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Byblos offers up eclectic 2014 summer program

For lovers of eurotrash dancehall culture, the highlight of the 2014 Byblos festival will be Belgian singer-songwriter Stromae.(Courtesy of BIF)

BEIRUT: Another summer season will soon start. As usual, the country’s several festival organizations are preparing to welcome the local and international artists scheduled to perform – whom they hope will lure capacity audiences to their various venues.

The Byblos International Festival announced its official lineup at a Tuesday morning news conference at Byblos-sur-Mer.

Chinese piano prodigy Lang Lang will open the festivities on July 3. A student of piano at the Shenyang Conservatory since the age of three, the pianist won Japan’s Tchaikovsky Competition prize for Young Musicians in 1995. His European fame began after his outstanding Carnegie Hall performance in 2001. Lang hasn’t stopped touring the world since.

Lang’s next destination will be Byblos, where it’s assumed his repertoire, blending classical standards with contemporary works, will amaze his audience as much as the talent and dexterity with which he performs it.

Lebanese musical patriarch Marcel Khalife will return to the Byblos stage on July 17. One of the country’s great masters of the oud and a fixture in the region’s summer festival circuit, Khalife first found renown for his politicized folk numbers. He then bent his mind to orchestral composition and, most recently, has allowed his career and songbook to be recast through his sons Rami and Bashar.

Two days after Khalife’s show, the hirsute Greek-born crooner Yanni will return to Lebanon to perform what is assumed will be a playlist of his most famous hits. A multi-award-winning talent, the Grammy-winning Yanni has been feted for his albums “Dare to Dream” and “In My Time.”

A decade or so ago, U.K. trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack stormed to the stage of the Baalbek International Festival. Their long-awaited reprise will be staged at Byblos on July 29.

Best known for such early-career releases as “Blue Lines,” “Protection” and “Mezzanine,” The Massive’s mutable ensemble has continued to tour and make the odd record, the most recent being 2010’s “Heligoland.” The band’s collaborated with a bevy of A-list talent, including Sinead O’Connor, Madonna and Horace Andy.

Those into hardcore may enjoy Epica’s performance in Aug. 2. This Dutch symphonic-metal band is known for its combination of female vocals, orchestral scoring and thoughtful lyrics.

For lovers of eurotrash dancehall culture, the highlight of the festival will fall on Aug. 5, when Belgian singer songwriter and Stromae will shake Byblos’ booty. The artist, whose name is “maestro” spelt backward, was catapulted into pop culture’s collective hard drive with his hit “Alors On Danse.” That tune’s success earned him the ambiguous honor of performing a one-night stand at Beirut’s Sky Bar in Aug. 2010. Despite this, his career hasn’t stopped accelerating, and he’s won numerous best artist awards.

A potentially interesting generational cross will be staged on Aug. 6, when the father of ethio-jazz Mulatu Astatke will take the stage with Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, promising to alternate and combine their far-flung talents.

Another local hero, Lebanese-Armenian pianist Guy Manoukian, will return to the Byblos stage on Aug. 13 promising to perform the best-loved numbers of his four albums.

Last but not least, U.S. band Beirut will close the festivities on Aug. 19. The public discovered these indie rockers in 2007, when their song “Nantes” shot up the international new music charts. Having toured the world, this will be Beirut’s Lebanon premiere.

Byblos’ wide range of acts, from the Middle East to the United States, from electronica, rock, metal and jazz to classical, promises to satisfy at least some of its audience’s musical cravings.

The Byblos International Festival will take place from July 3 until Aug. 19. For more information, please visit www.byblosfestival.org. For ticketing, please call 01-999-666.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 14, 2014, on page 16.

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