Bahrain: Frustrated Fayrouz fans

This year's Spring of Culture, the biggest arts festival in Bahrain, has just started. Bloggers have got plenty to say about it – especially about the star attraction, Lebanese singer Fayrouz; tickets for her concert sold out almost immediately, and many are now being resold on the black market for highly inflated prices.

Fayrouz ticket

Image credit: Al Kaseef

We start with Hasan, who looks back to the controversy that surrounded Spring of Culture last year:

I just came back from the first event of the Spring of Culture here in Bahrain; the Armenian National Opera and Ballet Theatre was performing “Gayane” at the Culture Hall in Bahrain.
I actually felt different things while sitting in the Culture Hall in Manama. Exactly a year ago, the whole Majnoon Layla controversy was ‘staged’ in this place. This year’s opening act, interestingly, is also a dance based on the theme of love – which I found encouraging for those who stood on Marcel Khalife and Qassim Haddad’s message last year.
The Culture Hall, to me, is a pseudo-battlefield in which Bahrain is trying to figure out where it stands on different issues regarding its own identity. But I may be over-analyzing things.

Yagoob is confident that the Spring of Culture will be better than ever:

…reasons why this year’s spring will be much better than last year’s:

- Fairooz, you can’t get any classier!
– Much more family oriented shows such as Jump, Stomp and the Japanese Garden than the years before
– The big shows in Arad Fort are extended to two and three days unlike last year where most shows were one night only and left many people cursing themselves for missing out
– More Bahraini artists are participating
– Fayrouz (yes I changed the spelling) selling out in an hour!

Fayrouz is such an icon that everyone knew tickets to see her would sell like hot cakes; however some bloggers feel there is more to the story than meets the eye. Maroon Al Ras has a conspiracy theory, that he backs up with anecdotal evidence, about the involvement of the Lebanese community in Bahrain:

وعلى مسئوليتي، وبعد الاعتذار ممن يجب الاعتذار منه في إيراد هذا الاتهام، فإن متابعتي لموضوع تذاكر فيروز التي اختفت من مراكز البيع في دقائق معدودات، تبين الآتي:الشكوك تدور حول ” لوبي” من جنسية عربية في البحرين، وتحديدا هي”اللبنانية” قام بشراء معظم التذاكر، وهو يقوم بيعها الآن في الأسواق، وهناك أكثر من حادثة ” بيع سوداء” تشير إلى ذلك.

I take full responsibility and after apologising to those I should apologise to, those following the Fayrouz tickets issue, which have disappeared from box offices in a matter of minutes, have come to the following conclusion: There are suspicions surrounding a lobby from an Arab country, specifically the Lebanese, who have purchased most of the tickets, and are selling them on the black market. There are a number of incidents which point to that.

Butterfly blames other reasons for not being able to get a ticket:

أنا مستاءة .. مستاءة جدا .. ليس فقط بسبب عدم حصولي على تذكرة يتيمة لحضور حفل فيروز رغم أني ومنذ الاعلان عن مشاركتها في ربيع الثقافة لهذا العام وأنا أتصل يوميا بل كل ساعة للسؤال عن الوقت الذي سيتم فيه البيع فعليا، وليس لأنني ناقمة على من سلبوا مني ومن آخرين حلم أنتظرناه طويلا ولا ندري ان كان سيتحقق يوما فهذه هي المرة الثالثة وربما تكون الأخيرة التي سيهطل فيها صوت فيروز على أرض البحرين
أنا مستاءة .. مستاءة جدا لان ثقافتنا أصبحت ثقافة على قياس أصحاب الكروش الكبيرة وليسمح لي زميلي المدون الكسيف على استعارتي لعبارته التي وجدتها التعبير الأمثل لربيع ثقافة البحرين
أنا مستاءة لسلسلة الاكاذيب والتصريحات المتضاربة التي كنت الشاهد الاول على عدم صحتها او مصداقيتها .. لم تنفذ التذاكر في الساعة العاشرة صباحا ولا في الثانية عشرة ولا حتى في الصباح الباكر رغم استحالة حدوث ذلك بسبب وقوع أحد مركزي البيع في مجمع تجاري لا يفتح ابوابه قبل الساعة العاشرة صباحا. لقد نفذت التذاكر قبل ذلك الموعد بكثير بعد ان تقاسمتوها بينكم وبين اقاربكم واصدقائكم ومعارفكم هنا وهناك ولم تكتفوا عند هذا الحد فمنحتم المتبقي منها للمزايدين وتجار السوق السوداء
انا مستاءة ولكن عزائي الوحيد ان حضور جارة القمر كشف وجه ثقافتكم الحقيقية .. ثقافة الواسطة والمحسوبيات

I am annoyed… very annoyed; not just because I wasn't able to get a single ticket to attend Fayrouz's concert although I have been calling the organisers daily – no hourly – since the announcement was made that she will be performing at the Spring of Culture event to see when the tickets will actually go on sale. I am not envious that they have denied me and others a dream we have been waiting for a long time for, one which we don't even know will ever recur. This is the third and perhaps the last time Fayrouz sings in Bahrain. I am annoyed .. very annoyed because or culture has now become a culture which is measured by those with huge bellies. If my blogging colleague Al Kaseef would allow me, I would like to borrow some of his phrases which I found to be the most suitable to describe the Spring of Culture festival. I am annoyed with the series of lies and contradicting announcements which I witnessed personally … The tickets did not run out at 10am or at noon or at the wee hours of the morning simply because one of the sales points was at a commercial mall which doesn't open its doors before 10am. The tickets have run out before that by a long period of time – after you have split them up among yourselves, your relatives, friends and acquaintances from here and there. You did not stop there but distributed the rest to the black market traders. I am annoyed, but my only condolence is that the presence of Fayrouz exposed the true face of your culture – the culture of nepotism.

The Girl with No Face explains why Fayrouz means so much to her – but she is still prepared to part with her ticket:

I’m going to her concert.. YES .. i DID manage to get Fairouz concert tickets. I am fabulous. haha .. […] When I was younger, Every morning my mum would play fairouz and Majda al Roumi all the way from Adleya to Isa town (where we went to school for a few years). so now, when i listen to her music (some songs more than others) I get funny carefree feelings. I feel 5 years old again and happy =D

p.s. anyone willing to pay 400 dinars [approx. 1060 USD] for the ticket I have, I am willing to sell (need to pay off my credit card)

Al Kaseef is hanging onto his ticket, and going to the concert:

أنا ذاهب لفيروز. ومتيقن في ذهابي هذا أنني لن أستمع إلى بعض روائعها التي أحب وأعشق.. متأكد، فما عساها أن تكفي الساعة أو الساعتين.. لا تكفي لاختزال عملها.. لكن المحب غير الأناني لا يطلب الكثير.. المحب يستطيع تفهم أن فيروز الآن في السبعين في عمرها أو أزيد بقليل.

I am going to Fayrouz .. while knowing that I will not hear all her marvels which I love. I am confident of that as what is an hour or two? They are not enough to summarise her work … but a lover, who isn't selfish, doesn't ask for a lot. The lover understands that Fayrouz is now in her 70s or a little older.

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