'Yamal el Sham': Beiteddine Art Festival celebrates the Levant's musical and cultural heritage

Ahram Online , Thursday 12 May 2016

The Beiteddine Art Festival was founded in 1985 and came to be one of Lebanon's most important annual events

Yamal el Sham
(Photo: Fragment from promotional material)

A vibrant celebration of the Levant is at the heart of the 2016 Beiteddine Art Festival, one of Lebanon's major cultural events which opened on 8 July and runs until 9 August.

Under the title Yamal el Sham, the title of a Syrian folkloric medley composed by the iconic Syrian playwright and composer Abu Khalil Qabbani, three outstanding Arab musicians will come together to celebrate the region’s timeless cultural and musical heritage on 23 July.

The performance, which is a production of the Festival du Monde Arabe de Montréal (Arab World Festival of Montreal), will bring together two oud masters — the Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma and the Lebanese musician Charbel Rouhana -- who will perform alongside with the Syrian singer Lena Chamamyan.

The three artists will perform “under the sign of hope, peace and tolerance,” as is mentioned on the festival’s official website, and will be accompanied by the Lebanese oriental orchestra and Canadian ensemble Okto Echo directed by Katia Makdissi-Warren.

Adorning this year’s programme is also a celebration of the iconic Lebanese composer, singer and songwriter Zaki Nassif who died in 2004, organised in collaboration with the American University in Beirut and the Zaki Nassif Program for Music.

Five Lebanese artists will come together on 29 July to celebrate the late musician: Soumaya Baalbaki, Joseph Attieh, Ziad Ahmadiye and Ranine Chaar will perform and revisit a selection of the legendary artist’s songs, along with Guy Manoukian on the piano. They will be accompanied by a 60 piece orchestra and choir conducted by Elie Aliah will accompany the musicians.

In parallel to this year’s concerts and performances, an exhibition titled Palmyre, Cité Martyre and curated by Michel Almaqdissi and Leila Badr will take place.

According to the festival’s official website, the exhibition comprises “photos and documents reflecting the recent destruction of Syrian heritage as well as archaeological Palmyrian pieces from the AUB Museum.”

Launched in 1985, the Beiteddine Art Festival "came as an act of faith in Lebanon’s cultural role and power of creativity, a call for normality amidst the chaos and madness of war. It was born and has grown in very difficult times and made it against all odds," the festival's website reads.

"As of 1987, when Nora Jumblatt and an executive committee took over the organisation of the festival, it gradually gained regional and international recognition" and throughout the years it hosted hundreds of important international artists and spanning across music, performing and visual arts.

All events take place within the 200-year old Palace in the Chouf mountains, considered to be a jewel of Lebanese architecture.

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