Written by Shannon Thomason
March 01, 2014
An international effort that brings together musicians and artists from many countries is slated to perform and be in residence at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center from Jan. 20-23, 2015.
The Nile Project brings together artists from countries along the Nile River to examine environmental, political and cultural differences through the power and beauty of music, and inspires, educates and empowers citizens of countries along its banks to work together to boost the sustainability of their ecosystem. It was founded in August 2011 by Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero to address the Nile basin’s cultural and environmental challenges.
The ASC seeks to encourage cross-cultural musical collaborations and inspire curiosity, generate empathy and promote dialogue. To foster this dialogue, ASC Curates, the curating and creating team of the Alys Stephens Center, will present salon discussions, education and outreach events, and workshops throughout winter 2014-2015 to explore the issues raised in The Nile Project, including sustainability, agriculture, watershed issues, geopolitical dynamics, health policies and global development.
The Nile River is 4,200 miles long, and despite ancient relations among East African civilizations, the 437 million citizens of the 11 nations sharing the longest river in the world have no avenues to connect beyond their state borders, according to The Nile Project’s website. The group uses an innovative approach that combines music, education and an enterprise platform to bring together musicians from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The Nile Project intertwines these traditions into a unified sound.
The project’s unique sound comes from intensive musical residencies, which gather the musicians together for weeks to learn from one another and then translate that experience into collectively composed, new musical works. A powerful pan-Nile percussion section drives this orchestra of Ethiopian masenko and saxophone; Egyptian ney, oud, violin, simsimiyya and tanbura; Ugandan adungu; and bass guitar, as well as six vocalists singing in 11 different languages. The Nile Project’s recording “Aswan” was named one of NPR’s “Five Must-Hear International Albums” in fall 2013. The project has a tour scheduled in Africa in 2014, with dates in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt, among other African countries. The Nile Project is planning tours to Europe in summer 2014 and North America in winter 2015.
The three-day ASC residency will include musical showcases, demonstrations, educational events, performances and meet-the-artist opportunities for the public. The Nile Project performance is set to take place at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in the ASC’s Jemison Concert Hall.
For more details and updates, visit the ASC online atwww.AlysStephens.org.