Jasmine Festival Artistic Director talks about the 2015 event

Following the conclusion of the 2015 Jasmine Festival, Artistic Director Tareq Abboushi spoke about the challenges and successes of the festival. Eight concerts took place over the course of a week, from 4th – 10th March, in Ramallah and Jerusalem, with artists including a Palestine-based choir, an Italian jazz quartet and a trio playing classical Indian music. One of the biggest challenges, according to Abboushi, was a drastic cut in the budget due to funding issues, which meant that the festival included fewer events than originally hoped and that several bands who had been approached had to be postponed until next year’s festival. However several local businesses rallied behind the festival, including the Jasmine Cafe which provided dinner for all the artists, Gasman Production and the Retno Hotel, without whom the festival would not have been possible. The international artists were supported by the Italian, Turkish and Indian consulates, who were instrumental in bringing the Innocent Sorcerer’s Quartet, Tuluyhan Ugurlu and the Indian music Trio of Varsha Agrawal, Lalit Mahant and Asit Goswami to the Jasmine Festival.
The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is always an obstacle for any event in Palestine, and the Jasmine Festival was no exception. Abboushi said that determined efforts were made, with the assistance of the French Consulate, to obtain permits from the occupation authorities for the members of Watar Band to make the trip from Gaza to Ramallah. Unfortunately but not unusually, only two of the band members were given permits while the others were denied, and so the Watar Band concerts regretfully had to be cancelled.
Media coverage of the event was wide, with good exposure on local radio, television, print and social media. Most of the concerts took place in the new Ramallah branch 200-seat concert hall, and audience attendance was encouraging. The Turkish pianist Tuluyhan Ugurlu and the Indian Trio played to a sold-out hall, while other concerts including Zaridash choir and the Innocent Sorcerer’s quartet attracted between 120 and 150 audience members. The variety of musical genres in the festival was impressive, and Abboushi particularly noted the 4-hands piano concert by Dina Shilleh and Hannah Gallagher as being an unusual event, and particularly inspiring for young students since the pair also performed one of Dina’s own compositions. The ESNCM teacher’s ensemble, Opus, also contained a wide variety of repertoire, from Schumann to Messaien, and Abboushi stressed the principle of increasing exposure to many types of music, even if it is sometimes challenging to the audience.
In addition to the public concerts, piano students of the Ramallah branch also attended a workshop with Turkish pianist Tuluyhan Ugurlu.
Finally, Abboushi praised the team work of the festival staff, who succeeded in presenting a professional music festival on a tight budget.