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  • Sevine Abi Aad

Bru Ferri - the high school friend I wish I had

When Bru Ferri was born, I wore torn denim shorts (à la Mariah Carey circa her ‘Dreamlover’ days), I hung out with the wrong crowd, and, though I loved to sing, I was smoking cigarettes, all because I wanted to look ‘cool’ and fit in. I had no clue who I was, who I wanted to be 10 years down the line, I had zero self-esteem and zero self-awareness. I didn’t know that it actually takes courage and insight to know yourself, to be honest with yourself. That you need to figure out what and who you want to be and have a crystal clear idea of what it will take to get there. I was deaf and blind to all of that. And I remained that way for a long time.

When Bru Ferri was 15, he was already writing songs in English - so that his mom wouldn’t understand them - about the boys he was falling in love with and the ones who were breaking his heart. At age 17, he made it a point to know everything he could know about surrealism, from its cinema and painters to its literature, all of which resulted in the first short film he wrote and directed at 18. Some of you might think that this is the typical trajectory of any teen artist and some of the most common steps anyone in that situation would follow.

But it wasn’t the case in the circumstances I grew up in, between the war and the general mentality of ‘art doesn’t pay the bills’ or the fact that art is completely underrated and misunderstood in Lebanon. I was also never taught that things don’t come easy in life. That you have to really believe in yourself and hustle and hustle without any guarantee of the outcome. And most of all, that, despite all that hustling, you’d do it all anyway, because you couldn’t bear the thought of doing anything else. That came much later for me… But this post is about Bru, we’re not psychoanalyzing me on here today.

Bru is the absolute opposite of me, my young me, to be accurate. He’s in tune with his emotions, his experiences. He stares them all in the face, the good as well as the bad, and turns them into art. His big blue eyes are oceans and waves of stories, past lives and experiences he has already gone through at his tender age… such artistic maturity…

Bru is the friend I would have loved to have at school.. He would’ve been my Montgomery McNeil and I, his Doris Finsecker. I am, of course, referring to Fame - the original movie (talk about a generation gap!). I would have read lines and practiced scenes with him. We would have borrowed each other’s clothes, written songs and movies together, dreamed of fame and gotten high and wasted on graduation night.

Except, Bru is not in the closet, I’m not Jewish, we have a 15-year age gap, and this is the 21st century. How can you still be innovative when all good art and music was already created in the first 95 years of the century you were born in? Judging from Bru’s work and the projects he’s involved in, one way to succeed at it, is to actually go back to the source, the reference, the mothership, the oldies. Which is how I stumbled on his talent in the first place.

One of Bru’s projects is called Dulce Rebeca, mainly a duet of guitar and voice where he pays tribute to renowned traditional Cuban boleros. There’s something very timeless and contemporary he manages to do with these songs. Maybe it’s his demeanor on stage, the rawness and truth in how he interprets them, or the fact he’s theatrical, which - hello! - is the language I speak best. But also, maybe it’s in the way he inserts scat lines in the middle of a ‘Dos gardenias’ for example. The first time I heard him do that, it was so unexpected, I was in awe. That’s where I knew he had studied a lot more seriously than I had imagined. He actually studied both classical and jazz music, and you should see him perform a jazz standard. He’s just as achingly powerful in these as he is with Dulce Rebeca.

Speaking of powerful, a special mention has to made here for Retórica, an interactive theatrical performance Bru has conceived with his friend and partner in Simbiosi - Marc Vilajuana. I love how they are interested in linguistics and surrealism. The entire performance in Retórica, is devoid of a narrative, and is made to feel coherent, simply because we, the audience, need to put a name to the face or, in this case, to the content unraveling before us through 2 human bodies and voices - Bru’s and Marc’s.

Bru has explained and insisted on the fact there is no content in Retórica. He and Marc are simple containers, empty of any content, carrying out arbitrary signs, which the audience will still find some significance or message in. And yet, as he eloquently put it in one of his many essays ‘La sensación del compartir es total o nula, se rige por fenómenos que aún desconocemos pero siempre conseguimos volver a la zona de control, regentada por la creación y la proyección artística’ - roughly translated as ‘The shared experience is either complete or nonexistent. It is governed by phenomena that we still don’t know but we always manage to return to the control zone, which is run by creation and artistic projection’. From that angle - because it’s all a matter of optics - we, the audience, become the generators of the message or content, and the shared experience is thus enabled.

I find it refreshing to see such young artists think about these things and create mind-bending, un-ignorable works of art that are on the other side of the spectrum, my idea of hell, where unidimensional Ed Sheerans and Ariana Grandes are idols to every other millennial out there…

And with that, I'll leave you with this quote by famous anthropologist Margaret Mead, which I think suits the many Brus I encountered in Ferri:

‘Upon the gifted among the misfits lies the burden of building new worlds.’

The world Bru Ferri is building is definitely worth a visit.

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