the throbbing synth beats and captivated by the cool of Hage's onstage persona.

"We like to be rare on stage, but when we do play gigs, we want them to be big and intense," she says. Lumi left on a big European tour Thursday, destined for such cities as Barcelona, Berlin and London. "We're going to France on June 23," says Codsi, "where ... the Lebanese Tourism Office ... is putting on a showcase of Lebanese music." DJ Jade from Basement and Shoot Shoot will also be playing.

When asked where they saw themselves in the future, Codsi reiterates his love for Beirut. "I see Lebanon as always being my base," he says. "Beirut gives me a lot of inspiration and this is what we want to express in our music."

"But we hope to be traveling a lot, too," Hage interrupts. "I see myself as having a foot in Lebanon and a foot outside, somewhere like in New York ... But a real foot here and there." - The Daily Star (Lebanon)

"cOOl cats"

One of the only glam punk bands
in Lebanon – or, for that matter,
the Middle East – Lumi is about
to release its first major album.
Twentysomethings Mayaline Hage
and Marc Kodsi, the singer and guitarist
behind the group lumi, are at
the heart of Beirut’s alternative music
scene. along with the scrambled eggs
– for whom Marc also plays, and who
were recently described by the French
magazine Les Inrockubtibles as the
lebanese sonic Youth – they are living
proof that lebanon can produce
more than its generic sexy divas.
Mayaline and Marc, who look
like they have stepped out of a French
nouvelle vague film, met six years ago
during a jam session. ‘i was playing
the guitar,’ explains Marc, ‘and Mayaline
was sitting in front of me.’ ‘He
asked me if i wanted to sing,’ says Mayaline. ‘i was too shy, so i said no,
but i later asked him if he could give
me guitar lessons.’ it took them a couple
of years to become lumi.
‘We’re an electro-rock group,
with some punk influences,’ says Marc
in the noisy torino express café, the
meeting point for Beirut’s underground
bands. ‘lebanese music doesn’t
really inspire us, it’s more the fact of
being lebanese that makes our music
different.’ until about a year ago, lumi’s
only window to the world, aside
from occasional concerts in Beirut,
Paris or Berlin, was their page on My
space, lumisounds. it was a way to
engage with their fans, and to convey
messages of peace in time of war, such
as in the summer of 2006. ‘When you
live in a city like Beirut, you are inevitably
inspired by the duality between
the old and the new, the smooth and the rough. that’s what makes us who
we are.’ as for what they sound like,
the local press has made some rather
flattering comparisons with Blondie,
Bloc Party and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs.
‘i write the lyrics and Marc does
the musical arrangements,’ says Mayaline.
‘Most of the songs are made in
Marc’s room and some last minute
fixing is done in the studio. it might
limit us with the things we can do,
but it also obliges us to be more creative.’
that was how lumi operated
last spring, when their first eP and
video for the song ‘don’t F… With
My cat’ were released locally. zeid
Hamdan, the father of lebanon’s alternative
music scene (soap Kills, the
new government) was quick to send
the video to eMi’s regional offices in
dubai. ‘i was astonished by the quality,’
says Pascall gaillard, eMi’s regional
director. ‘i loved it.’
a few weeks later, lumi was
signed up and went off to record a
new album in düsseldorf – ‘the city
of Kraftwerk,’ says Marc. now that
the album is about to be released,
Marc is feeling positive: ‘eMi gave us
the chance to record in dreamlike
conditions in germany, and to produce
something that met our expectations.
We’re really happy with the
album: it’s energetic, emotional, optimistic
and ambitious. it stands in
stark contrast with the current gloom
prevalent in our country and expresses
what a lot of lebanese think: that is,
we want to be free, have no conflict
on our land, and be able to develop
our individuality and creativity.’
__Carole Corm - ALEF MAgazine

"On the arrival of a young Beirut band that isn't afraid to scream"

Lumi blends aggressive noise with catchy pop to create music that sounds like now.

BEIRUT: Their points of reference are bands like Sonic Youth, Sigur Ros, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bloc Party and the Liars. Their list of influences includes no wave, post rock, punk, electroclash, pop trash and bombs in the sky. Their sound is an aggressive blend of experimental noise and catchy pop, as innovative and of the moment now as Blondie must have sounded to virgin ears in the New York music scene of the late 1970s.

They have recorded about seven songs so far and performed less than 10 live shows in the past year and a half. They are Lumi - otherwise known as Marc Codsi and Mayaline Hage - one in a clutch of young Lebanese rock bands who are currently animating the local, underground music scene with the likes of Scrambled Eggs and the New Government.

Lumi began in January 2005. Codsi, the lead guitarist for Scrambled Eggs, wanted to explore something sonically new with a side project. Hage had joined Codsi's primary band on stage once before, when Scrambled Eggs' lead singer, Charbel Haber, was out of town.

"I basically just screamed into the microphone," says Hage, who is in her early 20s and has the gift of understated, wry humor.

Both interested in the free improvised music scene that has been percolating in Beirut since 2000, Codsi and Hage decided to form a band to integrate that approach to experimentation with the slightly more structured spirit of postmodern rock n' roll. In other words, they compose. The name Lumi, explains Codsi, is meant to evoke a sense of lightness and brightness, which effectively offsets the gloom and doom that creeps into some of their songs.

"We are not a band in the normal sense, like a rock band," says Codsi, who is in his late 20s and arranges most of Lumi's music on his laptop, feeding in riffs and distortion from his electric guitar and messing around with other beats and sounds. Hage takes care of the lyrics - most of them improvised on first listen and set down on paper afterward.

As a singer and songwriter, Hage eschews nearly all existing archetypes for what a female vocalist should look like or sound like. Her antecedents, though she doesn't make any direct reference to them, are musicians like PJ Harvey, Kim Deal of the Pixies, the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Karen O and, of course, Blondie's Debbie Harry. She's not afraid to scream, nor is she afraid to do so in a well-tailored frock.

Lumi's approach to the music business is similarly contemporary. Codsi and Hage have been in discussions with local labels before, but are content to continue composing their songs and posting them on their My Space site until the right record deal comes along.

"We're always working on new songs," says Codsi. "It's a never-ending process."

But they also want reach well beyond Beirut.

"Our ambition is the only thing that keeps us going," says Hage, nodding vigorously in agreement with Codsi as he notes that as exciting as the underground music scene in Beirut may be these days, it is still too small, too insular, too insignificant for any one band to make much of an impact.

"Plus," Codsi adds with a grimace, "to be in the music scene here you still have to have a full-time job."

By Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

- Daily Star Lebanon


...Tous les espoirs Electro semblent se porter sur LUMI. Le projet race et sensuel de Mayaline Hage et Marc Codsi qui rappelle les Yeah Yeah Yeahs des debuts en plus synthetique:hargne et glamour.
Leur potentiel est enorme, ce qui n'enmpechera jamais Marc de douter et de se remettre sans cesse en question. En moins d'un an d'existence, et deux maquettes, Lumi affole tout ce que le Liban compte de music business, et le couple se prepare , de l aveu de aya, a evoluer surement tout en apprenant a ne pas se denaturer... - Trax France

"LUMI Germany"

Beiroet is dus niet echt de eerste stad die je zou associëren met punkfunk of electroclash. Dat past sowieso niet in het beeld dat we in het Westen hebben van een stad in het Midden-Oosten… Maar de verslaggever van NRC gaat met de cool people van Beiroet wodka’s drinken in de beach club Oceana en dansen in B018 waar midden in de nacht het dak open schuift. Hij interviewt bandleden van Lumi die hij beschrijft als goth/electro/punkrock.


Ik was benieuwd hoe dat zou klinken: electrogoth uit het Midden-Oosten. Gelukkig vond ik op YouTube bewegende beelden! Luister en kijk naar de video van hun hit.

Op Lumi’s MySpace houdt Marc Codsi, de mannelijke helft van het duo, een blog bij. Nu babbelt hij daar over geijkte bandjeszaken (optredens, nieuwe nummers) maar aanvankelijk had het blog meer weg van verslaggeving uit een oorlogsgebied. Codsi startte zijn blog half juli en rond dezelfde tijd componeerde Lumi het nummer ‘It’s not our war’. Die song verwoordde de gevoelens van veel jongeren: ze zaten vast in een oorlog tussen twee strijdende partijen. Twee partijen die allebei beweerden met hun strijd de jonge Libanezen te helpen. Zoals je op het blog kan lezen, was de werkelijkheid anders…

- Peter Teps De Koning


2007>EP>Untitled (Self Produced)
2008>LP>Two tears in Water (EMI Arbia,Virgin Music)



Biography By Rachel Monk

�Art is derived from our Living existence but it's in fast forward mode� Lumi

Engage with the sounds of Lumi. They ooze talent, shout out meaning, acoustically they personify perfection and visually they could have been taken from the catwalk in Milan. A divine combination served to you on a metaphorical plate so chic you will fall in love at first sound.

Lumi originates from the French word Lumi�re which means light. It projects enlightenment and the significance of brightness into lives which can sometimes seem gloomy and dull, predominantly dictated by the situation in Lebanon.

�We wanted a name which had strength and not pretentious, something positive and bright for Lebanon�

Marc Codsi and Mayaline Hage are Lumi.

Marc (1979) a degree in Finance and Mayaline (1982) a Masters in Clinical Psychology were both born in Beirut, Lebanon and this is their home until today. Marc started playing the guitar when he was 17 and has also been the lead guitarist of a Lebanese post punk band �Scrambled Eggs� since 2001. In addition to this he produces and performs more experimental projects under the name �Happy Melody�. Marc is not shy of an instrument or two! In fact he has mastered the talent for anything he can touch and make a sound with. Most notably the Bass, Piano, Drums, Trumpet and the keyboards. All of which can be heard throughout the album �Two Tears in Water�.

Mayaline was bought her first electric guitar when she was just 11 years old, although she never took it as far as singing, she still demonstrates her musical diversity with her guitar skills in the song �Lilly�. It was an improvised music workshop in 2002 that bought these two talents together. They collaborated and worked with many different artists before joining forces in 2005 and have since been known as Lumi. A natural synergy emerged between them both, sharing the desire for peace in the Middle East and a passion to travel the world together and create music through their experiences and emotions.

�We met at a party, where people were jamming. I was playing the guitar and Mayaline was too shy to sing, but she had a Cranberries tablature book with her. The encounter was inevitable� Marc Codsi

Both Marc and Mayaline share the same backgrounds, in film, music and poetry.
They were raised with the David Lynch atmosphere (very present in Lumi's universe), Nouvelle Vague movies, Bergman, Tarkovski, and the French Director Alain Resnais to name a few. Also since their early teenage years with the music and lyrics of Nirvana, and then Sonic Youth, all the post rock, post punk scene and of course the electronic music from its debut to its different directions.

The music is their image, well defined, elegant and charismatic. Defined by themselves as raw, feminine, dynamic, playful yet melancholic, sensual, sly and provocative. All of this is dramatically brought to life in their first single �Don�t F With My Cat� which is inspired by their virtual dream. The video is a story of two worlds brought together by what is real and what is fictional in a funny, sarcastic, sensual and delirious song. The reality is Lebanon and the political situation in which they have lived for many years. It was filmed in 2006 and directed by Sary Sehnaoui. Lumi describe how post war energy helped them produce the video:

�We had the chance of having lots of people working with us for free, all eager to do something ... It was a time to construct�

The fictional side of the video is the dream, Lumi�s perception of the fantastic and the idea of the better world. Beirut is where the video was filmed, and plays the leading role in their lives as the background of all their fantasies, magic and disappointments. Clich�s such as the black cat and the wings were used with the intention of creating mystery and glamour in a semi-serious, self derisory way.

They describe how living in Lebanon has influenced their music �It puts you in a boiling microcosm. Lebanon is everything and its opposite, a country of a lot of contrasts and extremes. On a geographical level, this is visible in the music by the way rhythms and melodies are connected. For example, there is always a raw element mixed with a very polished one. It's like when you walk in Beirut, you'd see a very old house with traditional old stones and next to it an attempt in the latest trend in architecture�.

Lumi�s debut album titled �Two Tears in Water� was released by EMI Arabia on the 13th june 2008 in the Middle East. Two is representative of the two years it took to finish the album. The production took just one month in Dusseldorf, Germany where they worked with one of the top producers Andi Toma (Mouse on Mars, Von Sudenfed). They had already recorded the album in their studio in Beirut before heading to Germany. There they hit the studio to develop more instrumentals,