Lebanese singer Ghada Shbeir takes sacred Syriac chants to Sweden

Ahram Online , Thursday 16 Jun 2016

Ghada Shbeir will perform during the Festspelen music festival in Piteå

Ghada Shbeir
Ghada Shbeir (Photo: Al Ahram Weekly)

Lebanese singer Ghada Shbeir, best known for giving traditional and ancient music a contemporary twist, will perform during the Festspelen music festival that runs between 17 and 23 June in Piteå, Sweden.

In her interview published in Al Ahram Weekly in October 2015, Nourhan Tewfik describes Shbeir, as an artist inspired by Turath.

Tewfik continues by saying that Shbeir as "a vocalist is a musicologist, researcher, teacher and composer, her [Shbeir's] repertoire ranges from the Syriac and Maronite hymn and chant to the qassidah (classical poem), the Andalusian muwashah, the mawwal (a related form relying on improvisation) and the dawr (a light song with some space for improvisation).

Her albums include Qawaleb (The Modes), Al-Qasida (The Poem), Al-Muwashahat and Andalusiya, and she performs songs by the legends and icons of 20th-century Arabic music: Sayed Darwish, Oum Kolthoum, Fairouz, Sabah and Asmahan, among others."

"Shbeir is a graduate of the Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik (USEK), and earned a masters and a PhD in musicology, a discipline that allowed her to combine her talent with her passion for the past, making important discoveries about Syriac musical heritage."

The Syriac language, she wrote in a World Policy Journal article entitled “Speaking in Tongues” (Spring 2012), “used to be the vernacular of cultural and scientific communication for religious and educated people of Middle Eastern societies. The alphabets of many languages, including Arabic, originated in Syriac. With the rise of Islam in the 8th century, the Syriac language began its long decline as a commercial and everyday-use language.”

Shbeir's last concert in Egypt took place in 2015, as she closed the 13th Bibliotheca Alexandrina Summer Festival.

Shberi will perform in Sweden on 18 June and she will be the only musician from the Arab region to take part in Piteå's annual festival which for over three decades has attracted an audience from all over Sweden and beyond the with a high-quality musical variety.

According to the festival's website, the event aims at bringing together different popular musical traditions, allowing the audiences to experience both the present and future of music. 

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