Ahram Online was there when Fathy Salama and Mahmoud ElTohamy launched 'Sufism v Modernism' project at the Cairo Opera on 25 September 2018
Egyptian Grammy-awarded music producer Fathy Salama and his band Sharkiat are flying this week to the UAE to play in an event featuring well known Islamic Sufi chanter Mahmoud ElTohamy and a number of his musicians, in 'Sufism vs Modernism,' on Thursday, 26 September, at the New York University (NYU) Art Centre in Abu Dhabi.
The duo will also participate in a series of master classes.
"The NYU Arts Centre is a very special place to perform in. We'll also be deconstructing our approach to modernising traditional Sufi music in the workshops," Salama told Ahram Online this week before heading to the Gulf country.
The “Godfather" of many of first-row underground bands and musicians, Salama, who played a vital rule in shaping mainstream pop in the 1970s and 1980s, has paid special attention to developing traditional Islamic music since he formed Sharkiat in the 1980s.
With his set of keyboards mixing jazzy chordal progressions with electronic sounds in a revolutionary fusion blending pop, hip hop and rock beats, with and traditionally Arabic lead solos, Salama first introduced ElTohamy in their 'Sufism vs Modernism' project at the Cairo Opera House on 25 September 2018, followed by few concerts.
Message to humanity
Sufism — a very old mystical conceptual trend that exists in both Sunni and Shia Islam, but is rejected by conservatives — has its own forms of traditional music that are normally used as part of the ritual practices of zikr, remembering Allah, and praising the Prophet Mohammed and his family.
"My cooperation with the internationally appreciated musician Salama is a global project that targets the whole of humanity with the international language that music speaks directly to the heart, aiming to spread the Islamic Sufi culture of tolerance," ElTohamy told Ahram Online this week.
Son of the famous Sufi chanter, Shiekh Yassin ElTohamy, Mahmoud mastered the deep-rooted Islamic music art from early childhood, following in his father's footsteps before taking the art further.
Besides founding and heading the Egyptian Association of Religious Hymns and Litanies, the 40-year-old chanter also runs an Islamic chanting school and is keen to develop the classic form of chanting via exposure to other international forms, sometimes eliciting criticism from his hardcore crowd.
The UAE's international role
"Singing Sufi chats in a public event in the UAE is a very special and new experience for me. The Emirati people always prove their pioneering international role as humanitarians spreading the message of love and anti-violence of Islam globally," ElTohamy explained.
For his part, Salama thinks "It's not new for the UAE to host similar events, as Sharkiat featured Youssou N’Dour last year in Sharjah playing in another Sufi project.” Salama’s album ‘Egypt,' with which he won a 2005 Grammy and BBC awards, was the main concert marking the re-opening of Africa Hall in Sharjah in September 2018.
Thursday's concert is expected to introduce new tracks from the 'Sufism vs Modernism' project that consists of ElTohamy's well known songs like Al-Burdah and Qamar, in addition to a few of Shrkiat's tunes, such as Nahawand and Rast.
The musicians will include Salama's friend, percussionist Ayman Sedky, table master Ramadan Mansour, guitarist Ziad Hisham and bassist Peter Laurence from Sharkiat, in addition to violinist Mahdy and Emad on nai and backing vocals from ElTohamy troupe.
The NYU Arts Centre is "a complex of theatres and performance venues, a project space gallery, rehearsals rooms, film editing studios, classrooms, and workshops that houses NYU Abu Dhabi’s theatre, music, film, visual arts, and new media studies departments."
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