BEIRUT: Lebanon is replete with international music events, many of them suffering from the simmering security crisis in the country and the region. So it is a curious and exciting thing when a new event of this type is launched. The Beirut and Beyond International Music Festival is a case in point.
Over four days in several locations around the country, the festival will provide a new platform for local and international artists to present their music.
The first edition of BBIMF will kick off Thursday evening at AUB’s Assembly Hall with a concert by Iraqi oud virtuoso Khyam Allami – who in a past life, as organizers note, “was known to be one of London’s hardest-hitting Metal drummers.”
The new event has been organized in partnership with the Oslo World Music Festival, an eccentric-looking collaboration that was the initiative of the Norwegian side.
BBIMF, festival director Amani Semaan explained to The Daily Star, aims to help the infrastructure of Lebanon’s music scene. “We needed something in the middle,” she said, “not underground but not completely established [either],” as the other music festivals tend to be.
The Assembly Hall gigs will also provide local audiences to discover the work of Tunisian songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Jawhar, who has performed with such singers as Keziah Jones and Boubacar Traore. Accompanying Jawhar on stage will be keyboard player Eric Bribosia, double-bassist Nicolas Lancerotti and drummer Yannick Dupont.
Later Thursday night, Egyptian singer-songwriter Myriam Saleh will amaze audiences with her interpretation of the immortal songbook Egypt’s Sheikh Imam, as well as a selection of her own compositions.
Day two of BBIMF shifts to Hamra’s Metro al-Madina for a show by Norway’s Trygve Seim. Performing in duet with Frode Haltli, Seim promises to present a unique collaboration with renowned Lebanese singer Oumeima El Khalil.
One of several unexpected acts in the lineup is the Tanzanian band Jagwa Music. The six member ensemble will immerse the audience in its crazy Afro-punk culture – a fine discovery for those eager to hear to something new.
Across town at Gemmayzeh’s Yukunkun, meanwhile, the Arabic folk-inspired strains of Egypt’s Maurice Louca will combine noises from Cairo’s streets, with electronic sounds and traditional Arabic music.
Later on, the Jordanian-Lebanese lineup of El Far3i, El Rass and Munma will escort listeners into the musical world of experimental electronica, rap and hip-hop.
Self-taught musician Tarek Yamani will take to the stage at Yukunkun Saturday evening, accompanied by Slovenian drummer Kristijan Kranjcan and tuba player Goran Krmac. Yamani and his comrades promise to intertwine the Afro-Arabic musical heritage with jazz dynamics.
Later on Saturday evening, Lebanon’s best-loved disk jockey, Ruptured founder DJ Ziad Nawfal, will get the groove going with his trademark playlist of eccentric takes on of apparently commercial hits.
A little further east, Sudan’s Toofeless and Britain’s Wriggly Scott will take to the stage at Radio Beirut for a collaborative show with the Beirut Groove Collective. The program promises an eccentric mingling of hip-hop, boogie-woogie, electro and Afro-beat.
On BBIMF’s final day, Hamra’s DRM will welcome Palestinian musician Tamer Abu Ghazaleh. A one-time student of the Edward Said musical conservatory, Ghazaleh is nowadays working on new compositions with the well-known Alif Ensemble. He will be accompanied on stage by pianist Shadi El Hosseiny, bassist Mahmoud Wali, percussionist Khyam Allami.
The DRM gig will also provide a platform for the expatriate metal strains of Syria’s Tanjaret Daghet (Pressure cooker). Said to speak with the voice of Arab youth, the pressurized trio will smash their way through a repertoire that veers from art rock stylings to post-punk mayhem.
The DRM show will also feature a performance by Congo’s Baloji and his Orchestre de la Katuba, whose touching compositions were inspired by his journeys through Congo after many years’ residence in Belgium.
BBIMF’s program officially ends Saturday night, but there is a surprise concert to be held Sunday, The Mansion, in Zuqaq al-Blat. “It will be a 30-minute acoustic concert,” Semaan confided, “by someone who is not supposed to be listed on the program.”
The Beirut and Beyond International Music Festival will take place in several locations from Dec. 5-8. For more information, please visit www.beirutandbeyond.net.