Lebanon: Backlash mounts after psychedelic music festival

24 October 2016

The Hexaplex psychedelic music festival held from 1-4 September 2016 at a camping site in Chahtoul, Lebanon, 35 kilometres north of capital Beirut, has been receiving backlash from the local Christian community, politicians and general public who claim festivalgoers participated in acts contrary to their religious, cultural and social norms and values, including the use and sale of drugs and being in a “trance-like state”, reported news site Lebanese Forces on 30 September 2016.

The article went on to describe the festival, its music and participants as “alien to Lebanese culture and heritage” and that it “threatened to destroy the values of our youth and society as a whole”, further stating that festivalgoers “spent three days and nights in a trance-like state, swaying incessantly to music that can damage your brain and nervous system”.

“Rejecting such festivals should not be perceived as restrictions of freedom; rather, it is a way of protecting Lebanese values and public morality,” the writer of the article, Joumana Naser, said.

Devil worshipping accusations
On television talk shows and social media, festivalgoers have been described as devil worshippers and Satanists, using photos from the festival’s Facebook page as evidence. The Facebook page has since been disabled.

According to Freemuse sources at the festival, the people who have been calling festivalgoers Satanists and devil worshippers have been claiming they were wearing upside-down crosses, that women were naked, and that festivalgoers were performing rituals, animal sacrifices and black masses.

The sources said there were no devil worshippers at the event and that such activities were not taking place; at most, people were dancing and dressed up in fun costumes, such as those of American Indians wearing feathers and headdresses. They further stated that those making the unfounded claims have no evidence to prove their statements.

“Psychedelic music for me and for a lot of people in Lebanon is the only reason we choose to live here. If we aren’t able to listen to our kind of music then there’s no point in living here. Our community is being attacked by religious extremists who cannot understand what freedom is and have a problem with different opinions and ways of life. We never attacked nor disrespected anything to do with religion,” a source told Freemuse.

Freemuse sources said the festival drew in approximately 1,200 people, 200 of whom were foreigners, as opposed to the 1,500 – 2,000 number those against the group have stated. The sources further stated organisers had a legal permit from the governor and mayor of the area and they took every precaution to ensure there were proper security arrangements and no drug use. On the festival’s website there is also information explaining Lebanon’s drug laws, including the ramifications of being caught using or selling illegal substances.

Authorities and families to blame
News site Lebanese Forces slammed authorities and the governor’s office for giving festival organisers approval for the event held on Christian endowment land. Chahtoul lies in the Keserwan District of the Mount Lebanon Governate and is predominantly made up of Maronite Christians.

Father Yousef Motous, interviewed by Lebanese Forces, blamed authorities for allowing the festival to go on and said they should be held accountable if any legal violations were discovered. He also called the music at the festival “a poison entering the bodies of our youth and posing a real threat to our society”.

Another interviewed cleric, Father Abou Kassam, who held the families of festivalgoers accountable, said that the church should set conditions for how the land should be used, and asked “how can anyone dance for three days non-stop without taking steroids”.

Naser explained in her article that psychedelic music originated in India in the 1960s and was connected to spiritual practices, adding that those who enjoy the music reject capitalism and “prefer to live freely in their own subculture replicating the hallucinogenic experience of using drugs”.


» Telelumiere – 3 October 2016:
Our youth are in danger

» Lebanese Forces – 30 September 2016:
Hexaplex? No, our youths are not yours

» Lebanon Files – 19 September 2016:
Suspicious round-the-clock parties in Chahtoul: Drugs and foreigners

More from Freemuse

» 17 May 2016: Lebanon: Authorities ban song on ground of offending God

» 27 January 2016: Sculptures spark suspicion of Satanism

» 21 June 2013: Lebanon/UAE: British comedian cancels tour after threats

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