Celebrating jazz for one day in Downtown Beirut

BEIRUT: Beirut International Jazz Day is back with a lineup of six acts, which were announced at a news conference Thursday.

Scheduled to take place on April 30 under the patronage of UNESCO, half a dozen performances will transform Beirut’s Downtown into an open-air jazz club.

The Lebanese Conservatory Big Band will open the festivities at 7 p.m., mingling jazz classics with newer tunes. The 18 musicians are set to thrill with rhythmic saxophone, trumpet and trombone solos.

Those whose taste runs toward the good old blues will be happy to hear that The Real Deal Blues Band – considered among the best Lebanese performers representing jazz culture in the country – are scheduled to immerse audiences in their smooth Chicago groove. Composed of Hani Alayli, Elie Farah and Issa Ghrayeb, the band will showcase the sound they’ve been working on together since 1997.

The Real Deal Blues Band will be followed by F.B.B. (aka “Funky Blues Band”), who will reinterpret classics by BB King and Elmore James, among other legendary jazz singers and musicians. Their set should prove a nice test for those who consider themselves aficionados of the jazz classics.

An alternative take on the jazz theme will be provided by Xango. This Lebanon-based band takes its inspiration from Brazilian music and will perform compositions by Toquinho, Sergio Mendes and Baden Powel, to name a few.

Called the “Dean of Jazz Musicians,” Arthur Satyan will also be on hand with his Organ Quartet to perform jazz fusion – both Satyan’s personal compositions and exceptional arrangements. Satyan routinely performs around the city several times a week and has released multiple albums. He is among Beirut’s most prominent jazz musicians, so for those as yet unfamiliar with his work, this could be a chance to discover his unique sound.

Jazzmine Bey Quartet will draw a curtain on this day of jazz grooves with their blend of tunes by McCoy Tyner and Abdullah Ibrahim, among others. Composed of four European musicians, this Beirut-based band promises to bring their own unique blend of jazz fusion to the mix.

Source: The Daily Star

Clooney “besotted” with Beirut babe Amal Alamuddin

George Clooney is ready to settle down with his new girlfriend Amal Alamuddin, according to pals.

Friends of the 52-year-old actor, who has been going out with the 36-year-old advisor to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan since October 2013, said that the Lebanese born beauty is not like any other woman Clooney’s been with before, and he’s completely besotted with her.

The pal also said that Clooney has already spoken to Amal’s parents to ask her hand in marriage, Daily Star reported.

The source also claimed that Clooney had made it clear to Alamuddin’s parents that his intentions were honourable and he wanted to marry her. The Oscar winner is even ready to relocate to London for her, though he will keep his main home in Los Angeles.

Clooney, who’s first marriage with actress Talia Balsam ended in 1993, recently returned from a vacation in Tanzania and the Seychelles with his British barrister girlfriend before heading to Dubai in order to get to know her family better.


Source: Al-Bawaba

Top Egypt censor quits after Wehbe film pulled

CAIRO: The head of Egypt’s censorship board has resigned in protest at a decision to pull Lebanese star Haifa Wehbe’s latest movie, which has been criticised for scenes deemed sexually provocative.

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab ordered “Halawet Rooh” (Beauty of the Soul) not to be screened until the censorship board reviews it again.

Revealing clothes worn by the pop and film star in the movie, sexually explicit movements and scenes featuring a young boy fascinated by her have stirred harsh criticism.

The censorship board head, film-maker Ahmed Awad, announced his resignation late Friday on the privately owned television channel CBC Two, saying he stood by his decision to allow the film to be shown.

The Egyptian-made movie, said to have been inspired by Monica Bellucci’s 2000 hit “Malena”, was released nationwide on April 3 for adults only audiences.

“I took the decision to allow the movie: I stand by it and I bear complete responsibility,” Awad said.

“The state has another opinion – they canceled our decision and withdrew the production”, he added, saying he was not consulted.

“Like any other self-respecting official, I presented my resignation.”

The plot revolves around Rooh, played by Wehbe, who ignites passions among men in her neighbourhood when her husband is away.

Independent newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm lashed out at the movie in a review headlined: “Halawet Rooh: how to produce an Egyptian porn movie.”

And Egypt’s National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, a government body, said the film posed “a moral danger” which could impact “public morals negatively”.

It praised Mahlab’s order as “responsible and wise”.

One media commentator saw possible sinister connotations in the ban.

“The one who bans a movie because he thinks it breaks morals will ban a movie” tomorrow for political reasons, television host Ibrahim Eissa said.

Source: AFP

Raunchy Haifa Wehbe film pulled from UAE cinemas

The National Media Council (NMC), the UAE body tasked with approving films for cinematic release, on Thursday said that they haven’t asked for the suspension of Arabic film Halawet Al Rooh in the UAE.

The Haifa Wehbe film was on Wednesday was pulled from screens in Egypt after complaints about its sexual content. The film released in 28 cinemas the UAE on April 10 and this week was the third most-watched film in the country, with four-day weekend admission of 26,453, according to statistics from local film distributors. Only Rio 2 and Captain America: Winter Soldier had more viewers.

A spokesperson for Vox Cinemas on Thursday told tabloid! the film was pulled from UAE screens on Thursday morning, saying it was banned after censors viewed it for a second time. The film is distributed by Gulf Film, who have not made any comment as yet.

“We didn’t confiscate it or withdraw the film after eight days of its release. Maybe the distributors made that decision. You should ask the producers or distributors of that film,” said Juma Obaid Al Leem, director of the Media Content Tracking Department at the NMC. However, he added that he had received several complaints about cinemas not respecting the 18+ rating issued by NMC.

“We heard that some cinemas were allowing people under 18 years of age to watch the film and that they were not obliging or respecting our rating. So we checked and gave them instructions to strictly adhere to it and had meeting with them about it,” said Al Leem. When asked which local cinema had flouted rules, he declined to name them.

The film, the title of which translates to Beauty of the Soul, is said to have been inspired by Monica Bellucci’s 2000 hit “Malena”, and revolves around Rooh, played by dark-haired pop star Wehbe, who ignites passion among the men in her neighbourhood when her husband is away.


Source: Gulf News

Jounieh Festival shows to go on despite political tensions

BEIRUT: Another season of long-anticipated concerts will kick off this summer, despite the political tension.

Neemat Frem, founder of Phellipolis, which sponsors the Jounieh International Festival, expressed the event organizers’ determination to hold the annual festival despite the fact that the security situation in the country remains uneasy.

The program for this year’s festival was announced at a press conference Tuesday and the line-up promises a few surprises.

“Every year it gets more difficult,” said Joe Beano, head of the festival’s marketing committee. “We have to take risks every time.”

Beano added that it had been more difficult to generate the required funding this year in comparison to previous editions of the festival, but said the support of several local banks and insurance companies had made it possible for the event to go ahead.

As in previous years, the festival will kick off with a fireworks display in Jounieh bay on June 27.

“It will be … synchronized with musical effects,” Beano revealed, adding that it would be “broadcast on several television channels.”

Unlike some other editions of the festival, this year’s line-up includes concerts and events catered to a wide range of musical tastes.

Elias Rahbani will conduct his orchestra on July 2, performing famous hits including “Diala,” “Endless Love” and “Love Words,” among others. A member of the legendary Rahbani family, he has written many songs for diva Fairuz and has also composed music for plays and television programs.

Aficionados of French music will be pleased to know that young French singer Zaz will come to Jounieh on July 3 to regale audiences with her greatest hits. Her talent was recently recognized with an award, presented by French musician Jean-Michel Jarre at the Grand Prix SACEM last November. Born Isabelle Geffroy, Zaz’s rich voice will immerse the audience in her joyful mood through songs including “Je Veux” and “On Ira.”

The concert that seems likely to be the biggest hit with local fans will be Imagine Dragons’ performance on July 7. The Grammy and AMA-winning American alternative rock band rose to fame with tunes such as “Radioactive” and “Demons.” They will be performing for one night only in Lebanon, amid their European tour.

On July 10, the stage of the Fouad Chehab Stadium will be invaded by the singing team behind the French version of “The Voice.”

The finalists of the show will interpret the tunes that made them famous in their third consecutive performance in Lebanon.

As in previous years, the organizers of the festival have also programmed many diverse activities into their festival schedule. Roads will be car-free and parades, carnivals and other events for children are scheduled to take place.

The Jounieh Festival aims to show that, unlike many of Lebanon’s summer festivals, the event is not only about concerts and performances, but also about making audiences discover or re-discover their city through social events.

The Jounieh International Festival runs from June 27 until July 10. For tickets, please call 01-999-666.

Source: The Daily Star

Haifa Wehbe’s sexuality in the film Halawet Rouh unnerves Qatari society

Qatari filmgoers were furious at the screening of Haifa Wehbe’s latest film Halawet Rouh (Beauty of the Soul), due to the indecent nature of the film.

As a result, there was a social media outrage due to the x-rated content of the film, which was deemed inappropriate to the norms of the conservative Arab culture.

The hashtag #banbeautyofthesouldmovie was trending on Twitter in support of banning the film from screening in Qatari cinemas.

They claim the film was banned in some of Qatar’s neighbouring countries for its brazen display of “nudity,” and the sexual undertones.

Concerned Qatari citizens said: “How could they have approved such a movie, we need new regulations to ensure that such unconventional movies are kept out of our islamic society.”


Source: Al-Bawaba

BIPOD dance festival kicked off in Beirut

Lebanon gets a taste of the world of the dance world, as Maqamat Dance Theatre kicked off its 10th annual dance event on Thursday, April 10th, 2014.
BIPOD (Beirut International Platform of Dance) was launched in 2004 as the Beirut International Dance Festival, organized by the Maqamat Dance Theater located in Hamra. The event offers dancing performances displayed by artists of different origins, at the same time, workshops, conferences, debates in order to develop new concepts of contemporary dancing. In addition, it will widen their performance scope by exposing them to international work and creating an interactive atmosphere between artists. This year’s line-up includes internationally acclaimed companies from Norway, Belgium, Lebanon, UK, Germany, Morocco, Australia, France and Switzerland.The first event entitled “Still Current” was a night of performances by the Russell Maliphant Company (UK). A combination of solos, duets and trios, the performances displayed choreography inspired by ballet, modern dance and martial arts, with tribal drum music of different rhythm patterns.

The dancers moved deliberately, creating poetry with their bodies, expressing emotions from love to longing, exposing themselves to the audience, letting the music lead their steps. As beautiful as their movements were, the choreography however was repetitive and stifling, as the dancers were sometimes confined to dancing in one particular spot instead of moving throughout the large stage. It felt like they couldn’t exactly break free.

The last performance of the evening was a duet, a love story, showing the flow of a relationship, from meeting to having doubts, to breaking up, to getting back together again. The lighting along with the music and choreography all came together quite beautifully to create a piece of art.

Overall, the night was a successful one, and a great start to BIPOD 2014.


Source: iLoubnan

No Haifa “Catwoman” Wehbe to be seen in Samo Zain’s new music video as promised?

Syrian singer Samo Zain held a press conference at the luxurious Four Seasons hotel in Beirut to launch his latest album “Zay Ay Tinain” (Like any Two).

During the conference, Samo said that he had previously hoped to have Lebanese diva Haifa Wehbe star in his music video for the single “Al Qittah” (The Cat), but the project was never implemented and the song was never filmed as a music video to begin with. He cheekily said that Haifa will always symbolize a beautiful cat in his eyes. Whatever rocks your boat Samo!

According to Sayidaty.net, Samo arrived to the conference fashionably late – 20 minutes to be precise – where members of the press were waiting for his arrival. The overall atmosphere was very friendly and he answered the majority of questions thrown by journalists at him.

Samo had specifically wanted his comeback to the music scene, and the launch of his new album, to happen in Lebanon.

“I know I have been absent from the music scene for some time now. Many have asked where I’d gone to and where my albums that I had released were at, but my albums are still in stores and are witnessing a great success. The real issue lies within the production company ‘Mazzika,’ but I’m now very optimistic with my new album and expect great things to come out of it.”

As for the rumored arguments between him and Egyptian superstar Tamer Hosny, Samo expressed his awe at such claims and stressed that he and Tamer are the closest of buds and all that has been said is untrue.

He said: “I think of my fans and the millions of members on my Facebook page, and I think of Tamer and his important place in the entertainment scene. So when him and I read about those rumors we did not care to give them much thought at all.”


Source: Albawaba

Ninety minutes of tarab with Shaar

BEIRUT: From behind the red velvet curtains of Metro al-Madina, four musicians emerge to take the stage, resplendent in matching black suits and red bow ties. Stage right sits Ziad Ahmadieh with his oud. Mohammad Nahas positions himself beside him, behind his qanoun. Alongside, violinist Ziad Jaafar prepares his instrument. Rik (tambourine) in hand, Bahaa Daou takes a seat stage left. Finally, veteran vocalist Abdel Karim al-Shaar takes his place at the center, says a warm welcome to his audience and sits down, just centimeters from the front row of tables.

The music begins.

This evening’s program features one single song, “Hayarti Albi Maak” (You Confused my Heart), a much-loved standard from the songbook of Umm Kulthum – the woman dubbed Star of the East back in the 1960s.

The tune of this rapturous 40-minute torch song was composed by Riad al-Santabli to accompany Ahmad Rami’s lyrics. The version performed by Shaar and his ensemble is 50 minutes longer than any extant recording of Umm Kulthum’s original but just as potent.

Like Umm Kulthum, Shaar studied the art of “Tajwid” (Quranic recitation) as a young man. The Tripoli-born vocalist is distinguished among his peers for his mastery of the vocal tradition that features both the tuneful articulation and ornamentation of Arabic phrasing as well as the mental and physical stamina needed for long hours of performance.

After decades of exposure to the 2.5-minute pop song model, it may be difficult to conceive of sitting through the concert performance of a single long-form piece. Yet, at Shaar’s March 20 performance of “Hayarti Albi Maak,” the audience at Metro al-Madina was transported through a wide array of emotions, emerging at the other end exhausted yet elated.

Shaar and his ensemble are faithful to Umm Kulthum’s version of the song, though they do repeat a few refrains more frequently, and the rhythm of the music is slowed to allow for this.

Shaar also introduces some of his own vocal improvisations – “layali” (from “layl,” night), an unmetered modal departure from the set lyrics. An hour or so into “Hayarti Albi Maak,” the audience’s classic music aficionados recognized the words of another Egyptian tune “Leh ya Binafseg,” (Why are You Alone) composed by Riad al-Santabli and made famous by vocalist Saleh Abdel-Hay.

Having referenced a line from “Leh ya Binafseg,” Shaar moves into a “layali” then back to “Hayart albi Maak,” holding his audience rapt. Later on, he weaves in the chorus of “Ghanili Shway Shway” (Sing to Me Little by Little) – an Oum Kulthum tune from the soundtrack of the 1945 film “Salama.”

Throughout Shaar’s performance, many audience members confidently sang along. As is often the case with well-performed tarab music, the sounds emitted by the performers were punctuated by eruptions of “Ouf!” and “Allah!” from the spectators.

The applause at the end was enthusiastic, and Shaar returned for a brief encore – some 30 minutes in length.

Abdel Karim al-Shaar will restage “Hayarti Albi Maak” at Metro al-Madina Saturday evening. Doors Open at 9:30 p.m. For more information, please see www.metromadina.com or call 01-753-021.

The Daily Star

Facebook to buy virtual reality goggles maker for $2bn

Facebook Inc will acquire two-year-old Oculus VR Inc, a maker of virtual-reality glasses for gaming, for $2 billion, buying its way into the fast-growing wearable devices arena with its first-ever hardware deal.

The acquisition, which comes hot on the heels of its $19 billion deal for messaging service WhatsApp, marks a big bet byFacebook to anticipate the next shift in an evolving technology industry, at a time when consumers are increasingly abandoning their PCs for smartphones.

The world’s largest social network was deemed late to recognize the shift to mobile devices and the company’s revenue has only recently begun to recover from the late start.

Many in the industry believe that wearable devices could represent the next big platform shift. Google Inc has been testing Google Glass, a stamp-sized electronic screen mounted to a pair of eyeglasses for several years. Last week, it introduced an effort to develop computerized wristwatches.

On Tuesday, Facebook said virtual-reality technology could emerge as the next social and communications platform.

“The history of our industry is that every 10 or 15 years there’s a new major computing platform, whether it’s the PC, the Web or now mobile,” Facebook co-founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call with analysts and media on Tuesday to discuss the acquisition.

“We’re making a long-term bet that immersive, virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily life,” the 29-year-old Zuckerberg said, noting that wearing the Oculus goggles was “different than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

Zuckerberg said Facebook was not interested in becoming a hardware company and did not intend to try to make a profit from sales of the devices over the long term. Instead, he said Facebook’s software and services would continue to serve as the company’s underlying business, potentially generating revenue on Oculus devices through everything from advertising to sales of virtual goods.

While Oculus will operate as an independent company, Zuckerberg stressed that Facebook’s plans for Oculus extended well beyond games.

“Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home,” he said.

In addition to game makers, Oculus has garnered some interest from developers keen on creating apps in areas like architecture, automobiles, marketing and education, the company has said.

Shares of Facebook, which have risen 25 percent in the past six months, were down nearly 1 percent at $64.36 in late trading on Tuesday.

Facebook’s recent spate of acquisitions is somewhat concerning, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney wrote in a note to investors on Tuesday. But he said that for a company of Facebook’s size, the deal did not seem “irrational.”

“The question this time is whether Facebook is too early or simply betting on the wrong platform. This won’t be known for some time. But if it gets the platform right, we’re relatively confident that Facebook will develop an effective monetization strategy for it, thus boosting its overall financial growth,” Mahaney said.

The acquisition makes Oculus VR one of the most successful companies or projects to ever emerge from the fledgling Kickstarter program, which has helped attract small investments from the public for everything from the Pebble smartwatch to the recent “Veronica Mars” movie.

Oculus VR, founded by Palmer Luckey, a self-described virtual-reality enthusiast and hardware geek, got its start as a Kickstarter-funded program, drawing small investments from thousands of people on the popular fund-raising platform.

It quickly drew attention to its “Oculus Rift” virtual-reality glasses, demoed at tech and gaming conventions around the country.

Oculus VR raised $75 million in December in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz, to market its virtual-reality headset for video games and develop the product for use in areas like education, film, architecture and design. Andreessen Horowitz partner Marc Andreessen, who is also on Facebook’s board, said in a tweet on Tuesday that he was recused “on both sides” of the Facebook Oculus deal.

Other venture capital backers included Spark Capital, Formation 8 and Matrix Partners. Oculus now employs more than 100 people and has distributed some 75,000 software development kits for Oculus Rift to game developers and others.

It recently began taking orders for new software development kits with better graphics and features to reduce motion sickness – a frequent complaint of the old prototype – slated to ship in July for $350 apiece.

Oculus plans to produce commercial versions of its virtual-reality glasses, called Oculus Rift, which users mount on their heads with a strap. It also hopes to take its technology beyond gaming.

“Virtual reality creates a canvas that is much richer than anything we’ve seen in computing so far,” Antonio Rodriguez, Oculus board member and general partner at Matrix Partners said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday.

He said virtual reality presents an opportunity to re-imagine various tasks and social interactions in areas like medicine and education.

So far, “people have done all sort of apps (outside gaming) like body switching apps, where two bodies are scanned and you can switch identities.

Last week, Sony unveiled a prototype for a new virtual-reality headset accessory for its Playstation 4 games console at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The headset, still in development under the name “Project Morpheus”, is designed to provide an immersive experience for gamers and is poised to compete with Oculus’ Rift once both devices are on the market.

The deal, which Facebook said is expected to close in the second quarter, marks the company’s second multi-billion dollar acquisition since mid-February.

Zuckerberg said on the call the two deals involved “incredibly rare companies” and that Facebook was unlikely to continue making big acquisitions at a similar pace.

Facebook ended 2013 with $11.45 billion in cash and marketable securities. The company’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp includes $4 billion in cash. The Oculus deal comprises $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook common stock.

Finance Chief David Ebersman said the price of the deal was based primarily on the gaming business, but that Facebook believed the technology could be worth “multiples” of the purchase price if Facebook succeeds in extending it into other areas such as entertainment and communications.


Arabian Business

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