Egypt brings new fusion culture package to India

New Delhi: The recent political turmoil in Egypt is scripting a new culture of fusion and hope, the country`s envoy said at the opening of the Egyptian Cultural Week in India.

"Now that we have put a government in place and working on a new Constitution, we have crossed the major hurdle. There is a new cultural language of the younger generation that Egypt is listening to," ambassador Khaled El Bakly said here Monday evening.

The culture gala that set the mood for the week reflected the new spirit of the country that witnessed a revolution throughout 2011, leading to the ouster of the Hosni Mubarak government.

The culture festival opened at the Kamani theatre with a performance of modern Egyptian jazz followed by a contemporary dance choreography by a deaf and mute ensemble. It ended with an orchestra of Nubian drums, Egyptian tabla and a gypsy dance.

The genre of contemporary jazz music in Egypt has travelled an eclectic path to cobble together a fusion of the Arab, European, American, Indian and North African repertoire and sounds.

Cairo-based Amro Salah, who heads the Eftekasat jazz project - a world fusion music programme - describes his music as the new sound of Egypt.

"It is contemporary world jazz. We are trying to bring world cultures together through music. Our sounds are influenced by Indian culture, North African music, Balkan music and local Egyptian music," said Salah, the director of the Cairo Jazz Festival.

His six-member troupe, however, does not forget the American roots of jazz. "I have been influenced by American jazz composer Joe Sample."

"Egypt has a very vibrant jazz scene - especially in Cairo. One should keep in mind that the history of jazz in Egypt - a cultural melting pot - dates back to the 1930s with the evolution of modern cinema and the world wars," Salah told reporters.

Several foreign communities like the Italian, Greek and Germans lived in cities like Cairo and Alexandria, he added.

"They brought with them the early jazz music. Jazz also featured in Egyptian cinema in the 1840s-1950s. And legends like Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie have performed in Cairo," the musician said.

He said "a new wave of music was emerging in Egypt after the revolution".

"The large number of artists who came out to join the Tahrir Square protest in 2011 are talking about issues like freedom, change and the beauty of revolution through their music," Salah said.

The dance ensemble, "Egyptian Deaf Dance Theatre Company", which presented an act on "Cleopatra: The Queen of Queens", is planning a new choreography on Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt.

The 12-member troupe from El-Mallaha-el-Qubra led by dancer Reda Abdel Aziz performs dance theatres sourced from historical narratives.

"It is difficult but we teach our mute dancers - all below 20 years of age - by tapping rhythms on to their bodies," he said.

The traditional Nubian drummers presented a variety of Egyptian percussions including the tabla.

This is the first culture package to come out of Egypt to India after the political upheaval. "Egyptians like Indians respect old traditions - the new judgement comes from there. We (India and Egypt) have been friends and we will remain so," the Egyptian envoy said.

The Egyptian Culture Week in India will end Feb 2.