Don’t miss the upcoming two World Routes programmes on The Nile Project presented on Radio 3 by Songlines editor-in-chief Simon Broughton
The Nile Project brings together musicians from many of the ten countries through which the river flows. In January, 18 singers and instrumentalists from Egypt, North and South Sudan, Uganda and Ethiopia spent time in a residency at the Fekra Cultural Centre near Aswan. “Although we all share the same river” says Ethiopian-born singer Meklit Hadero, “most of these countries know very little about each other.” The residency culminated in a packed-out public concert in Aswan and another in Cairo a few days later.
“The radio programmes were entirely recorded on location in Aswan,” says Simon Broughton. “They highlight some of the local traditions feeding into this part of The Nile Project as well as the new repertoire and collaborations coming out of it. The adungu harp playing of the Ugandans – Lawrence Okello and Michael Bazibu – was a revelation for me. It sounded like something from Venezuela or Mexico.”
One of the singers in this Nile Project gathering was Dina el Wedidi, who is working with Gilberto Gil this year on the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative (as reported in Songlines #87). “She is a very powerful singer and wrote an excellent new song, ‘El Ganoub’ (The South), featuring the whole ensemble, about the north/south divide in Egypt and differing attitudes to the Nile.”
The two programmes also show the wider context of the river – ranging from an ancient Egyptian Nilometer, used for centuries to measure the river’s flood, the traditional irrigation methods with cattle and waterwheels, to the High Dam, buzzing with hydro-electricity and the cultural impact of the creation of Lake Nasser, which flooded the ancestral homeland of the Nubians.
“It was very inspiring to see the connections being forged between musicians who didn’t know each other or each others’ music before this started” says Broughton. “And the ambition of this ongoing project is to raise a wider awareness about the river and its resources amongst all the Nile basin countries. It’s a fantastic example of how music can be at the cutting edge of issues of dialogue and conservation.”
For more information about the Nile Project see www.nileproject.org
The World Routes Nile Project programmes are on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday February 10 and 17 at 10pm. Also available on the Radio 3 website after the broadcast.