Beirut Music and Art Festival: “This is just the beginning”

5 May

Beirut: Lebanon’s big summer music festivals seem designed to lure people out of Beirut.

Baalbak has its festival, as do Beiteddine and Byblos. Beirut, on the other hand, seems to be the preserve for year-round festivals, platforms and forums devoted to film and video art, dance, fine and plastic arts and (depending on how plastic your definition of “Beirut” and “music”) classical and free improv music.

Never fear. The status quo is set to change, sort of. A little later this month, the Beirut Music and Art Festival (BMAF) intends to transform downtown Beirut into a performance venue. This is the first BMAF, though organisers want the event to become an annual fixture.

Organized by the Ministry of Tourism in co-operation with Solidere (the private company licensed to retool downtown Beirut for the post-Civil War era), BMAF aims to “put culture back on the daily agenda.”

Mobilizing over 200 local and international artists to perform over a three-week period, BMAF certainly means to provoke international attention.

Performers include such international bigwigs as “Earth Wind and Fire,” “Sister Sledge,” and ex-Supertramper Roger Hodgson. Local luminaries Lena Chamamyan and Tania Kassis are also among the performers.

Co-directed by Beirut Jazz Festival organizer John Kassabian, Hamra Street Festival organizer Fadi Ghazzaoui and Imad Darwich-Houssami, BMAF hopes to “usher in the renaissance of Beirut’s golden age of art and culture.”

“Beirut is a capital city, at the crossroads of three continents and a gateway between East and West,” said John Kassabian. “Musical and artistic trends tend to take off from capital cities, the cultural centers of a country. As the cultural heart of the entire region, Beirut deserves to have its own music and art festival … The time has come.”

The program is not limited to international stars. BMAF has declared its desire to support local artists, so lesser-known local and foreign bands both are being given a performance platform from May 19 till June 2.

With 45 bands in total, three groups per night will perform in the Beirut Souqs. The mélange of East and West will also include a patchwork of musical styles, jazz and blues, oriental classical and hip-hop.

“It’s time to broaden our horizons,” opined Ghazzaoui. “It’s time to create a stage that promotes fusion, where Lebanon will both learn and share with our international guests. We want to give these groups a platform to express themselves on a bigger stage.”

The lineup for the Beirut Souq Music Village devoted to experimentation, featuring a smattering of Beirut Underground, and less-underground, artists like Rayess Bek, “Home Made,” “Amy Smack Daddy,” and “Zeid and the Wings.”

The Beirut Souqs will also play host to a wide range of other art events and activities.

“Mayadeen” art exhibition, is set to occupy downtown Beirut from May 18 till June 5. Subtitled “A Public Space Project,”Mayadeen, according to BMAF promotional literature, is “a platform for evolving practices in a discourse about public spaces’ everyday life.”

“Mayadeen” aims to “dissect the evolving state of Beirut’s public spaces.” Exhibition applicants were asked to perform an inquiry into the contemporary perception of cities and the cityscape.

It is also particularly interested in the impact of digital media and the role that public images have upon society. Curator Ghada Waked is hoping that “Mayadeen” will initiate a debate about how “space itself is altered in negotiating cultural traditions, political priorities, community values and history.”

“Mayadeen” will include a diverse range of media, including photography, projections, printed banners, performances and installations.

The aim of “Mayadeen” corresponds with Kassabian’s vision for BMAF. “This,” he said of BMAF, “is for culture’s sake, and not just for music’s sake.”

BMAF is providing two open afternoons of musical performance on the festival’s first weekend. From 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, local Lebanese bands are free to perform for the public.

“We are extending special consideration and support to local artists and bands within the umbrella of an international festival. This is something that has never been done before,” Kassabian remarked.

At 4 p.m. on May 21, BMAF will hold an hour-long march from Saifi to Starco. “The Beirut Parade,” as it’s being called, is set to be suitably bombastic, with plenty of music and color to fill the air.

The co-directors have pledged that BMAF is here to stay. “Year after year, the Beirut music and art festival will honor the past, celebrate the present and look to the future of music, art and culture. This,” said Ghazzaoui, “is just the beginning.”

The Beirut Music and Art Festival runs from May 19-June 12. The grandstand performances will be held at New Waterfront (BIEL) May 27-June 12.

http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Culture/Performance/2011/May-05/Beirut-Music-and-Art-Festival-This-is-just-the-beginning.ashx#axzz1LTPoziaG

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2 Responses to “Beirut Music and Art Festival: “This is just the beginning””

  1. krikOrian May 5, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

    I am so exciteddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

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