Corners: The beginning of something new

(Photo: Murad Abaza)
AMMAN — It is strange to wander the streets of Amman and notice how some places are not enduring the pandemic, while others seem stronger than ever. Recently, Jordan News visited a venue located on a nice corner in Jabal Amman and sat down with the owner, Mais Sahli. She explained to us what it was like to weather the pandemic: “I always knew we would get out of this bad moment. This place is too strong.”اضافة اعلان

The name of this place is The Corners Pub, and it is much more than a set of walls — it is a soulful spot, and to many, it is home. 

“There are people who have been coming for nine years, so during the lockdown, they were sharing their love for Corners,” said Sahli. “They were taking pictures outside the venue, asking for it to reopen.”

Her mother was Sahli’s first introduction to music. She remembers that there was always someone in the house playing the oud, and her mother would always play Fairuz songs in the mornings. During the evening, they listened to Pink Floyd, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong. 

“My house became that portal where the arts converged. I saw one of my mother’s friends playing the violin. I got it into my head that I wanted to be like him,” Sahli recalled. “When I was seven years old, I started studying at the National Conservatory of Music in Amman. I studied classical music, but when I became 16, I decided I wanted to do something unusual and distinctive.”

(Photo: Murad Abaza)

Despite spending much of her life on film sets, watching her mother work in production and wardrobe, Sahli decided to venture into something she had never done before. Her life took a 180-degree turn after she graduated from high school and got her first summer job as a waitress at Books@cafe. 

“This summer job was the beginning of something big in my life. Later, I became assistant manager of the place,” she said. After a while, she got an offer to run her first venue: “In 2003, I opened my first venue Kanabaye, and it hosted live music. Without realizing it, music found me again.”

The music scene started to see the light in Amman. Back then, Sahli booked local bands, and there was no social media, so she had to be creative with advertising the gigs, which reminded her of the lost art of music posters: “I remember those precious years, talking about 2004, the times of the Amigo Bar. Our friends who were amazing musicians would come to the venue to jam. So, our job was to have all the phone numbers of our friends and invite them to come to the gigs.” 

These gigs were an open secret, established among friends and acquaintances. At the beginning, it was difficult to put a ticket on the door, so they did it out of sheer devotion.

(Photo: Murad Abaza)

But things began to change in 2014: “It was a Red Bull concert, and I was watching from above the bands performing, there were about 5.000 kids. They were singing the music of the two local bands, El Morabba3 and Autostrad. I couldn’t believe they had fans,” said the founder. “That was history, they were no longer small bands. People started to appreciate music differently.”

Over the course of 19 years, Sahli has worked in the music industry as a promoter in different venues such as Las Tapas, Negresco, Jam, and Corners. Owning and managing a business has been a constant challenge for her as she fought against the social confines of the Jordanian community. It took Sahli years to learn that she did not have to prove anything to anyone: “I just hope to create an inspiring and safe space for women. I know the culture is challenging, but things are changing.”

 And to her delight, Corners is a place that witnessed the beginning of new sounds, new bands, and many first times. 

“I try to remind myself to always take a step back,” she said. “Sometimes you find yourself listening to such beautiful and amazing music, and I completely forget that I work there, and I become part of the audience, sitting there and enjoying the moment.”

Read more Music