Music and Poetry Festival in Cairo and Alexandria
from 20 April to 12 May 2006
Alexandrina, the Egyptian Centre for Arts and Culture (Makan) and the British Council, presented a wide range of the most important modern Arabic creative experiences in music and poetry.
Through the presentation of these experiments, Al Mawred Al Thaqafy seeks to shed light on unconventional forms of art, and probe into the possibilities of interrelation between different cultures. The Festival was also presented under the auspices of the Palestinian and Lebanese Embassies in Cairo.
Culture Resource was planning to present the events of the Spring Festival in Al Genaina theatre of Al Azhar Park but the theatre closed its doors due to a sudden decision by the Cairo Governorate on the 23 of February.
The Festival started with two performances of the great artist Marcel Khalife and Al Mayadine Ensemble on Thursday 20 April at the Opera Open Theatre and on Friday April 21 at Sakiat Al Sawy. This was the first time Marcel Khalife, with his band “Al Mayadine”, and the singer “Omaima Al Khalil” performed together in Cairo.
Marcel Khalife is a pioneer of the political song in the seventies; he has undertaken artistic experiences that maintained to carry creative value throughout the years, reaching the level of modern classic works, thus enriching our musical heritage. He had a deep influence on the conscience of several generations of artists and intellectuals in the entire Arab region. He made no concessions as regards the quality of his art at the expense of political content or vice versa. He still believes that creative contemporary music can benefit from the oriental heritage. He deals with the most beautiful poetry of this era, aiming at a public yearning for a high standard of contemporary music that differs from the prevailing commercial productions.
Marcel Khalife is an outcome of the Lebanese national movement in the seventies. He rediscovered his potentials several times throughout his artistic journey. He performed at all the major cultural locations in the world. His artistic achievements, as well as his commitment to humane and just causes, qualified him to receive the title of “artist of peace” from the UNESCO in 2005. From Cairo Marcel Khalife flew to Khartoum to give a live performance at the Centre for Sudanese Studies on April 22.
The Spring Festival also included two performances by the Moroccan-British band MOMO. They play traditional Moroccan rhythms mixed with modern electronic music, trance music, hip-hop, house, techno, which attracts nowadays a public of young people everywhere. Their music is also influenced by ‘gnawa’, a widespread popular music in Morocco and West Africa. Their first performance was on April 28 at Sakiat Al Sawy, and their second on April 30 at the Library of Alexandria. MOMO were nominated for best Crossing Album World Music Award from the B.B.C. in 2002, and have perform
ed in several cultural locations in Europe and recently at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. This was the first visit of the band MOMO to Egypt.
On the other hand, the Syrian band “Hewar” offers a new approach to modern music and contemporary song based on firm grounds of traditional oriental music and classical western music. They use non-electronic instruments, like the western wind instrument, the clarinet and the oriental string instrument, the “oud”, creating beautiful modern compositions. The songs were performed by the beautiful voice of “Dima Orcho”, against oriental and western rhythms, thus forming a unique combination that characterizes this band in particular. The band “Hewar” has presented several performances in the Arab region, in Europe and America, and this was their first visit to Egypt. They had only one performance at Sakiat Al Sawy on Thursday, 11 May, 2006.
The Tunisian composer and “oud” player “Anouar Brahem” presented the last music performance in the Spring Festival. Many consider Brahem as the most important contemporary composer who has undertaken musical experiments in the Arab region. He is the author of the famous albums, “Barzakh”, “Astrakhan Cafe”, and “Le Pas Du Chat Noir”. He reconsidered the method of performing on the “oud” instrument, and was deeply influenced by Turkish music and Jazz, thus offering wonderful musical compositions, and posing many questions about the philosophy of oriental music .He performed mostly in Europe since the early nineties. He also composed sound tracks for the theatre and cinema. Al Mawred Al Thaqafy hopes that in the coming days, his music will be more widespread in the Arab region, to help widen the horizons of the young generation of composers, who are caught between superficial commercial music and the lifeless reproductions of traditional music. The first performance of “Anouar Brahem” in Egypt was with Turkish gypsy clarinet player “Barbaros Erköse” at the Arab Music Institute, a venue of the Cairo Opera House, on Friday 12 may 2006.
The Spring Festival presented four evenings of poetry from different schools, different generations and different countries, which explore new paths of poetic creativity. “Suheir Hammad” the Palestinian American poet is both a New Yorker and a daughter of refugee camps in Jordan. She writes and performs in American slang, is influenced by both rap and the “verbal elocution”, which is related to imaginary historical and geographic traditional dictions of Arabic poetry, and colloquial “Zagal” that is still alive in several Arab countries. Suheir Hammad addresses a young public that is in search of an identity beyond their time and place, makes a parody of the prevailing political and cultural language, and welcomes divergence and variety of genre. “Suheir Hammad” visited Egypt for the first time and presented an evening of theatrical poetry in “Makan”- the Egyptian Centre for Arts and Culture – on Thursday, 27 April 2006.
The Arab poet “Qassem Haddad” is a well-known cultural figure from Bahrain. In spite of the fact that he is well established in the Arab cultural scene, he is still preoccupied with the search for new forms of language and music. His works cross the borders of prose and poetry; He willingly enters into creative adventures with theatre artists, novelists and visual artists. He also established one of the most important sites of Arabic poetry on the internet called “Jihat Al sheir” where many poets and researchers of all generations and countries take the lead. “Qassem Haddad” presented a poetic evening at “Makan”- the Egyptian Centre for Arts and Culture- on Thursday 4 May 2006.
The third poetry evening in the Spring Festival was presented by “Fadhil Al Azzawi”, one of the most important modern Iraqi poets who chose exile towards the end of the seventies, after spending years in prison and undergoing numerous arrests. Fadhil Al Azzawi’s unique imagery with its sometimes shocking simplicity has raised important questions about the relation between language and its cultural context. “Fadhil Al Azzawi” writes fluently in Arabic, German, and English, and sounds original in all three languages. His works have been translated into several European and Asian languages, and have been published in Europe and the United States. “Fadhil Al Azzawi” participates in important poetic events around the world, and gives lectures in European and American universities. He presented his poems on Friday, 5 May 2006 at “Makan”-the Egyptian Centre for Arts and Culture.
The two Egyptian poets Amin Haddad and Bahaa Jaheen presented a poetic evening entitled “Hagat Wahshani”; They often presented -each on his own- their poems, and joined together to present the poems of Fuad Haddad and Salah Jaheen, but this was the first time they join together to present their respective poems. Both belong to the same generation and possess a similar cultural background, but differ in their form of expression. You find in the poems of Amin Haddad a tone of malicious simplicity, which explains and comments about the world as if the poet is not part of it, but somehow with a certain trick the listener or reader gets involved and responsibility is transferred to him. On the other hand, you find the poems of Bahaa Jaheen imbued with a charming intensity and tension in the use of colloquial Egyptian, and they shed light on new creative possibilities. “Hagat Wahshani” was presented on Saturday, 6 May 2006 at Sakiat Al Sawy.