Monday,20 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012
Monday,20 August, 2018
Issue 1125, 6 - 12 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

The sound of music

TheDirector of the Eastern Music Department at the Cairo Opera House Jihan Morsi celebrates the Arabic Music Festival’s coming of age

Music conference
Music conference
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Arabic Music Festival is among the most important activities presented by the Opera House over the last 21 years; it is an event that matures year after year, and the Opera is always keen on maintaining its quality and organisation due to its remarkable popularity and the presence in it of music celebrities every year. Among the staples on the annual programme is the Arabic Music Department’s own stars: this year, Rehab Metawi’ (who is participating for the first time this year), Marwa Nagui (accompanying Safwan Bahlawan), Mai Farouk and Riham Abdel-Hakim.
This year the 21st Arabic Music Festival (8-15 November), held at the Main Hall of the Cairo Opera House, featured the career of the Prince of Tunes, the great composer Riyad Al-Sunbati, not only through the full range of his musical output (love, patriotic and religious songs as well as duettes) but also through his biography -- much of it recorded in his own voice -- and testimonies from those who worked with him.
The opening on 8 November featured Al-Sunbati’s well-known tunes performed by several of the Department’s troupes -- the Cairo Opera Choir; the Alexandria Troupe for Music and Singing, conducted by Abdel-Hamid Abdel-Ghaffar; and the stars of the Arabic Music troupes who are by now celebrated stars: Amgad Al-Atfi, Mohsen Farouk, Hani Amer, Ahmed Effat, Tamer Abdel-Nabi, Hassnaa Kamel, Iman Abdel-Ghani, Sarah Sahhab, Marwa Hamdi, Rehab Mutawi, Ayyat Farouk -- and accompanied by ballet, the better to imbue the songs with renewed life and a sense of joy.
On the occasion, for the first time in the history of the festival, the choir’s oldest members were honoured in recognition of their role: Mohsen Farouk, Amgad Al-Atfi and Fatma Gad.
The programme featured the celebrated singer Hani Shakir on 9 November, performing with Mai Farouk and the Abdel-Halim Nuweira Ensemble conducted by Salah Ghobashi. On 10 November Khaled Selim performed with Rehab Mutawi and the National Arabic Ensemble conducted by Selim Sahhab, and on 11 November the Lebanese singer Walid Tawfik performed with violinist Abdu Dagher. The Syrian singer Safwan Bahlawan performed with Marwa Nagi and the Abdel-Halim Nuweira Ensemble on 13 November, Ihab Tawfik with Reham Abdel-Hakim on 14 November and the celebrated star Ali Al-Haggar with the Syrian singer Wa’d Bahari and the National Ensemble conducted by Selim Sahhab for the closing night on 15 November.
The closing ceremony included the handing out of prizes to the winners of the singing competition that took place in the Small Hall of the Cairo Opera House, in the presence of the Minister of Culture Saber Arab, the Director of the Opera House Inas Abdel-Dayem and the President of the Festival Ratiba Al-Hifni, who handed the festival shield to Arab.
Personally, as a member of the preparatory committee of the festival, what I found most exhausting was the process of coordinating with by now stellar singers whose rise to fame was thanks to the Opera House. Amal Maher, for example, requested that she should perform in the closing ceremony. Her request was granted, but she later apologised. Likewise Asala, whose brother Anas had agreed with me that she would perform in the closing ceremony -- I never heard from him again. Such is sadly typical enough behaviour: stars who first became known through the Arabic Music Festival, once famous, will pay no attention to their early patron.
It is important to point out to journalists who criticise the festival for not including its own celebrated children that Saber El-Ruba’i and Sherine too, contacted by the festival, proved too busy to participate. To those who did participate, I offer my thanks. Here are people who respect the Opera House and its audience as it respects them. To those who did not, I simply point out that they missed the chance of performing to a respectful audience who would deeply appreciate their work.
Thanks are also due to set designer Mahmoud Haggag for his stunning work, sound engineers Ashraf Abdel-Mohsen, Mahmoud Abdel-Latif and Iman Lotfi, and all the technicians and workers who are the festival’s unknown soldiers and without whom no festival could be held.
Special thanks are due to Ratiba Al-Hifni for her continuous contribution over 21 years, to the director of the Opera House Inas Abdel-Dayem who, on assuming her post, offered all the moral and material support necessary for making this round a success. Till the next round, then.

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