Rediscovering music: Ati Metwaly found out about the latest musical project in Aswan — Al-Ahram org


In one of Egypt’s southernmost villages, a group of children is gathered around the Cairo-based theatre director Salam Yousry, who leads them in a song they have created together, to the accompaniment of musicians on oud and duf. The event is part of the Aswan Music Project (12-22 May), which involved a series of workshops in the villages of Iqlit, Selwa and Gharb Aswan. Song creation with children is just one element within the pilot phase of the project which aims to use the power of music to mobilise, educate and reconnect the community while exploring, preserving and transmitting a rich musical heritage. The pilot project included song creation, discussions with educators and parents as well as gatherings that culminated in a performance in each village.

photo: Ashraf Kenawy

photo: Ashraf Kenawy

On a larger scale, the Aswan Music Project is part of the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI), launched in 2000 by His Highness the Aga Khan IV with an aim to preserve the local musical heritage. The AKMI is an initiative of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, one of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Following its launch, the Music Initiative soon spread to South Asia, the Middle East, North and West Africa and is now in Egypt led byAKMI director Fairouz Nishanova, Chief Executive Officer of Aga Khan Foundation in Egypt Malik Kotadia, Professor of Music and Director of Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta Michael Frishkopf and AKMI Consultant Ashraf Kenawy.

On its website, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) explains that the “Aswan Music Project aims to promote musical participation, musical development, and cultural continuity, by encouraging interest in Aswan’s traditional artistic heritage, especially through musical training of teachers, children and youth. In this way the project seeks to sustainably revive Aswan’s performing arts, enhancing social cohesion, and generating new possibilities for future employment in the tourism sector.”

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