Shared by eleven countries through East and North Africa, the Nile River and its tributaries not only support an astounding wealth of flora and fauna, but they have been at the heart of human life, culture, and civilizations for millennium. A history of cultural exchange and trade up and down the river created interaction between the peoples of the disparate lands transversed by Nile. Unfortunately, despite this common history, present day land (and water) disputes and differing political situations within the nations along its banks have left the Nile in less than ideal condition.
The Nile Project is an exciting project designed to reverse some of this damage, creating a new cultural exchange through music. Curators Miles Jay and Mina Girgis (who also helped Afropop as a Hip Deep scholar) have brought together 18 musicians drawn from nations across the Nile’s basin to create a collective with a new sound based on traditional and contemporary song. Particularly highlighting various lyres and spiked fiddles, including the Ugandan adungu and the Ethiopian masenko from the nations along the Nile the project eencompassed a two week residency that resulted in compositions of new work by the musicians, a live performance, and a new LP. Vitally, the Nile Project is more than an amazing cross cultural opportunity for these musicians and their fans. Developed in partnership with local universities, and producing interactive workshops and free online courses, it is both an emotional and intellectual nexus of innovative music and education regarding environmental issues of the Nile.
With the album Aswan already under its belt, the Nile project charges forward with yet another residency for artists planned for early 2014. This will be proceeded by a African and European concerts, and followed by a tour of the United States in the ensuing year. Using multiple languages and a variety of musical traditions, the album ranges from the poignant to the inspirational. Honored as one of NPR’s five “must hear international albums” of the season, Aswan sets a high bar for music makers aspiring to join this innovative project. Fans around the world should be enthusiastic for the next album and envious of the lucky fans who will see the collective perform live. Afropop will be sure to follow up on this one. Stay tuned for more.