Beirut Music Festival Cools Lebanese Tensions (By Hanaa al-Raheem)

Beirut Music Festival
Cools Lebanese Tensions

Lebanese pop-rock band Belime performs during Fete de la Musique music festival in Beirut, June 21, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/ Jamal Saidi)

On Friday, June 21, Beirut will speak “music” and address its residents and visitors with “melodies.” The politicians’ voices will be silenced; there will be no statements, speeches or incitement. On World Music Day, the sound of music will rise above all voices, making it the universal language of joy, art and dialogue. The Fete de la Musique festival has been organized by Solidere, in cooperation with the French Cultural Center and under the patronage of the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, for the past 13 years in downtown Beirut. It will host 69 Lebanese, Arab (Emirati, Egyptian and Syrian), and Western (French, German, Belgian, Greek, Canadian and Armenian) musical groups.

The director of communications and marketing at Solidere, Randa Armanazi, told Al-Hayat that the events will be distributed over 10 theaters and various locations in downtown Beirut. These include the Roman Baths, Martyrs’ Square, the Samir Kassir Garden, Beirut Souks, Zaitunay Bay, the Beirut Waterfront and three churches. She added that during the festival the participating bands will play different genres of music, including classical, tango, flamenco, rock, jazz, blues, pop, rap, electronic and techno.

Remarkably, this festival, which is the largest musical event in Lebanon open to the public free of charge, does not only seek to present famous bands, but it also aims to shed light on unknown talents, based on the principle that “music is for all.”

Armanazi noted that “the music festival is a platform to launch new talents and bands. It is an opportunity for the people and production companies to meet them.” Beirut is probably the city most in need of a means to escape political tension through music, particularly since the security and economic situations have deteriorated. In the city’s commercial center, where the concerts will be organized, a number of cafes, restaurants and shops closed their doors because tourists and visitors left.

Nevertheless, Armanazi does not believe that this will affect the international music festival’s popularity or attendance. She said, “We do not rely on tourists to attend the music festival. Rather, we count on the Lebanese audience and its own ability to carry on.” She added, “The Lebanese have attended this music festival every year in high numbers, despite the circumstances. We have had more than 100,000 attendees every year.” Regarding concerns that a third party may disturb the festival, she said that security forces and the Ministry of Culture have taken the necessary security precautions to ensure the safety of the audience. …

Michele Paulikevitch, the festival’s coordinator, explained that the international music festival is designed to “meet all musical tastes and gather music lovers to explore world music.” She noted that the festival will host the Egyptian band Massar Egbari, Pressure Pot from Syria, Eye from the United Arab Emirates, as well as other groups such as Bel Arabi, Oudiyat, Flamingo and other bands from the Arab world.

Paulikevitch said that each of the 10 stages will have a particular musical mood, and pointed out that the event’s organizers were keen to allocate the stage at Zaitunay Bay to the Arab groups. From the West, there will be Lara Eidi from Greece, Dalele from France, the JJ’S from Belgium and Console from Germany. These groups will be performing on the stage set up at the Roman Baths. Martyrs’ Square will be buzzing with rock music, and classical music will dominate the churches of the commercial center. Jazz and blues performances will take place in the Samir Kassir Garden. In Beirut Souks, Ajami Square and Souk El Tawileh, Arab and Western rock and pop music will be heard, and the audience will dance to the electronic music played by a number of disc jockeys until dawn on the waterfront stage.

Hanaa al-Raheem

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