Egypt's Culture Minister Ines Abdel-Dayem, who is also a prominent flautist, accompanied German-Egyptian ensemble Cairo Steps in Minya governorate at the University Hall on 19 December as part of an initiative to combat religious extremism and spread the beauty of arts and music in Upper Egypt.
"The ministry's strategy is to adopt many activities and initiatives to spread culture and awareness in all of Egypt, starting with Minya," said Abdel-Dayem, who has been frequently featured with the German Jazz Award winners Cairo Steps.
Cairo Steps founder Basem Darwisch, who was born in Minya’s Bani Mazar, introduced the idea of playing in his home governorate during the Sharm El-Sheikh Youth Forum in November, and Minister Abdel-Dayem commissioned the organising of the initiative's first event.
Darwish was joined in the event by many Minya-born public figures, as an expression of unity in the face of the recent extremist attacks against Christians in the governorate.
"It's a dream came true. I always wanted to organise an elegant art event in my homeland and to reach as many youngsters as possible," Cairo Steps boss Darwisch, who moved to Germany years ago, had said before the concert.
"After performing a lot in Cairo, Alexandria and Damanhour over the past three years, I found that the time has finally come to go to Upper Egypt and introduce an unfamiliar music concert there."
"We were brought up on the values of brotherhood between Muslims and Christians, sharing all hobbies together without any discrimination. We lived the best years of our lives despite the rise of extremist groups in the 1970s and 80s and their failed attempts to dominate art activities at schools," Darwisch said.
" I remember well that my generation stood solid against extremism and ignorance of understanding religions, and we still share solid friendship bonds.”
"After long years of working abroad and exploring many different cultures, I believe that music unites nations more than anything else today. This is what I want to achieve with my countrymen," Darwisch added.
singer Ali El-Helbawy frequently featured with Cairo Steps
"Theatre groups are set to travel to various cities and villages throughout the country to spread awareness, and there will be many other concerts held in Upper Egypt soon," Abdel-Dayem said, expressing gratitude to Cairo Steps and Darwisch.
Cairo Steps conductor Sebastian Müller-Schrobsdorff
Alongside their favorite Islamic chanter Ihab Yunis, Cairo Steps has featured singer Ali El-Helbawy in Minya in addition to some Egyptian musicians including accordionist Wael El-Sayed (of Wust El-Balad) and producer Ahmed Nazmi on the bass.
Founded in 2002, Cairo Steps is known for mixing classical music with jazz and Oriental Sufi tunes; they have also introduced a successful project at Cairo's Opera House called 'Al-Moled Wal-Milad,' in which they fused Coptic church songs with Islamic chants.
Wust El-Balad star Wael El-Sayed (accordion) frequently featured with Cairo Seps
The Minya concert comes as part of an active season for Cairo Steps, who played two concerts in the Arabian Gulf for the first time – in Kuwait and the UAE respectively.
Over the past week, Cairo Steps played at the Alexandria Opera House, in Damanhour and in Cairo.
Bassem Darwisch leads Cairo Steps in a concert in Minya, 19 December 2018
They will accompany HOH, which comprises Hany Adel of Wust El-Balad, Ousso Lotfy of Nagham Masry, and Massar Egbari's Hany El-Dakkak in a concert on Thursday in New Cairo.
Cairo Steps, conducted by Sebastian Müller-Schrobsdorff, were co-awarded the German Jazz Award in Berlin in April alongside German band Quadro Nuevo for their joint album Flying Carpet.
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