The Nile is one of the world's longest rivers, and it flows through many African musical traditions. Eighteen artists from six countries in the Nile river basin (Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda) recently came together and formed The Nile Project to create and play a new and unified Nile repertoire, resulting in the swinging album Aswan. The collective performs for the first time in the Netherlands; they will combine Egypt and Sudan's modal music traditions with the polyrhythmic styles from around Lake Victoria, and the beautiful melodies of the Ethiopian highlands. For all the division in the Nile river basin, The Nile Project resonates harmony and vibrancy.
Holland Festival Proms
For a whole day, from noon until late at night, there will be a vibrant mini-festival in The Concertgebouw. The Holland Festival Proms consists of five concerts and an installation. From a concert with virtual reality to the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, and the swinging music of The Nile Project.
From the brothers Lucas and Arthur Jussen playing Karlheinz Stockhausen to an opera-installation by the Indonesian artist Jompet Kuswidananto. The day is being hosted by comedian and television presenter Klaas van der Eerden. In the intermissions there will be performances by conservatory students, as well as short introductions to the concerts. For only ten euros per concert – or less for those who buy a day pass – you can hear the latest and most adventurous music from around the world. There’s an afterparty that night for everyone who can’t get enough of it.
The Nile Project is an ensemble of musicians from the countries that border the Nile. It plays a completely original Nile repertoire. In 2013 the ensemble brought out a live CD: Aswan. With tours in Africa and the United States and several appearances in Belgium and England, the group raised the profile of their objectives and values.
Nine countries depend on the Nile for their water supply: Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi. The growing scarcity of water and the varying cultures and interests in the region mean that there are many causes for conflict. The Nile Project, an organisation that focuses on knowledge and culture, was founded in 2011 to raise awareness of people’s shared dependency on the river as a source of life. The aim is to turn the river into a power that brings people together rather than driving them apart.
In 2013 an ensemble was founded that was also given the name The Nile Project. The musicians show people that music, just like the river, can be a force for unity that crosses borders between countries and cultures. Musical traditions from the various countries all have an influence, Egyptian singing rings out in harmony with a song from Ethiopia. A balofon from the Congo takes its place next to a lyre from Eritrea and a wooden flute from Egypt. A muted solo on the Arabian oud gives way to a song in which the singer laments the fact that the bond with the life-giving river has been broken. Bringing all of these diverse sounds together are drums, saxophone, bass guitar and electric guitar. The diversity of the instruments used and the fact that everyone brings material from their own tradition gives The Nile Project an attractive, vibrant sound full of constant shifts. Each member is a strong musical personality. But the group has managed to turn the music into a single, swinging whole through the ensemble’s tight synchronicity and shared desire to show the world that people can accomplish things when they cooperate.
The Nile Project was set up in 2011 by the singer Meklit Hadero and the ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis. The music group of the same name was launched two years later in order to raise awareness of the organisation’s work and to carry the message that cooperation between different nationalities
and religions can help to make a collective goal possible. The ensemble, which consists of a pool of more than 30 people, brings together musicians from all 11 countries of the Nile’s river basin. Their first performance was recorded and brought out on the album Aswan, named after the city in Egypt where the river is dammed. This debut was received with enthusiasm. The New York Times described the group as a ‘committed, euphoric international coalition’.
The various cultures represented in the group each have their own voice. Amid this diversity, the collective aims for a coherent sound. That is all the more remarkable since various musicians have built up a career outside the group and are powerful artistic personalities. Meklit Hadero, born in Ethiopia and raised in the United States, where she studied political science, combines jazz and East African influences in her music. Bass guitarist Ahmed Omar was born in Libya of an Eritrean father and Egyptian mother. He plays in prominent Egyptian bands and manages a recording studio. The young Egyptian singer and actress Dina El Wedidi has mastered classical and Arabic folk traditions and in 2012 became the protégé of the legendary Brazilian guitarist and composer Gilberto Gil, who has performed with her and collaborated on her debut album. The ensemble’s first studio album, Jinja, was released at the beginning of 2017 and is named after the city in Uganda where the Nile has its source.
- Adel Mekha, zang, percussie vocals, percussion Ahmed Omar, bas, tambour bass, tanbour Mohamed Abozekry, oed oud Nader El Shaer, kawala, keytar, farfisa, zang kawala, keytar, farfisa, vocals Saleeb Loza, zang vocals Asia Madani, zang, percussie vocals, percussion Selamnesh Zemene, zang vocals Ibrahim Fanous, krar krar Dave Otieno, elektrische gitaar electric guitar Kasiva Mutua, percussie, zang percussion, vocals Steven Sogo, zang, bas, ikembe, umiduri vocals, bass, ikembe, umiduri Michael Bazibu, entongoli, adungu, endingidi, percussie, zang entongoli, adungu, endingidi, percussion, vocals