Lebanese community in Paris marks Gibran’s 125th anniversary with music and dance show

Daily Star, Friday, November 28, 2008

Lebanese community in Paris marks Gibran’s 125th anniversary with music and dance show

By Karah Byrns

Special to The Daily Star

PARIS: The Lebanese community in Paris commemorated Tuesday the 125th birthday of Gibran Khalil Gibran with a contemporary variety show that reinvigorated patriotic sentiments in the wake of Independence Day celebrations. Attracting nearly 1,400 participants, the event offered an opportunity for Lebanese of every political, religious, and professional affiliation to celebrate a national poetic legend who makes up part of the rich cultural heritage they share.

Joumana Khaddage, deputy permanent delegate of Lebanon to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), set the tone for the evening with her heartfelt introduction to the show.

« Gibran Khalil Gibran reflects the immortality of this unique country, small in size, but great in its message. Each of them, Gibran and Lebanon, transform their pain into song, their suffering and troubles into words of poetry, and their death into rebirth. »

The show hosted by permanent delegate of Lebanon to UNESCO Sylvie Fadlallah, and organized by the World Lebanese Cultural Union, paid homage to the author by interpreting his works through contemporary music and dance.

All proceeds of the event will be donated to the construction of a new hospital in Ain-Ebel in South Lebanon.

Throughout the show Gibran’s words were seamlessly woven into a vibrant display of color, light, costume and music, drawing the audience into a dream-like sequence of nostalgic reflections on the poet’s life and work. The contemporary flavor was also accentuated by a blend of Eastern and Western styles, recalling the extensive amount of time Gibran spent outside Lebanon during his life.

Headliner Patricia Atallah, who grew up in France but never forgot her Lebanese origins, said her singing style « is inspired by both Oriental and Western techniques, » which she mixed effortlessly in a performance that had audience members clapping, singing and dancing in their seats. « At one point in the song ‘Nachid El Hob’ [composed by Joseph Khalife], I used an opera technique I learned here [in France] that is not used in Oriental music, but it blended naturally into the piece » she added.

According to Bahjat Rizk, the cultural attache of the permanent delegation of Lebanon to UNESCO, the stunning combination of Eastern and Western inspiration in the show was not only reflective of Gibran’s spirit, but also the spirit of Lebanon, where « the fusion of East and West is alchemic, creating something unique and beautiful that cannot be found elsewhere. »

Secretary general of the World Lebanese Cultural Union Georges Abi Raad expressed his deep satisfaction with the success of the show in reuniting the Lebanese community for a cultural purpose to commemorate the life of a man whose work still gives shape to Lebanese identity. « I believe there is a Gibran in each Lebanese » he said, « that each Lebanese can be a Gibran in his or her field, by excelling not only for oneself, but for the benefit of humanity. »

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