Summer of music and art begins at
An Ottoman-era silk factory will host
nine days of
Daily Star staff
As Beirut begins to sag beneath the
weight of its
heat and humidity, its recession-weary
residents begin to look to the
hills ? and the summer-time festivals they
The most recent in the country’s expanding
festival repertoire, and the
first to commence, will be hosted in an
Ottoman-era silk reeling
factory in Fraykeh, in the foothills above
the Nahr al-Kalb.
“Fraykeh has always been culturally
significant for its size,” says
festival organizer Gregory Buchakjian.
“It’s been home to famed writer
Amin al-Rihani and Naoum and Salloum
Moukarzel. It’s also attracted a
number of foreign artists ? like the
painter-sculptor Alphonse Philips,
who taught at Alba and left an indelible
impression upon the school.
“There’s a desire to nurture the cultural
life here. The factory itself
is so theater-like that it cries out to be
used for performance. And
Fraykeh’s just an interesting place.
You’re not far from Beirut but you
shrug off the city very quickly once
The present incarnation of the Fraykeh
festival is the brainchild of
Gilles Abu Debs. But the original idea of
using the silk factory for an
arts festival sprang from the mind of
Gilles’ father ? Lebanese theater
innovator Mounir Abu Debs.
“Mounir first made an effort to make a
festival here in 1983. Then in
1999 Gilles decided to resurrect the idea.
Last year there was a small
festival here, but this is the first time
it’s happening on a large
Over 11 days Fraykeh will host three
different programs featuring eight
performances and an installation piece
contributed by the Masrah
Beirut. The performances pair contemporary
dance and jazz;
French-language theater and poetry;
Arabic-language theater; and a
musical dialogue featuring virtuosi of the
kanun and the zither. The
involvement of Masrah Beirut betrays
“Most of Lebanon’s summer festivals are
extremely commercial,” observes
Buchakjian. “We want to present an
alternative arts festival.”
After hosting its own version of the Fete
de la Musique on June 21,
Fraykeh’s program begins in earnest the
next night with two shows ?
modern dance followed by jazz quartet.
The Daniella Barda quartet will perform a
mixed repertoire of original
compositions and jazz standards ? from
Cole Porter to George Gershwin
to Rodgers and Hart. Stylistically Barda ?
an Australian national
living in Paris ? says the quartet is most
influenced by the Latin
sounds of Samba and Bossa.
“No,” she admits, “I don’t much care for
‘busy jazz.’ But hard bop can
be good if it’s done well ? like much of
the work Miles Davis and John
Coltrane did together. Cannonball
Adderley’s work is considered very
busy, but it’s also highly melodic.”
Barda distinguishes three elements in her
compositions ? melody, mood
and space. “Space” expressing itself,
principally, in silence.
“Silence is the perfect foil for sound.
Then there is the sound of
silence itself, which is something
Preceding the Daniella Barda quartet is
Asphyxies, a dance
interpretation of Louis Aragon’s novel Le
The piece was created and will be
performed by La Compagnie Man Drake ?
comprised of Barcelona native Toméo Verges
and Alvaro Morell.
Asphyxies was created to commemorate what
would have been the 100th
birthday of the author ? a prominent
member of the surrealist movement
who broke with his colleagues to join the
communist party. He wrote Le
Con d’Irène during a suicidal period he
suffered after a failed
“Asphyxies is a performance of both
movement and text,” says Verges.
“But it’s mostly movement, the three
extracts read from Le Con
d’Irène are quite brief. The two men
perform together, but there
is no contact between them whatever ? an
expression of the conflict
expressed in Aragon’s book.
“It’s a conflict between mind and body.
Between intellect and physical