“I mentioned this before (in an interview with BeAmman last year), Wissam Tobeileh is my favorite local talent. The thing is, he’s also one of my favorite people. Whether through comedy or his violin, the expression is genuine. His connection to sound is intrinsic. I’ve watched him mold sound into conversations many times, and it’s usually impromptu.
One night, on a luweibdeh balcony, after hours of playing catch-up together, I remember thinking that his violin was like an extension of his body, another limb. Wissam plays the violin the way one uses their hands in conversation; instead of the unplanned (yet articulate) hand gestures, there are musical interludes to accompany his stories.
Back in 2008, I asked him to perform with me in my first solo show in Amman. It was at Jara, back when the Jara stage was in an alleyway. It was the first time we would be on stage together, so I didn’t know what to expect, but my gut was telling me the collaboration would be good. I didn’t get to test out that theory in rehearsals, because he’s so terrible with planning and time management he never made it to any. On the day of the show, in typical Wissam fashion, he showed up after the performance began. (Side note: the stories of why he is late are usually hilarious). Turns out I was right though. He got on stage, calm and full of smiles, remaining present with the music from beginning to end, and passing that beautiful energy onto me. The only way he could have added such connected melodies with artful timing, for songs he was hearing for the first time, was by truly listening. Musically, that is one of his sharpest talents as he performs.
Growing up, I remember unkempt blond curls and awkward sweaters. Come to the think of it, not much has changed. The hair is darker but still in the shape of mad artiste. The knitted sweaters are now swapped with cool tshirts, but Wissam’s face and eyes hold the same gentle appreciation of life. He can make you laugh using only facial micro-expressions or one-liners, but how fitting that he’s the face of the sad issue of MyKali. One comedian once told me that true humor comes from the ability to feel deep sadness. Wissam has often moved me to tears – he’s made me laugh, and he’s made me cry, through comedy and his ability to channel strong emotion into music.” – singer Hana Malhas
We all have this life altering moment that has changed us into the person we are now. What was the moment that has turned you into present-time Wissam?
I can recall two altering moments, one was in 1998 in Lebanon, where I was faced with the fact that I have to support myself from scratch, I was 19, and I delved into the real world too early, it was the time when I realized who my real friends are. The second altering moment was when Johnny Dabeet and I opened Fluid productions in Amman in 2004, a dream of opening a production house coming alive.
How hard was it for you transitioning from a man who had always received what he had asked for, to a man who had to actually work to get what he wanted?
It’s mind altering, your whole way of thinking and doing changes drastically , you immediately stop taking things for granted, whether its material things or human beings, and the simple things in life become 100 times more enjoyable .
How would this experience affect how you are raising your child now?
It’s too early to judge now, but I am raising him on enjoying the simple things in life, and not care about material things, like I won’t get him an iPad until he can afford one. And I will raise him to be tolerant, be kind , love people, and be tough.