Fete de la Musique brings joy to economically stressed Lebanon

This year’s festival offers concerts before and after the summer solstice in 13 cities and towns.
Sunday 17/06/2018
A 2017 picture shows people attending a free concert at La Fete de la Musique in downtown Beirut. (French Cultural Institute)
Universal language. A 2017 picture shows people attending a free concert at La Fete de la Musique in downtown Beirut. (French Cultural Institute)

BEIRUT - La Fete de la Musique, a global music festival that marks its 36th anniversary this year, ushers in the summer season’s festivities with concerts during nine days in venues across Lebanon.

For its 18th Lebanese edition, a variety of musical genres are featured under the theme of diversity to mark the Northern Hemisphere’s shortest night of the year on June 21. Jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, rap and classical music of the East and West will blend with folk and pop, acoustic and electricity-driven ensembles at free concerts.

Begun in France in 1982 during the tenure of then Culture Minister Jack Lang, the musical event is emulated around the globe. In Lebanon, the French Cultural Institute and the Ministry of Culture initiated the Beirut version of Fete de la Musique in 2001.

“The Fete de la Musique is a big success in Lebanon,” said French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher. “For the past 18 years the event has been growing with more activities and a larger number of local and foreign music groups who come here to perform and express themselves in music.

“At the same time the event is an opportunity to discover new talents. It has a global aspect because the language of music is not Arabic or French or English or Chinese… People can express themselves and understand each other with music. It is a way of communicating in a universal language.”

To involve as many Lebanese as possible, this year’s festival offers concerts before and after the summer solstice in 13 cities and towns, including Jounieh, Tripoli, Saida, Tyr, Dayr al-Qamar, Batroun, Zouk Mikael and Zahleh. Main festival events are concentrated in Beirut.

Concerts will be in town squares and public spaces. In Beirut, concerts will take place in ten locations, including Beirut souqs, the Roman Baths and Saifi village in the city centre. Some groups will perform in churches and pubs.

The Francophone talent in the spotlight this year is Acid Arab, the Parisian electronic music pair Guido Minisky and Herve Carvalho, whose music is a fusion of Arabic musical language and analogue techno devices. They will perform the main performance June 21 at Place de l’Etoile in downtown Beirut.

The event previews international ensembles such as World Voice Choir with Germany’s Jim Avignon, American pop group Silent Boyz and Brazilian percussion band Bloco Rubra Rosa among others, in addition to Arab groups.

Noting that such a “big celebration of music and joy” is taking place in a region plagued with turmoil and violence, Foucher praised Lebanese resilience and “joie de vivre.”

“Lebanon has gone through extremely difficult moments but it remains what it is, a country with big diversities, more than its neighbours and which can find ways of living together and music is one wonderful way,” Foucher said.

“It is important that Lebanon presents a (good) example in a region torn apart by conflicts and to show that it is capable of finding platforms where everybody can express themselves. It is a positive message for the future.”

Lynn Tehini, representing the Lebanese Ministry of Culture, said the event is getting bigger every year to offer the Lebanese public a musical programme of genuine quality from Lebanon as well as from other parts of the world.

“For the 18th consecutive year, Beirut will share with the rest of the world a common language — music. Different music genres including jazz, opera, pop and techno will mingle in the streets and cultural centres. Today, more than ever, we all need some happiness and joy while we’re living a difficult economic situation here in Lebanon,” Tehini said.

“Through such event, we are proving that art is stronger than weapons and that music is the language of humanity. Fete de la Musique offers a space for free cultural and artistic expression while promoting and encouraging young Lebanese talents in addition to Arab and international groups.”

Nada Sardouk, director general at the Ministry of Tourism, pointed out the event, the first in a long list of international festivals, inaugurates Lebanon’s summer tourist season.

“However, the difference with Fete de la Musique is that it does not exclude anyone, from all the regions and all ages. We are very proud of our edition in Lebanon which brings us together and unites us in music,” Sardouk said.