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Classical Arab music alive and well

Cairo Opera House
Region: Cairo
Created: Oct 29, 2010, modified: Jan 13, 2012, overall rating: 0.000

Lovers of classical Arab music are invited to enjoy the busy schedule of the Arab Music Festival, which is due to be held in Cairo next week.

A performance by one of the national Arab music ensembles directed by Gihan Mursi.

After several international events in the city in the last two weeks, which included the Cairo International Experimental theatre festival and the Cairo Jazz Festival, Egypt's three main opera houses are ready to change their tune and mood by opening their theatres to the Classical Arab sound

This year the full schedule of the Arab Music Festival in its 19th round, compared with previous rounds, promises Arab music lovers a rich and varied musical meal. The concerts will take place in the Opera House theatres in Cairo, Alexandria and Damanhour beginning on 1 November, when Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni will inaugurate the ten-day festival. The festival and the accompanying convention aim to present distinctive music from all over the Arab world to fans of the genre and to raise discussions on themes related to classical Arab music and its development in the Arab world today.

Last week Abdel-Moneim Kamel, chairman of the Cairo Opera House, held a press conference for the occasion to announce the names of the singers, instrumentalists and ensembles who will take part in the festival. International soprano Ratiba El-Hefni, dean of the Arab Music Institute and general secretary -of the Arab Music Festival, told the conference that 35 concerts would be held during the festival, and that 17 renowned singers and musicians would appear representing seven Arab countries. Among those from Egypt will be Ali El-Haggar, Angham, Reham Abdel-Hakim and Medhat Saleh; from Syria Manal Samaan and Elias Karam; from Lebanon Adam and violinist Gehad Aql; from Morocco Fouad Zabadi and Jannat; and from Iraq lute player Munir Bashir.

One of the positive features of this round of the festival is that 14 or so musical ensembles from various countries will participate, including the Opera Alexandria ensemble led by Egypt's George Beshri; the Cultural Palaces' ensemble for children's songs, led by Egyptian musician and singer Hani Shenouda; and the Hefni group for Arab music, led by the Palestinian maestro Taysir Haddad. All this will illustrate the effort put in by the various Arab nations to preserve classical Arab music, and furthermore will explore new capacities and voices in the upcoming generation.

Hefni said the inauguration ceremony would commence with welcoming speeches by Arab artists and academic researchers, to be followed by honoring a number of artists who had enriched cultural life in Egypt and the Arab world. Among the Egyptians to be honored will be violinist Sami El-Hefnawi, television announcer Nadia Tawfik, poet Farouk Shousha, singer Angham, critic and musician Mohamed Qabil, flautist Reda Bedeer and calligrapher Ahmed El-Bahi; and from Lebanon the researcher Youssef Tanous.

The theme of the festival's competition this year is Arab singing, and so the inaugural ceremony will include a show featuring the artistic career of the most famous of popular of all Arab singers, Abdel-Halim Hafez, who died 33 years ago. The inaugural performance is arranged by Hefni and directed by Gihan Mursi, and will be presented by the Cairo Ballet ensemble and the Abdel-Halim Nouaira Arab Music ensemble. As a guest of honor, and using a rather new theatrical technique, critic Sami Abdel-Halim will play the role of the narrator on stage, telling personal stories about Hafez, his life and artistry. Critic and journalist Mufid Fawzi, who was a close friend of Hafez, has recently published a book entitled Kalam Mufid (Important Talk) in which he revealed aspects of the secret life of the popular singer, as well as conversations and chit-chat that passed between the two friends. At the inaugural ceremony Fawzi will recount incidents of his intimate friendship with Hafez.

On the fringe of the Arab Music Festival will be an exhibition of significant calligraphy. This will be held in the Opera House's main Plastic Arts gallery and the Music library. The exhibition will feature the works of Ahmed El-Bahi and Hassan Hassoba.

The annual convention on the fringe of the festival will focus this year on four new and aspiring topics which will include documenting manuscripts of classical Arab music; popular heritage pertaining to Arab children in Arab countries; and how to use the genre in modern music for children; critical musical monologues; and musical culture and the man-in-the-street.


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