The Daily Star, 21'06'2001
related project: Lieux [1 Acte / 2 Pièces]

Summer of music and art begins at Fraykeh
An Ottoman-era silk factory will host nine days of performances

Jim Quilty
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 host.
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 you’re here.”
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 scale.”
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 Fraykeh’s intentions.
“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 completely different.”
Preceding the Daniella Barda quartet is Asphyxies, a dance interpretation of Louis Aragon’s novel Le Con d’Irène.
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 affair.
“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 impulse.”