The Musica Antigua Quintet will kick off the Arab-Andalusian music festival tomorrow, which promises to be one of the highlights of Ramadan’s cultural scene. The Embassy of Spain, the French Cultural Center and the Cultural Development Fund of the Cairo Opera House have worked together to present this inventive cultural program.
“From the Euphrates to Guadalquivir brings together musicians from Iraq, Syria, Morocco, Spain and Egypt in a collective tribute to Arab-Andalusian music. This genre of musical fusion is a derivative of the cultural movement that took place in the Middle Ages across the Mediterranean. As artists, musicians, philosophers and intellectuals traveled from Al Andalus in the West to Iraq in the East, they exchanged experiences. At the time, Cairo was considered to be the most important cultural center, to which artists and intellectuals flocked.
This month’s festival is an attempt to recreate that experience, bringing performances by Musica Antigua Quintet, Ibn Arabi Ensemble and Naseer Shamma Ensemble to the Egyptian public. Their music keeps alive an old tradition in which the sense of beauty and artistic accomplishment is matched with the search for the divine and the creation of a spiritual atmosphere.
Musica Antigua Quintet will inaugurate the series of performances Thursday evening at the Amir Taz Palace in Old Cairo. They performed last year in Cairo, and are back by popular demand. Not only does the group – which was formed by musical scholar Eduardo Paniagua in 1994 – forgo amplification in favor of natural acoustics, but they perform their mixture of Christian, Jewish and Islamic medieval music on traditional instruments and base their program on obscure historical figures.
Moroccan Ibn Arabi Ensemble will follow a few days later with their rendition of one of the main traditions of Andalusian music. The plaintive melodies of the nai, the deep rhythms of the bender, and the inflexions of the voice commingle in an atmosphere where the spirit searches for the divine.
They will perform together with Musica Antigua later this month, Tuesday, Sept. 25, in an unusual jam session that will no doubt tantalize and surprise the audience.
The festival will close with performances by notable Iraqi oud player and composer Naseer Shamma accompanied by a group of talented musicians from Egypt and Syria. Together, they will breathe life into the rich tradition of the mozxaja – a poetic form that originated in Al Andalus and spread to the Middle East.
Be sure to catch at least one of these performances during Ramadan.
Musica Antigua QuintetAmir Taz Palace, CairoThursday, Sept. 209 pm
Check the Agenda for upcoming performances.