News Column

Fabric of music and dance to close Zouk Mikael

August 6, 2014

Zalfa Halabi



BEIRUT: The fifth edition of the Zouk Mikael Festival (ZMF) will wind up Thursday evening with "Naseej" (Fabric). Staged by Nagy Souraty, this world premiere concert-cum-performance marks the launch of the Sufi-inspired album of the same name, a collaboration of Mike Massy, Sary KhalifÉ and Ayad KahlifÉ.

Massy and the KhalifÉ brothers attracted ZMF's attention because of their successful collaboration at last year's Batroun Festival. Zouk Mikael's management offered to produce an album of the trio's work and stage this unique CD launch, with a world tour planned to follow.

A versatile artist, Massy enrolled at the Lebanese University's faculty of fine arts in 2011, where he obtained a degree in drama. His studies saw him cross paths with Souraty, the prolific dramaturge and artistic director at Masrah al-Madina.

Massy was the opening act of the first edition of the Mishkal Festival Masrah al-Madina's emerging artist platform, which Souraty co-founded with Nidal al-Ashkar.

Souraty recalls Massy's solo piano recital as a one-man show, not an opening act. "I also realized when I saw Sary and Ayad perform at Batroun," Souraty adds amusingly, "that Sary doesn't breathe while playing the cello. The cello breathes for him. The first thing I said to Ayad after the performance was 'Were you born in a piano?'"

Souraty aspired to collaborate with the trio and that goal came to fruition when Massy approached Souraty about staging the world premiere of "Naseej" (literally "to weave together to make a coherent whole").

"Massy told me, 'I don't want the album launch to be just a concert,'" Souraty explains. "'I want this to be a performance.'"

Souraty promises to bring his signature multilayered direction to the show. "Along with the musicians, there will be two dancers who will not be dancing per se, like I instruct actors not to act on stage," Souraty laughs. "There will also definitely be fire and water."

He says staging this performance has been challenging because it is primarily a concert. The music isn't accompanying the performance. The idea is to have the performance accompany and accentuate the music.

As noted, "Naseej's" music is inspired by Sufism. This ancient Muslim practice is neither a free-standing religion nor a cult but has been described as a mystical approach to attaining communion with the deity.

Sufi practice has often been depicted as a purification process, and Sufi scholars have noted that it's no coincidence that, etymologically speaking "Sufi" is connected to the word "safi" (pure). Sound, music and movement form an important unity in Sufism. Through this meditative form, adherents aspire to proximity to and unity with God.

Dancers Rosanna Lahoud and Jimmy Bechara both agree that participating in this performance represents both challenges and rewards. "It is a very nice experience to dance to Sufi music," Lahoud said. "We have been trying to make Jimmy fly but he isn't able to, not yet."

"Naseej" will be staged at Zouk Mikael's Roman theater on Thursday Aug. 7. For more information, please see http://www.zoukmikaelfestival.org/.


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Source: Daily Star, The (Lebanon)


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