Seven renowned female voices from the Arab world will light up Ramadan nights at the Geneina Theater in upcoming weekends.
Starting Aug. 19, the “Hay Program” organized by El-Mawred Al-Thaqafy will kick off with the tangy flavor of Lebanese singer-songwriter Tania Saleh. With lyrics that serve sarcasm on peppy as well as more languid tunes, Saleh’s songs have made their mark on the Arabic underground musical scene.
Formerly a backing vocalist for Ziad Rahbani musicals, Saleh shows influences of the Lebanese master’s cynical commentary on Lebanese society.
The Rahbani family has also influenced British-Egyptian-Moroccan singer Natacha Atlas; the ace card that will wrap up the musical fest on Sept. 3. Featuring percussion-heavy beats to Sufi-influenced call songs, Atlas’ music that is already popular in the region has made its way into several international soundtracks, including most recently, in movies “Brick Lane” and “I Can’t Think Straight.”
While her earlier music showed influences of reggae and hip-hop, recently Atlas’ songs move towards renditions of Arab greats such as Fairouz and Abdel-Halim Hafiz (an album of hers is a tribute entitled “Halim”). Also an accomplished belly dancer, Atlas does not shy from flaunting her gifts in performances.
Packed between those two talents is Palestinian Reem Talhami, known for her operatic voice and patriotic anthems. Talhami has also been the lead vocalist for Palestinian bands Ghurbeh and Washem, reviving Palestinian classics while also contributing to them.
Iraqi and Jordanian folklore too will be re-energized by the rich and intense vocals of Jordanian singer Macadi Nahhas. While her first album “Kan Ya Ma Kan” featured Iraqi folklore, and was recorded in Baghdad in 2004, her latest album “Juwah Al-Ahlam” is directed to children.
Local talent is not to be missed, as Alexandria-born Donia Masoud will perform Arab folk music and poetry. Her voice and tunes both carry the easy lilt and nonchalance of the countryside.
Fronting her own band “Fionkat Donia,” Masoud released her first album “Mahatet Masr” last year. With a discernible streak of independence, Masoud is known to overtake the stage with her coquettish charm, speaking freely with the audience before showcasing her repertoire gathered from the length and breadth of Egypt.
Tunisian talent Amel Mathlouthi produces her own mix from afro-rock, electronic and oriental ingredients. Her first song “Khaif” (Fear) — also the name of her first album —conveyed the importance of owning and expressing one’s identity. In similar vein, many of her songs are strongly autobiographical, speaking to daily concerns, while others like “Naci in Palestina” honor Palestine.
Voicing the concerns of the revolutionary and the lovelorn, the female voices featured at Geneina will draw from folklore and from poetry. Drawing from their own and other heritages in the Arab world, the Ramadan night-songs will offer an opportunity to reflect on a shared identity, while highlighting the place that these women have carved for themselves both in the region and abroad.
Tickets are LE 10, except Natacha Atlas night, tickets LE 20.
Originally published online at Daily News Egypt on August 18, 2010.