Nile Project launches African tour + musicians gathering in Uganda

The Nile Gathering 2013 in Aswan (Photo: Courtesy of The Nile Project)

Following a successful gathering of musicians in Upper Egypt’s Aswan early 2013, the Nile Project launches its second edition of the ‘Nile Gathering,’ to take place in Kampala, Uganda, from 23 January to 13 February.

The second edition of the musical residency — lead by Miles Jay — brings together 14 talented musicians from Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda who will, in a collaborative manner, compose a body of songs inspired by the Nile Basin’s diversity in music traditions and instruments.The musicians participating in the gathering include: Alsarah (Sudan / Vocals, Lyricist), Dafaalla El-Hag (Sudan / Oud, Percussion, Banimbo, Zombara), Dawit Seyoum (Ethiopia / Bass Krar, Krar), Dina El-Wedidi (Egypt / Vocals, Lyricist), Endris Hassen (Ethiopia / Masenko), Jorga Mesfin (Ethiopia / Saxophone), Kasiva Mutua (Kenya / Percussionist, Lyricist), Lawrence Okello (Uganda / Percussion, Adungu, Amadinda), Meklit Hadero (US and Ethiopia / Vocals), Michael Bazibu (Uganda / Endongo, Adungu, Endingidi, Percussion), Nader El-Shaer (Egypt / Kawala, Ney), Selamnesh Zemene (Ethiopia / Vocals), Sophie Nzayisenga (Rwanda / Inanga, Vocals), Steven Sogo (Burundi / Ikembe, Guitar, Bass, Vocals).

The first album resulting from 2013’s gathering was dubbed “Aswan”. Following the residency, the musicians performed two heavily packed live concerts in both Aswan and Cairo. The album was very well received internationally.

“We were very happy that the Nile Project’s music struck a deep chord with our Egyptian audiences last January,” said Mina Girgis, Nile Project executive director, in the project’s press release. “This year, we are hoping to build on that success by inviting a more diverse pool of musicians, expanding our performance circuit to more Nile Basin countries, and launching the project’s education and innovation programmes at partner universities.”
“We’re looking into how the Nile has connected us, even though we never knew we were connected,” Girgis told Ahram Online in late 2012, before the launch of the project. “The people along the Nile, most of them have never met and never knew each other.”

The Nile Project not only utilises music as a common language, to bridge gaps across diverse cultures that exist around the Nile, but also hosts ‘Nile Workshops’ at universities, starting with Egyptian universities in late 2013.

The African tour set to take place following this year’s residency will include not only concerts promoting the new musical collaboration but also talks and workshops on sustainability and development challenges of the Nile at universities in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt.

In addition to the workshops, the crew are also launching ‘The Nile Prize’ targeted at students who develop innovative solutions to regional challenges. These projects will be supported by the programme over the span of one year.

Through music and workshops, the Nile Project sets out to expose audiences to the music of neighbouring countries and offer a space of open dialogue around Nile issues. The project aims to connect the 11 nations, and 437 million people, who live around the Nile but that often fail at recognising themselves as a region.

Due to polarisation in these countries caused by tense political relations and conflicting media coverage, especially recently with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam capturing headlines around the world, the Nile Project attempts to offer an alternative path for dialogue and communication among Nile Basin citizens.

The Nile Project is also planning tours to Europe in the summer of 2014 and North American in the winter of 2015.

The idea for the project developed following the Egyptian revolution, when Girgis came to Egypt after living in San Fransisco to be part of the movement in Tahrir Square.

Searching for his place and how to contribute to Egypt, Girgis along with his Ethiopian friend from the US, Melkit Hadero, started thinking of why there is little connection between Egyptian and Ethiopian musicians, and others around the region.

An ethnomusicologist by education, the idea of the Nile Project started coming together, and Girgis and Hadero spent most of 2012 traveling across the Nile Basin meeting musicians, development organisations and cultural institutions, to involve them in the early phases of planning the long-term project.

African Tour programme:
6 February, Jinja, Uganda – Mezzanine
8 February, Kampala, Uganda – National Theatre
15 February, Zanzibar, Tanzania – Sauti Za Busara Festival
22 February, Nairobi, Kenya – Kuona Art Centre
23 February, Nairobi, Kenya – Safaricom Jazz Festival
25 February, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Africa Philanthropy Forum (private)
27 February, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Location TBA
5 March, Cairo, Egypt – Al-Azhar Park
7 March, Aswan, Egypt – Nubian Museum
10 March, Alexandria, Egypt – Bibliotheca Alexandrina

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