Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

The most beautiful stage on earth? Mohammed Assaf performs at Baalbeck

The Palestinian singer performed a 'cine-concert' as a tribute to the late Abdel Halim

Gazan singing legend Mohammed Assaf performed to a huge crowd at the Baalbeck International Festival in the Bekaa Valley on Saturday night.

The acclaimed Palestinian crooner, 29, took to the festival's spectacular stage, which is wedged between the temples of Jupiter and Bacchus, among the largest and best preserved Roman temples in the world.

The ancient site is undeniably one of the globe's most striking concert venues:

The show was actually a 'cine concert' and he performed, in part, with late Egyptian singer Abdel Halim. Halim passed away in 1977, but his image was projected onto the stage, and Assaf sang along with him.

This video shows how the concert worked:

The star took time to take photos with the emergency services while there:

The festival started in 1956, and in the 1960s and 1970s, legends such as Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Umm Kulthum and Fairouz, performed there, drawing in many tourists from the Gulf. But today the festival faces economic pressures. Its revenue comes from ticket sales, sponsorship and government subsidy – all of which are under pressure.

“There are challenges and we have to fight, but it’s very important that we preserve the standard of the festival,” Nayla De Freij, chairwoman of the Baalbek International Festival, told Reuters in April.

Assaf, although only young, is an artist who truly respects the classics, and the heritage of Arabic music that paved the way for him: “I am not going to lie to you, there is a problem in the scene at the moment and it’s not the fault of the listeners; some of that responsibility lies on the shoulders of us artists ourselves,” he told us last month. “We can’t simply say we are simply following the market and giving people what they want.

“I have always discussed the importance of good lyricism and composition and the need to really bring the art back to the music. And this is the reason I am increasingly adding more songs from the great classic Arab artists, such as Abdel Halim Hafez, Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Umm Kulthum and Fayza Ahmed to my sets, because that is real art and that should be honoured.”

Updated: July 21, 2019 11:32 AM

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