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
“There isn’t a single other place in the world like it, that plays such variety from rock and pop, to Cuban, oriental and jazz,” Elefteriades says. He has managed to register the concept of Music Hall at Lebanon’s Ministry of Economy and Trade as well as with the European Union’s Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market.
Additionally, MusicHall has established itself as a franchise, scheduled to open in capitals around the world, including Sao Paolo, Dubai, Cairo, Istanbul and Doha, a process which has been delayed by the economic meltdown.
Besides giving way to local cultural icons and international performers, the venue hosts festivals, such as LibanJazz and LibanWorld, as well as Cabaret du Monde and other musical events.
Hosting us in his headquarters in Downtown Beirut, Elefetriades’ UtopiaNow office is as interesting as its owner. A portion of the second floor reminisces difficult memories of his childhood as he points to a replica of the supposed torture room in which Elefteriades asserts to have endured ill-treatment at a young age, at the height of Lebanon’s Civil War. It serves to exorcise the traumatic experience, he explains.
The ground floor, with an adjustable dining table, hosts guests from all walks of life. British pop sensation Sting, former President of East Timor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Ortas, Lebanon’s General Michel Aoun, and French director and actor Mathieu Kassovitz, are just a few of Elefeteriades’ former visitors. He has also entertained a number of Lebanon’s ambassadors as well as Dr. Aleida Guevara, daughter of Argentina’s revolutionary Che Guevara.
One cannot help but notice the collection of more than 100 portraits adorning the wall: Ghandi, Ernest Hemingway, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Imam Ali to name a few – portraits Elefteriades appreciates, although not necessarily subscribing to all of their views.
“Anyone who has built empires inspires me, regardless of whether I agree with their politics,” he tells me, “revolutionaries, such as Lenin or Fidel Castro: Anyone who has tried to change the current reality in which we live, the sad reality and present status quo.”
“I hate the sentence of Margaret Thatcher: There is no alternative, TINA. My motto is ‘Screw TINA’. We cannot surrender. There is only one problem for me without a solution: death. But besides that, I am an atheist. I believe that we become what we were before we were born. I do not fear death at all. I fear a failure of my project of being diminished physically, of being very sick, but not of dying,” he says.