Last week, Alexandrian audiences found refuge from the summer heat and traffic jams in the great hall of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, where Jordanian pianist and composer Tarek El-Nasser performed as part of the summer festival.
“The city of Alexandria is very dear to me. My relationship to Egypt is a very old one. I often come to Cairo to work in the studio or for rehearsals, but Alexandria was the first Mediterranean city where I performed. It was four years ago, at the Sayed Darwish theatre,” says El-Nasser.
Despite his successful works, composed for television series, his regular trips between Egypt and Jordan, El-Nasser waited years to perform in Alexandria again. “It is a very culturally rich city. Yet the sounds of its Mediterranean music are drowned out by the cosmopolitan culture,” he explains.
Accompanied by five Jordanian musicians from the band Rum, along with other Egyptian musicians, El-Nasser played some of his original soundtracks: Al-Gawreh, Melouk El-Tawef, and King Farouq, as well as other celebrated tunes such as Ya Mahla Al-Fossha, Rouh, and other songs.
The artist shares the beauty of his music, which draws from Arab cultural heritage and fuses its sounds with fresh and contemporary rhythms.
“Cultural heritage is an inexhaustible treasure. When we care for it, it cares for us as well,” says the artist.
In 1993, El-Nasser began to compose soundtracks for television series. In 1998, he founded the band Rum, a name inspired by that of the famous Jordanian valley. The musician writes, composes and rearranges songs inspired by traditional oriental melodies.
“Rum is a self-sufficient project. It rose to prominence in the 1990s and early 2000s. The band consists of 25 musicians and singers, with musicians playing both oriental and occidental instruments. The notion of a troupe does not interest us; we rather just want to play, create a dialogue, in a free and flexible manner,” explains the pianist.
The Rum musicians are led by El-Nasser’s sister Russl. While not all members of the band are available for all concerts, they doesn't pose a problem, as other musicians can easily take their place.
Playing is communicating
“Music is a true incarnation of peace and freedom. That is what makes it special," said El-Nasser.
"When we play, we stray from the individuality and specificity of each member to interpret a unique piece. During the performance, each musician does their best to attain the best possible level. It is the greatest example of human relations, beings in perfect harmony, in every sense of the term.”
While El-Nasser is rather preoccupied with composing soundtracks for television series or films, he still feels the need to perform for an audience every so often. Hence the importance of live concerts.
“What matters to me and to the members of Rum is to offer masterpieces to music lovers, to carve our musical project into their memories. I try to perform twice a year with the Rum musicians.”
The musicians often try to share their experiences with others and broaden their horizons. They have collaborated with Egyptian band Al-Nafikha for brass music, and with the Alexandrian band Massar Egbari, famous for its revolutionary music. Both collaborations were met with great success.
El-Nasser will hold another concert with the Rum band on 2 August at the Roman Theatre in Amman as part of the Moussiqa Al-Balad festival.
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