|Al-Ahram Weekly Online
9 - 15 August 2001
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'Egypt's Eliot' celebratedThe late poet Salah Abdel-Sabour, the free poetry pioneer dubbed "Egypt's Eliot," lies at the centre of a three-day conference to be organised by the Supreme Council for Culture (SCC) this October to mark the 20th anniversary of the poet's death. The conference will be held in the council's headquarters on the Opera House Grounds.
In a meeting of the SCC Poetry Committee last week, it was decided that the conference will comprise three morning lectures dealing with "creative pivots" in Abdel-Sabour's work and three "poetic evenings" in the Small Hall of the Opera House, to which a sizable number of poets will contribute each night. Among those to whom the council plans on extending an invitation to attend the conference, it was announced, are the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and the Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef.
The committee also agreed to approach the scholars Ezzeddin Ismail and Ahmed Zaki about embarking on a definitive biography of Abdel-Sabour, and Hamdi El-Sakkut, author of the AUC Press's The Arabic Novel: Bibliography and Critical Introduction, for the task of compiling a bibliography of Abdel- Sabour's works.
The stellar streakIn an attempt to stop the spread of misquoted verses of his last two poems, heard last month at the Jarash Festival in Jordan but not yet printed, Mahmoud Darwish -- currently the Arab world's greatest literary star -- published Maw'id Ma'a Emil Habibi (A date with Emil Habibi) and Fi Bait Retsus (In the House of Retsus) in the Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Hayat last Friday. Al-Hayat thus provided lovers of Darwish's poetry with opportunity to keep up with his latest output.
"Not to mourn him I came," Darwish writes of the late Palestinian novelist Emil Habibi, a friend, "but to visit my self: born together,/ Grown up together... Not to mourn anything I came," he continues, "but to tread the old paths/With a friend, and tell him:/We will change nothing of yesterday,/We just hope tomorrow is habitable."
The texts were accompanied by a meditation on Darwish's stardom undertaken by the Lebanese cultural editor and poet Abdou Wazen, who explained how Darwish has capitalised on the challenge involved in his poetry becoming "a collective symbol" and his person "an epic hero," two developments Darwish has expressed his concerns about. Yet in Darwish's case, Wazen insists, "the poet who knows how to break free of the siege of history has also managed turn the [historical] symbol of his issue into [an act of] pure creation."
Two against the crowdOf the by now well-established Tunisian alternative band, the Anouar Brahem Trio (Anouar Brahem-oud, Barbaros Erks-clarinet and Lassad Hosni-bendir), only Brahem and Hosni faced the Baalbek Festival crowd in Lebanon last week.
Yet despite the absence of the Turkish clarinettist and the "vulgarity" of some audience members, press reports assert that Brahem and his percussionist alone were "breathtaking," managing in no time to turn the audience into "a homogeneous mass" of emotion and extracting the most astounding applause. Brahem reportedly impressed even those who had mistaken the decidedly low-key event over which he presided for a concert by the Flemenco guitarist Paco de Lucia.
The duo played pieces from Estrakhan Cafe, the Trio's latest CD, which bore testimony to Brahem's mastery of a unique musical idiom that shapes a variety of Turkish, Arab and Andalusian influences into a form of contemporary jazz.
Besides Estrakhan Cafe, Brahem's CDs include Thimar, Khomsa, Barzakh and the well- known Conte de l'Incroyable Amour.
Quietly invincibleFairuz's appearance in the Bait Al-Din Palace last week was described as "very reminiscent" of her appearance at the same venue last year. What with the presence of her son, the well-known composer Ziyad El-Rahbani, "at the piano to the left," and the Armenian maestro who directed the orchestra last year at the head of the orchestra, the concerts induced a sense of deja vu in those who attended for the second, consecutive year.
Fairuz's own voice too was as faint and captivating as it had been last year; her presence generated the same aura of gravity and charisma.
Ziyad's contribution was somewhat toned down, his cryptic wit seldom manifesting itself beyond the statement with which he opened the first concert, introducing "Shu Bkhaf" (Afraid of What), a previously unheard tune he composed for Fairuz. "The relation between Jibran Khalil Jibran and Middle East Airlines (which is currently in crisis)," Ziyad declared, "is undeniable. But of the two of them, only Jibran proves everlasting."
And despite the applause with which Ziyad's never-explained comment was met, "Shu Bkhaf" received a somewhat muted response; the same goes for "Khalik Bel-bait" (Stay Home), Ziyad's older, equally jazzy number with which Fairuz followed that song. Singing "Khabirni An Akhbaru" (Tell Me About Him), another previously unheard tune by Ziyad, Fairuz's voice reportedly was not always articulate and parts of the song were not heard by the audience. Ziyad had not managed to complete "Faz'an" (Scared), the third new song, in time for the concert. The Bait Al-Din concerts also included new renditions of patriotic songs like "Al-Ard Lakum" (The Land is Yours) and instrumentals by Ziyad.
It wasn't until she started singing well- known folk songs and classics from the old Rahbani repertoire (written and composed by her life-time associates Assi and Mansour El- Rahbani and now distributed anew by Ziyad) that Fairuz's audience perked up.
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