Grammy-winning Youssou N’Dour and Fathy Salama revive 'Egypt' at Sharjah’s Africa Hall reopening

Eslam Omar , Sunday 23 Sep 2018

Fathy Salama spoke to Ahram Online about Youssou N’Dour and the famous album 'Egypt,' two days ahead of its being re-performed at the reopening of Africa Hall in Sharjah

Fathy Salama
Fathy Salama leading a rehearsal for his orchestra in a studio in Cairo ahead of re-performing 'Egypt' in Sharja with Youssou N' Dour, 19 September 2018 (Photo: Eslam Omar)

Thirteen years after winning the 2005 Grammy Award for best contemporary world music album, 'Egypt', the artists behind the album — Senegalese singer and composer Youssou N’Dour and Egyptian producer Fathy Salama —are gearing up for the first performance at the reopening of Africa Hall, taking place in the UAE's Sharjah between 25 and 30 September.

"Thanks to the Sharjah Art Foundation, it feels great to be part of this important event and to perform the 'Egypt' album, whose message clarifies that Islam is a religion of love and peace," Salama told Ahram Online. 

With lyrics sang in Wolof and Arabic, 'Egypt' is a Senegalese Sufi album that merges West African and Arabic instrumentation, gaining critical appreciation across Africa, Europe and the United States more than a decade ago with all its makers won the Grammy Award including Egyptian sound engineer Alaa Kashef.

A documenting video of Youssou N’Dour and Fathy Salama Orchestra while performing one the most successful track of 'Egypt' album; Tuba, in many cities in Europe amid the album tour following the Grammy-award winning in 2005

"The album took us a great effort to produce, years ago. Its success is proof that effort is essential for any long-lasting success because, as they say, 'easy come, easy go'," Salama added:

Fathy Salama
Fathy Salama during another late Islamic Sufi project 'Sufism vs. Modernism' concert at the Cairo Opera House, Sunday 25 February 2018 (Photo: Laila Farouk)

After cooperating with the giants of Egypt's mainstream pop in the 80s, like Amr Diab, Mohamed Mounir, Ali El-Haggar, Medhat Saleh and Anoshka, Salama formed his band Sharkiat, gaining fame in the continental and global jazz scene.

"The godfather," as his students like to call him, became a pioneer in the alternative music scene, boosting many currently famous bands and musicians, like Masar Egbari, Cairokee, Sharmoofers, Dina El-Wedidi, Mohamed Mohsen, Black Theama and many others, through his workshops and training programmes.

"I am hoping that the Arabic listener, and the Egyptian specifically, listens to the 'Egypt' album and becomes more open to different arts, paying attention to great musicians in Africa, including the best singer I ever worked with — Youssou N’Dour," he concluded.

The 'Egypt' album

Besides his success as a musician, producing dozens of successful albums and collaborating with many musicians across the globe, Youssou N'Dour is also a successful businessman and politician.

The Fathy Salama Orchestra will include members of Sharkiat: experienced percussionist Ayman Sedky, Ramadan Mansour on Tabla, Lebanese Andre Segone on contrabass, Kawala star Abdullah Helmy with famous violinist and producer Mohamed Medhet leading the strings section.

The Africa Institute, that aims "to serve as a globally-oriented, interdisciplinary academic research institute dedicated to the study, research, and documentation of Africa," has re-established Africa Hall on the same site on which it was initially built in 1976 to serve various types of events.

Youssou Ndour

"Sharjah has always been at the crossroads of various cultures," stated president of the Africa Institute Hoor Al-Qasimi, adding that the institute is "the first research and archival institution of its kind in the region," that "pays tribute to this rich history."

The opening programme for Africa Hall will run from 25 to 30 September and will include performances by Zied Zouari, Youssou N’Dour and The Fathy Salama Orchestra (25 September), Youssou N’Dour and Le Super Étoile de Dakar (26 September), Oumou Sangaré (27 September), Mulatu Astatke (28 September), Lisa Simone, DJ Peter Adjaye (29 September), and Somi (30 September), as well as a screening of the film An Opera of the World (2017) directed by Manthia Diawara (28 September).

Africa Hall
Africa Hall in Sharjah weeks before its reopening, September 2018 (Photo courtesy of The Africa Institute)

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