The Spring Festival kicked off in Cairo with a very well-received performance by South African Miss Lira performance at the Prince Taz Palace and another one at Al-Azhar Park’s Geneina theatre. The festival is organised by the Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy and is held every two years in Cairo and Beirut.
“The Spring Festival is a big event so it needs time to organise and this is why it is every two years,” said Al-Mawred. “This is its sixth edition since 2004.”
The festival aims to present a range of contemporary performances that straddle many art forms, such as music, theatre, dance, visual arts and literature.
The Spring Festival also features workshops that range from percussion to contemporary dance, hip hop and Capoeira.
The heavy emphasis on cultural exchange is obvious in the diverse line-up planned by the organisers Culture Resource or Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy, which includes artists from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Comoros Islands, Lebanon, Palestine and Morocco.
“This year, we are focusing on African art and performances and we opened the South African artist Miss Lira, who performed twice in Cairo and another time in Beirut,” said Al-Mawred.
“We feel that the political and social situation in Africa requires this kind of attention and cultural exchange,” they added.
So far the festival has seen Lira and The Meal perform; most of the performances are yet to come (the next one is 1 May). Hailing from Johannesburg’s East Rand and influenced by the likes of Miriam Makeba, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone, Lira began writing and performing at age 16. She refers to her music as “a fusion of soul, funk, elements of jazz and African music,” and won the Album of the Year and Best Female Artist at the 2009 South African Music Awards. In 2013, she was the only African singer to take part in Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony. One of Lira’s band members conducted the workshop on percussion on 25 April.
Other highlights include the upcoming performance by Palestinian group Turab, which was established in 2004 by a group of young musicians with the aim of developing a contemporary Palestinian musical tradition. Using instrumental pieces, Turab’s music is rife with political and social commentary on politics, love, social justice and daily life under occupation. Turab has released three albums and is working on a fourth. They will perform at the Azhar Park with an EGP 20 entrance fee.
Some of the performances feature free admission, subject to the venue, and the festival runs until 26 May.