DJ Tala Mortada is bringing the party to politics. An art-director-turned-DJ, Mortada works to harness the buoyant energy of Beirut’s vibrant club scene as a cure for Lebanon’s political strain. Plagued by looming threats from ISIS, crumbling infrastructure that has left Beirut without functional garbage disposal or recycling systems, and the heartbreaking humanitarian crisis of refugees fleeing neighboring Syria, Lebanon might seem (to outsiders) like an unlikely home for trendy nightclubs like the Grand Factory, where Tala spins. But music, Tala shows, can be a powerful tool for amplifying the idealism of young people who are eager to affect change. Plus, it transforms Beirut’s technicolored dance utopia into a springboard for political organization.
Channeling the club’s exuberance to inspire empathy in Lebanon’s nervous climate, Tala and her fans have built a recycling program at the Grand Factory. (It also teaches sustainability practices for the home.) Additionally, they’re running a clothing donation program to help refugee families — collecting second-hand pieces from patrons. Tala’s radical reimagining of the club as a place to foster activism, rather than just an escape from Lebanon’s problems, proves that hope is the greatest engine of change.