Review: Baalbek Fest tours the Bekaa

BEIRUT: In lieu of its yearly summer events, Baalbeck International Festival took viewers on a musical tour Friday night, throwing the spotlight on local talent with the virtual concert “#ShineOnLebanon.”

The 80-miniute show, which aired on local TV channels and social media, staged 10 acts filmed at 10 Roman-era archeological sites around the Bekaa.

Each performance was filmed beforehand by a different director and shown alongside a live launch of the program from the Bacchus Temple steps, where the artists and organizers had gathered to mark the occasion and reiterate their commitment to support creativity and music in Lebanon.

The program began at the ruins of Ain Hircha with the world premiere of Ziyad Sahhab’s “The Black Box,” a soothing oud instrumental.

A cappella covers of popular songs, sung by Beirut Vocal Point, provided interludes between each of the main acts, offering up charming renditions of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” Stromae’s “Papaoutai,” Zaki Nassif’s “Ahla Zahra” and Fairuz’s “Bint al Shalabiya.”

The next stop transported viewers to Hosn Niha for a few songs from Arabic indie-pop band Postcards.

This was followed by the world premiere of Blu Fiefer’s “Sharaf,” “Ekhir Hamme” and “Sint el Ew” at Qasrnaba. The Arabic hip-hop artist’s latest songs tackle the dire situation Lebanon is enduring, singing about the failing economy, pandemic and lack of fuel for cars and electricity.

Each new location featured a small historical descriptor so people could learn about these overlooked archaeological sites, complete with drone shots of the temples and surrounding landscapes as the artists performed.

The locations offered spectacular filming opportunities, such as when French-language hip-hop trio Taxi 404 performed on top of one of the world’s largest ever building stones, fashioned at Baalbeck’s ancient quarry. The played some of their recent works, showing off stellar harmonies.

Cellist Jana Semaan delivered a solo rendition of “Aria for Four Cellos” by Naji Hakim at the Temple of Venus, with some clever editing allowing her to play each of the individual parts and have them layered together in the video. She also played a piece by JS Bach, providing accompaniment to Pierre Geagea’s interpretive dance.

The night wrapped up with a number by Zef, arranged specially for the festival at the Civic Basilica, followed by a live performance from the Acropolis. From behind his piano, he delivered a moving song about trying to find hope despite Lebanon’s constant hardships.

The evening offered a scenic look at Lebanon’s diverse music scene, as well as the talent of the production industry, showcased in each music video. While audience members could not have attended in person, the festival’s alternative allowed people from around the world to gather virtually?





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