BEIRUT: The Chouf Cedar Reserve is Lebanon’s largest natural habitat of flora and fauna. Its managers boast that it has some of the oldest living trees in the world. But more than just being a tree museum, the reserve has biodiversity, with more than 32 species of animals thriving there.
The reserve will come alive with a different species of life this weekend, when Randonnee Musicale gathers local musicians for a day of performance and cultural consumption.
The proceeds will go to support local non-governmental organizations CHANCE and Offre Joie.
The region’s delicacies enjoy a history of cunning commercial packaging. In 1999, the Rural Development Program of the Chouf Biosphere Reserve launched its own brand of products, all the work of local villagers. From jams to honeys – some including the resin of cedar trees – this local produce will be available for visitors to discover and sample while they enjoy the music.
Organized by boutique-events organizer O de Rose, Randonnee Musicale has scheduled an interesting lineup of local performers. The reserve will be animated by sets by Adel Harb, LeBAM, Allen Seif (aka Oak), Beirut Vocal Point and Joy Fayad.
Among the young and emerging artists of this country, Oak has been performing his own compositions for several years, with vocals and music that have been compared to those of English pop band Travis.
Armed with nothing but his guitar and a smile, he has been attracting an enthusiastic local following, performing last June at the final edition of Fete de la Musique. He’s also been featured at Radio Beirut in Mar Mikhael and has had gigs in France, New Zealand and Australia.
Local guitar hero Adel Harb will immerse his Chouf audience into the festive mood of flamenco.
His playlist promises interpretations of a range of flamenco classics, including some of the greatest hits of Paco De Lucia – who performed a few weeks back at the Byblos International Festival.
The ensemble Beirut Vocal Point focuses its energies on a cappella vocals. Founded in 2010, the band’s motto is to make music accessible to everyone, and they often employ their talents at charity and fundraising events.
Lebanese vocalist Joy Fayad is nothing if not versatile, turning her hand to jazz, pop, blues and rock’n’roll. Gracing the boards of such local venues such as The Angry Monkey and Dany’s, Fayad’s moves her audience with her subtle voice and stylish music. Switching between guitar and harmonica, she will surely bring a new sound to the Chouf Cedar Reserve.
Artist and musician Marc Nader also promises to treat the Chouf with his presence, performing tunes from his 2012 album “Back to the Roots.”
Randonnee Musicale offers a program full of variety.
A band dedicated to West African percussion music, Jebebara, should show exactly how powerful djembe – a rope-tuned skin-covered drum – can be, while those interested in classical music will be pleased to know the 25-musician Barock Ensemble will fill the nature reserve with a music at once lovely and magically alien.
Several more activities are planned for Randonnee Musicale that are not strictly musical. Ghassan Alameddine and Edouard Abbas are among the writers planning to recite from their poetry, and the Lebanese circus troupe Cirqu’en ciel will lighten the atmosphere with juggling and miming.
The special guest of the evening is acclaimed Lebanese-Canadian jazz vocalist Randa Ghossoub, who wowed Beirut audiences with her concerts with the internationally renowned pianist Cyrus Chestnut.
Ghossoub’s concert will be staged at the Auberge St. Michel – Arcenciel at Maaser al-Chouf village. She and her gracious voice are expected to plunge the audience into a groovy, jazzy ambiance.
Randonnee Musicale will be staged at Maaser al-Chouf on Aug. 25 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ghossoub’s performance will follow at 6 p.m. Tickets can be bought at the entrance of the reserve for LL15,000. Entrance is free for children under the age of 12. Transportation will also be provided from Downtown’s Virgin Megastore to the event location.