Monday, December 8, 2008

Keep Rocking

A certain house basement in Dubai’s Springs Compound hides an underground talent. Here, Ghassan Zoghbi—a Lebanese art director who works in a big UAE advertising agency by day—realizes his real passion. For the past eight years, Zoghbi has retreated to his home basement to build exquisite electric and acoustic steel-string guitars in his spare time.

His guitars are hand built from blank tone wood with a pure love for rock and roll. His process is modest: “I always use very simple, home-friendly tools,” Zoghbi explained to me. Yet there is nothing crude about his work. Carefully designed to the last detail, each piece of instrument is flawless.

Zoghbi was born with love for music and learned how to play the guitar in his youth. He pours his understanding of great sounds and experimentation of material into his pieces, as he did not have any formal training. Unfortunately, he is located in a place where there was no way to express his flair. The Middle East does not have the market or companies to house such artists. He decided to go ahead with his designs privately, despite all of the hardships and he now sells his work through private connections and word of mouth. His latest guitar, the Galvanised, is an electric guitar made from the finest North American tone woods, priced at $1850.

Zoghbi’s brand, “Zoghbi Guitars,” is a dream, not about money nor profit. Zoghbi wants to make better quality and purer sounds to share a complete product with other music buffs. His custom made guitars are executed with precision, something that is lacking in a lot of our commercialized mass produced world today.

In the most unexpected places, great talent is hidden; design has no national boundaries. Unfortunately a lot of what is produced and sold today in profit-driven industries is not designed well, if at all. In the move to cheaper and bigger quantities of product, big corporations have lost idealistic standards. So many companies could benefit from Zoghbi’s example.

Mainstream media generally follows mainstream topics. Different magazines and TV stations seem to cover similar events, buildings, places, graphics and choice of merchandise. What about the underground activities of the Zoghbis of the world?

It is unfortunate that there is a whole section of the world that is not even considered on the design front. I would hope that one day designers like Zoghbi will be able to have a platform to promote ideas and reciprocally have certain media segments shed light on their work.

I would like to see a column in mainstream newspapers (and their respective websites) covering the likes of Zoghbi Guitars around the world. Maybe then the big corporations will start to understand the need of hiring passionate designers. A model that might be present in some blogs but it needs to be taken to a broader macro level. Hopefully a future kind of exposure for the little people from all over the world will least give Zoghbi an option to come out of the basement.