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French Version

Tyre and South Festival aims to please music lovers and patriots

In Lebanon these days, cultural impresarios are making the best of a bad situation. The organizers of the "Tyre and South Festival" are no different. Roula Assi, executive director of the festival, says that after the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri the organizing committee had to grapple with whether or not Tyre should go ahead at all.

The problem didn't reside in the challenge of finding acts to perform at the festival, she said, but in the gamble of whether there would be an audience to attend.

Another factor that is at least as significant in the festival's audience-share is internal competition. Lebanon's two industry heavyweights - the Beiteddine and Baalbek Festivals - are both starting their programs on July 7, the same day as the Tyre Festival.

In a shrewd bit of market realism Baalbek has decided to stage its opening act - the Cirque du Soleil-ish "Flying Flames" - at the Forum du Beyrouth, making it that much more likely that its overwhelmingly Beiruti target audience will spend July 7 with Baalbek, albeit in Beirut.

The Tyre and South Festival committee is appealing to the patriotism of its audience, remarking in its poetic mission statement that it wants to show that, no matter how many sorrows and how much darkness Lebanon faces, its people will remain stronger than the tears.

It goes on to say that the committee is dedicating the 2005 edition of the festival to all those who want Lebanon to be a free country - both those who paid for that freedom with their blood and those who work to preserve this freedom.

"This year we wanted to say that our people, who always aspire to freedom and who hold onto life, are stronger when they maintain a link with their traditions and creativity."

The 2005 program is broken up into several "theme nights" - two Lebanese nights, a children's night, a Sufi night, an Egyptian night, a U.A.E. night, an Arab poetry night and a Syrian night.

The Lebanese nights feature the dulcet tones of Hiba Qawwas - performing with the Orchestra of the Lebanese Conservatoire, under the baton of Walid Gholmiyyeh - and Soumayya Baalbaki.

"Children's Night" throws the spotlight on master puppeteer Karim Dakroub, "Arab Poetry Night" hands the microphone to versifiers Shaqi Bazia, Wafa Umrani, Munsif al-Wahhabi and Farouq Shousha, while "Sufi Night" gets rhythmic with Moroccan ensemble Jal Jalala - performing in Lebanon for the first time.

The three "national nights" feature the Egyptian National Ensemble and maestro Salim Sahhab performing a program of Umm Khalthoum classics, the U.A.E. National Ensemble for Popular Art with Fayez al-Said, and Syria's Inana Ensemble plus the Syrian National Ensemble for Arabic Music.

The Tyre and South Festival will conclude like a Shakespearean comedy, with a traditional wedding. This one will feature entertainment by Faris Karam and his Band. - The Daily Star

For more information about the Tyre and South Festival, phone or fax + 961 1 791 140 / 791 252. The festival Website, www.tyrefestival.com is still loaded with information from the 2004 festival, but presumably it'll be brought up to date before July 7.

Beirut 20-06-2005
The Daily Star

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