Michel Eleftheriades on ‘Nowheristan’
Michel Eleftheriades has created a nation that does not exist on a map. He tells Aline Sara about his entrepreneurship, his inspiration, and his virtual country.
December 10, 2010 9:29 by kippreport
With such a seemingly absurd and at the very least unusual ideology, Elefteriades is at times not taken very seriously. However he feels that in ridiculing him, people are actually making him stronger, because he has been through much tougher struggles in his life.
Although his public image and concept of empire may seem unusual and fanciful, his various entrepreneurial activities are an undeniable success.
As owner and general manager of Elefteriades Productions, he has overseen the production of more than 16 music albums, under the record label Elef Records, formally operating under the Warner Label. Many of the recording artists reflect the musician’s passion for worldly talent and diversity, such as that of Arabo-Cuban fusion group, Hanine Y Son Cubano.
The band’s first two albums were best sellers in both the Middle East and Latin America, a success lead singer Hanin Abou Chacra attributes to Elefteriades, who came up with the Arabo-Cuban concept in the 1990s, while living in Old Havana.
In 2000, Abou Chacra met with a friend of Elefteriades’ while undergoing training as a lawyer. “We were speaking over lunch about my interest in singing,” she told TRENDS. “[…] That same evening; he introduced me to Michel. He didn’t hesitate a bit and told me he wanted me [to be the lead singer].”
According to Abou Chacra he had auditioned many women, who, for some reason or another, did not fit the part. “The following day, we started recording,” alleges the Lebanese diva. Elefteriades had already flown in Cuban musicians, all graduates from Havana’s High Conservatory of Music.
Today, 10 years later, after a busy summer of performing in local festivals and high-end events and royal weddings throughout the Arab World, the part Beirut- part Havana-originating assemblage has released its third album.
“Michel is a visionary, full of many creative ideas,” says Abou Chacra, “always aiming to change the things he doesn’t like, unlike others who just accept the [status quo].”
Evidently, his conviction has borne fruit.
Music Hall, Elefteriades’ brainchild cabaret-style venue, is today one of the hottest nightlife destinations in Beirut and well known throughout the region. According to Elefteriades, even his advisors warned him against such an extravagant combination. “They thought [the concept] was so absurd that it would fail,” says the entrepreneur, about the venue that opened in 2003 and is impossible to visit without reservations days ahead.
“If you look back in time, most good ideas start out absurd,” says the thinker. “It’s like Karl Marx’s wife, Jenny. She always complained about Marx’s work being a waste of time and yet his ideas ruled part of the world for more than 70 years.”
The part nightclub part theater draws as many locals as tourists, to see the blend of Eastern- and Western-influenced performers interspersed with DJ sets and worldly sounds.