The House of Saleh finds its musical soul

Zeina Saleh Kayali’s artistic approach came from a long-standing but never realized wish of her father Samir Saleh, a great lawyer who had lived in London since the 1980s and kept coming back to the countryside to find Beit el-Tabaris. A family home in which the young woman was born and raised, a home initially rocked by fifteen years of civil war before being burned out and destroyed by the twin blasts of August 4th. After losing her father, who died of Covid-19 in 2021 without being able to find Beit el-Tabaris, her daughter decided to remodel the house to ease her pain. “My father always dreamed of returning there and said for years: ‘I want to go back and end my days in Beit el-Tabaris’. At that time, says Zeina Saleh Kayali, I decided to go the opposite route to what all Lebanese have been doing for almost two years, which is to sell my father’s house in London and bring the furniture, all the furniture and most of all that My father’s piano in Beit el-Tabaris. “You’ve lost your mind, his friends tell him, everyone is trying to take their savings out of the country and you’re doing the opposite, it’s madness. “It’s crazy,” she replies, “I have my father to thank for that. »

In Beit el-Tabaris, music is above everything. Photo Michel Sayegh

Masters to carry the future Lebanese prodigies

Zeina Saleh Kayali grew up in a home where art was the main language, music and reading her way of communicating. A house that has a musical tradition, where mini-concerts were organized by pianist Wadad Mouzannar and where Gabriel Yared came to rehearse and train. A great music lover and avid reader, Samir Saleh was also a pianist and will pass his love of music and literature on to his children. Fifteen years of piano lessons for Zeina and hours of reading on a red velvet sofa, where she always admits she likes to settle down to read to the sound of music. With a strong passion for singing and writing that led Zeina Saleh Kayali to write more than ten books on music and to become a member of several vocal ensembles in France, where she sings regularly. She also founded a music archive center at Notre-Dame de Jamhour College. “Music helps create an identity,” she likes to repeat. His mother, in turn, will publish a collection on the history of Lebanon. “We are,” she says with disarming nostalgia, “a family who loved to hear each other write. »

The well-stocked library of Beit el-Tabaris. Photo Michel Sayegh

In Beit el-Tabaris, the library, which is accessed through double doors as if through a secret passage, testifies to the importance that the Saleh family attached to reading. The walls, more than 4 meters high, covered with wooden shelves that bend under the weight of the great feathers of literature and law, are so disturbing that the beauty of this place is reassuring. “My father, confiding to the co-founder of the Lebanese Musical Heritage Center, reiterated: ‘We feel important in this library.’ for me a way to boost the morale of Lebanese students who are desperate from an economic situation that is crippling them. Not being able to train abroad, this project is like a breath of fresh air to give them a little hope and encourage them to never give up. » This project was born in partnership with the French Institute, the help of the Buffet Crampon company, which manufactures wind instruments, and some private sponsors. From May 23rd to 28th, Abdel Rahman el-Bacha, a great French pianist of Lebanese origin, will open the season, accompanied by Suzanne Vermeyen on cello. In September, an Italian tenor will offer a master class in opera singing in collaboration with Notre Dame University (NDU). From November 3rd to 9th, Patrick Messina (1st solo clarinet of the National Orchestra of France) and Sylvia Carredu (1st solo flute of the Orchester de France) will take over. “We hope, adds Zeina Saleh Kayali, that the year 2023 will be dedicated to master classes in violin, composition, choral conducting and orchestral conducting. The house, which has four bedrooms for the maestros, also has a room for master classes, which will be free, and another for relaxation and for the library, not to mention the kitchen where Zeina Saleh Kayali adds a playful touch pink dared. The architect Joseph Maroun, who renovated the residence, knew how to preserve its soul while giving it a new face. The musicians are accommodated and a Lebanese caterer provides them with meals.

In Beit el-Tabaris, music is above everything. Photo Michel Sayegh

Our houses are a mirror of our soul

The relationships we have with our home sometimes causes us to live strange lives. Each of us was at some point owned or dispossessed of a home. We project our most unconscious desires onto it and the soul of the house is always a reflection of our own. Often linked to a memory, a loved one, it crystallizes our emotions and our feelings. We have an intense, even passionate, relationship with her. We love it, we shudder at the thought of losing it, we frantically seek to find it… Witnessing a fragment of our history, it is also a part of ourselves that we find difficult to part with. Zeina Saleh Kayali resurrected this soul so that the heart of the Saleh house begins to beat again to the rhythm of his father’s piano. “My father, naturally cynical but very affectionate, would certainly have been proud of this project, but could not have refrained from telling me: ‘Lachou kel hal labaké’ (Why are you bothering about this project?), concludes this music lover . At the end of the interview, the sound of a Chopin study (Butterfly) played by Alissa Baaklini, a 25-year-old agricultural engineer and conservatory student, who came to practice ahead of the master class, gave the semblance of an initiative that looks very promising.

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Zeina Saleh Kayali has been committed to promoting Lebanese musical heritage for many years. She is co-founder of the Lebanese Musical Heritage Center (CPML – Espace Robert Matta) and the annual Festival Musicales du Liban in Paris. She founded and directs the collection Figures musicales du Liban, which aims to promote Lebanese musical heritage of the 20th and 21st centuries, and collaborates with L’Orient-Le Jour as a musical columnist.

Zeina Saleh Kayali’s artistic approach came from a long-standing but never realized wish of her father Samir Saleh, a great lawyer who had lived in London since the 1980s and kept coming back to the countryside to find Beit el-Tabaris. A detached house in which the young woman was born and grew up, a house that was first violently shaken by…

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