LibanJazz celebrates the birth of its first sibling


BEIRUT: The citizens of this country no doubt tire of being reminded how resilient they are. Unfortunately, regional and domestic politics being what they are, there is no shortage of little disasters for the Lebanese to bounce back from. Before the troubles of early May, and in defiance of nearly 18 months of political stalemate, Beirut was a beehive of cultural activity. Now that the Doha agreement has resolved Lebanon's political difficulties, at least for the present, the country's arts and culture scene has sprung back. In the case of music impresario Karim Ghattas, it is set to expand somewhat.

For Ghattas, the decision to become an events organizer is part and parcel of the political frustration that is endemic to this country.

"I believe Lebanon is a country where everything is possible," he says. "My sponsor ... has been of great support to me and I think no one should give up. We have to show a fighting spirit and if I'm incapable of influencing Lebanese political life, I'll try to make a difference by putting all my efforts in this program and push to make it succeed.

"In fact, in an effort to cope with the political instability, we have decided to leave more of a gap, at least a month, between events. In case of emergency, any concert will be postponed, not canceled."

Ghattas is known locally as the founder of the LibanJazz project. "When I came back from France five years ago," he says, "I established LibanJazz ... as a one-week festival in collaboration with [the concert venue] Music Hall. Having got used to organizing large-scale events, I decided to launch LibanWorld, to ensure the propagation of other-worldly music and exclusive shows that are turned toward the future."

LibanWorld will  complement LibanJazz, not erase it. "LibanWorld is a non-commercial program running in parallel with LibanJazz," he explains. "Our aim is more than the propagation of music. We are interested in defending the values of diversity, sharing, discovery and creativity. I hope I can get to launch more programs in the future like LibanRock, LibanPop etc.

"The key goal of LibanWorld is to help people find out about new artists that don't have their albums sold in the Lebanese market. We would like to present to the Lebanese public [with] sincere, honest and exclusive spectacles."

LibanWorld will receive its official launch on Tuesday evening with a concert by Cuban pianist Roberto Foncesca and his orchestra. Foncesca has made a name for himself touring with countryman the late Ibrahim Ferrer, who passed away in 2005.

Having replaced Ruben Gonzalez as the principle pianist of the Buena Vista Social Club in 2005, Foncesca launched his solo career early last year with the acclaimed album "Zamazu." Critics have found traces of jazz and "classical" music in his keyboard work as well as traditional Cuban and Afro-Cuban influences.

Subsequent shows will feature Angolan singer-songwriter Bonga, Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, and Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu.

"I think LibanWorld will provide its audience with deep insight of the diverse beautiful cultures of the world," Ghattas says, "in an atmosphere that is convivial and refined."





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