An ensemble of a dozen musicians representing various countries in the Nile river region will be touring North America in 2015. The artists will present a cross-cultural collaboration with the many sounds found along the river basin area, from its sources beyond Lake Victoria to its delta in Egypt.
Formed over weeks of carefully calibrated workshops and participatory composition, the Nile Project Collective members have learned each others’ traditions well enough to create substantial music together.
To develop this music, Egyptian and Ethiopian artists have mastered their respective wildly different modal systems. A Burundian bassist has become the foundation providing Ugandan rhythms. Instruments that parted ways millennia before are reunited and pushed into new tunings, new places. Love songs and lullabies have crossed geography and language barriers to forge new songs and new, close friendships.
“In the end, it is all about learning to listen,” reflects Egyptian singer and Nile Project musician Dina El Wedidi. “I think that is what we all took away from this, whether it is the participants or the audience. Listening is the basis for understanding.”
The Nile Project 2015 US Touring Ensemble
Mohamed Abozekry – oud
Alsarah – vocals
Michael Bazibu – Ugandan stringed and percussion instruments
Hany Bedair – daff (hand drum) and riq (traditional tambourine)
Nader El Shaer – kawala (end-blown cane flute)
Dina el Wedidi – vocals
Meklit Hadero (select appearances only) – vocals
Jorga Mesfin – saxophone
Kasiva Mutua – percussion and vocals
Sophie Nzayisenga – inanga (Rwandan traditional zither)
Dawit Seyoum – krar and bass krar
Steven Sogo – bass
Selamnesh Zemene – vocals
Over the course of two gatherings and a major, five-country African tour, the collective has gained an increasing sense of how to craft joint works, guided by their own interests and by the Collective’s leaders: Nile Project Musical Director Miles Jay, a contrabassist and composer who spent much of the last decade living and working with prominent artists across the Middle East and Africa; and Nile Project executive director Mina Girgis, an Egyptian ethnomusicologist and curator who specializes in creating innovative musical experiences.
“The set is a continuous flow, like the river,” explains Jay. “We craft creative transitions from one piece to the next, inspired by the Nile’s soundscapes. So, we end a song and the percussionist continues the pulse, even through the applause. Or all the strings at the end of the song go into a drone, and then we introduce a melody to modulate to the next key.”
Nearly every stop on the U.S. tour will be accompanied by a series of workshops and symposia involving the Nile Project participant musicians, complemented by the faculty resources and student interest of each campus. From water issues to women’s roles, from musical discovery to the image of the Nile through history, a wide range of topics tackle the river’s complexity and aim to draw students into active roles. These activities expand the circle of conversation begun by the musicians, to encompass entire academic communities.
Select Nile Project Workshop Topics
The Nile Project will offer a variety of workshop themes during its 2015 US Tour, including those below. These programs will serve as catalysts for longer-term engagement with students and faculty beyond the tour ensemble’s musical performances.
- Musical Collaboration & Water Cooperation
- Imagining the Nile
- The Nile & African Identity
- Civic Engagement and Water Resource Management
- School Matinee: K-12 student outreach
- The Role of Musicians in Social Movements
- Women of the Nile: An Untapped Resource
- Finding Opportunities in Challenges: Crowdsourcing Solutions for an Environmentally Sustainable Nile Basin
- Music Master Classes
Author: World Music Central News Department
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