The Lebanese house music maestros talk to Time Out about future plans, big moments so far, and why Dubai has been good to them.
Lebanese house masters REG Project have been fusing European, Oriental and Arabic sounds for seven years now, and have just launched their fifth album. Founding member Ralph Khoury tells James Wilkinson what it’s all about.
How did REG Project start? I was DJing at a place called Circus in Lebanon and my friend Guy had a tune in mind so he composed the first part and I did the last part and it ended up a hit. It was just a joke to begin with – we just wanted to make this tune – but EMI liked it and we got picked up. Eventually Guy wanted to do concerts for his music and develop his own name, so I decided to keep the REG Project as a different concept.
Tell me about your music. My music has lots of different styles, even in one song; you have the European side, the Indian side, the Oriental side and so on. No matter where you are from, you will feel like my music is familiar to you. I can cook up something that appeals to everyone.
Is there a specific audience that you mix for? When making music I don’t think of a particular audience, I just do what I feel. Some of it is quite different to what European audiences might expect. The Arabic melodies are loaded with emotions and they have quarter notes that are not in the European style; if you have a piano, you cannot play the quarter notes because the tuning is different. If you are a Western musician you will go crazy searching your keyboard for it – you can’t find it.
Have you been to Dubai before? I’ve been here hundreds of times; the good thing about it is that there’s a wide variety of people in Dubai rather than one nationality and that matches my music well. But I love to perform here. I love it. I love Dubai, it’s so comfortable, a nice country.
Tell me about the first single from the album, Min Gheir Leh. It was made by a very famous Egyptian composer, Mohamed Abdel Wahab, who stopped doing any music for three years. Afterwards, he decided to do a new melody, which was this song. He wanted to give it to Abdel Halim Hafez, a famous singer from Egypt, but he died before he could sing it. I liked the song and I decided to do it as an Oriental house remix. I think it’s wonderful.
How have you progressed with your work? In the album we’ve toned down the Oriental stuff, so it’s really more of an up-to-date and global album than the others
How long will you be making music for? I will never, never retire. Even if I’m dying in a hospital I will have a laptop on my chest, mixing my last song, trying to explain what I’m feeling. Music is everything.
Next to music, what is your greatest passion? Cooking. I cook any food – Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, anything. Very soon I will open a really nice lounge bar in Lebanon with really nice food. And I will be doing the music and the cooking! I make food the same way I make records – I try everything, learn about everything and put everything together.