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Cairo set for musical dialogue

art-and-culture Updated: Jun 28, 2007 10:27 IST
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Surrounded by a panoramic view of the ancient monuments of Cairo and Salah Eddin citadel, seven top oriental musicians are due to engage in a three-day musical dialogue July 6.

At least 1,000 Egyptians from the country's cultural community and people interested in non-commercial music are expected to attend the performances featuring oriental compositions and improvisations, all held under the umbrella of Dozan Modern Oriental Music Festival.

"It is a good opportunity for music fans to listen to a collection of different compositions in a condensed period," said novelist and columnist Sahar al-Mougy.

"We can't easily get hold of such music in an era when low-quality Arabic pop music overwhelms the market," she added.

Organised by the Egyptian Culture Resource Organisation, the festival will be held at Geneena open-air theatre in Cairo's Azhar Park.

The festival programme includes three major concerts by the following musicians: Raed Khoshaba (Iraq), Khaled Jubran (Palestine), Barbaros Erkose (Turkey), Youssra al-Dahaby (Tunis), Andre Hajj (Lebanon), Abdu Dagher and Hazem Jahine (Egypt).

They are scheduled to perform solo performances as well as joint recitals and improvisations.

One of the most recognised participants is Palestinian Jubran, a composer and master of the oriental instruments of buzuq, a long-necked, fretted lute, and oud, a pear-shaped, stringed instrument, similar to a lute used in traditional Arabic and Middle-Eastern music.

He is also the founder of al-Urmawi Centre for Mashreq (Eastern) Music, a Palestinian institution promoting innovation in Arab music and developing the skills of young Arab musicians.

Khaled Jubran has released two albums: Em El Khelkhal in 2000 and Mazamir in 2005.

Jubran is dissatisfied with the status of music in the Arab world and believes that festivals and public performances at cultural centres are a way for non-commercial musicians to reach people. Arabic and oriental music, he said, currently reflect the deteriorating state of the Arab nations.

"If a society is prosperous, music will echo this prosperity and vice versa. 80 per cent of Arab listeners listen to commercial pop songs through video clip channels."

Jubran's compositions are purely oriental, yet untraditional, with Iranian and Turkish touches based on instruments like buzuq and nai, an oriental wooden flute.

"My music represents the Arab people of the 21st century, not any other era," said Jubran.

The festival is set to conclude with compositions and joint improvisations by renowned violinist and composer, Abdo Dagher, accompanied by the young, talented, composer and oud player, Hazem Jahine.

Dagher, whose training and methodology is accredited internationally, has given Egyptian music a unique flavour through using highly sophisticated musical phrases and symphonic patterns, where traditions are combined with the contemporary.

Master of the traditional art of monodic (non-harmonized) Arabic music, he categorises his music as "classical Egyptian" and plays in Europe regularly.Jahine, Dagher's festival companion, is an exceptional Egyptian oud player, composer and instructor. He is the founder of the Egyptian band Eskenderella, a group reviving Egyptian musical heritage.

He is a founding member of another musical band called Massar: Mazzika bas (Track: Only pure music), which released its first album in 2006. Jahine said he is reluctant to categorise music. For him, "music is a language with different dialects".

A simple line of rhythm, melody and percussion characterizes oriental music. Yet, some contemporary music composers have come up with new trends, which include adding western instruments. Some have even orchestrated their music, adding to it a sense of harmony, while retaining its exotic nature.