Fete de la musique – Free vibes and public spaces

The Beirut-based rock/fusion band Lemonade performed at the Place de l’Etoile. Photo by Hasan Shaaban

BEIRUT: Music reverberated through Beirut streets as Lebanon celebrated the 18th Fete de la musique Thursday. As the night grew late, the capital’s public places filled with people, attracted by free concerts at Bloc Market (Waterfront), Mad House (Ashrafieh), Eglise St. Maroun (Gemmayzeh), Caravanserai (Hamra), Jardin de l’ESA (Clemenceau), Beirut open stage and The Backdoor (Mar Mikhael).

The French Institute erected a stage in Nijmeh Square, near Radio Beirut’s stage at the Roman Baths.

Walking from one location to another, people swung to the vibe as all manner of music – from Brazilian percussion to deep bass and solo guitar melodies, reverberated through the streets.

In France, where Fete de la musique was founded in 1982, the event is mainly about amateur musicians playing public spaces. In Lebanon, only approved bands (international and local musicians) can perform on defined stages.

The Beirut-based rock/fusion band Lemonade, for instance, performed at the Place de l’Etoile – and will perform on June 23, as the Lebanese festival is not restricted to June 21 nor to Beirut alone.

The event also staged classical music performances, starting June 17 with a concert by Sinfonietta Beirut at the national evangelical church.

Directed by Isabelle Issahakian, the ensemble’s program included compositions by J. S. Bach, W. A. Mozart, D. Cimarosa, Komitas, A. Dvorak, N. Piovani, George Gershwin, Astor Piazzolla and L. Denza.

The orchestra and guest vocalists demonstrated extraordinary expertise in conveying the works’ emotions and tensions. Singing Mozart’s Vogels?nger, Fady Jeanbart demonstrated astonishingly good German articulation and held his audience spellbound with his lively facial expressions. The audience expressed their appreciation with a standing ovation.

When the French DJ group Acid Arab played their dramatic brand of electronic oriental sounds on Solstice night, the Place de l’Etoile soon got very hot, with hundreds of young and less young people shaking their bodies to the vibe.

While the stage lighting was sometimes annoying for dancers, the scene looked incredible from a distance, as people found their way from one stage to another or to buy drinks. Throughout the evening and night, people occupied public spaces that can be all but abandoned other nights. While some danced through the streets, others laid on the ground, simply looking up at the sky.

The final act to perform at the Roman Baths, Beirut-based Ovid, held the audiences captive with their dark disco stylings and the vocalist’s extraordinary voice. Her spasmodic twitching reflected the whole group’s energy levels, transmitted to the audience, dancing expressively beneath the stage’s floodlights.

Ovid eventually left the stage but the crowd refused to leave. Radio Beirut commenced its stream of sound, keeping restless listeners busy until around 2 am.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 23, 2018, on page 16.




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