Egyptian teen Mahmoud Ahmed Awad wins int'l singing competition in Baku, Azerbaijan

Ati Metwaly , Wednesday 16 Oct 2019

Awad won 1st prize while Kareem Mohamed Ahmed was awarded the honorary award at the 11th Festival for Maqam Singing held in Baku

Baku competition
Left: Mahmoud Ahmed Awad, winner of the 1st prize and Kareem Mohamed Ahmed who received the honorary certificate at the 11th Festival for Maqam Singing, Baku, Azerbaijan. Right: Souheir Hussein, a vocal trainer and artistic supervisor of the Cairo Opera House Children Choir.

Two 13-year-old Egyptian singers brought home prizes for their performance at a competition held as part of the annual Festival for Maqam Singing, which was held in Baku, Azerbaijan between 7 and 10 October.

Mahmoud Ahmed Awad won the first prize at the competition while Kareem Mohamed Ahmed was given an honorary certificate.

Both singers travelled with Souheir Hussein, a vocal trainer and artistic supervisor of the Cairo Opera House Children Choir, who nominated the boys to represent Egypt in the international competition.

"Earlier this year, the Cairo Opera House was contacted to take part in the 11th edition of the annual Festival for Maqam Singing held in Baku. Jehan Morsi, head of the Cairo Opera Arabic Music department, contacted me to recommend a few names of children who would meet with the competition's requirements, so we eventually chose two names," Souheir Hussein explains to Ahram Online.

The annual competition held as part of the festival invites children from many countries aged up to 15 years old to present their singing skills. The singers should have talent in maqam heritage and/or folkloric arts representing their country. Two young singers from each country are chosen to travel and sing in front of the jury and large audience at one of Baku's major theatres.

Baku competition
Audience and the jury at the 11th Festival for Maqam Singing, Baku (Photo: courtesy of Souheir Hussein)

Hussein was also a jury member since the competition includes one voice specialist (who arrives with the contestants) from each country.

"This jury panel setting stresses on an international variety of tastes and many unique approaches to the heritage music presented by the contestants from each country. It was an interesting exchange of views," Hussein explains. 

This year, several countries took part with their young representatives, including Egypt, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Iran.

Mahmoud Ahmed Awad won the first prize for his performance of Qaseeda Modnaka from Mohamed Abdel-Wahab's (1901 - 1991) repertoire, while Kareem Mohamed Ahmed sang Mabyesalsh Aleya Abadan (He Never Asks About Me) by Mohamed Abdel-Muttilib (1910 - 1980). 

"I chose those two compositions as they truly represent the Egyptian singing tradition and fit the boys' voices," Hussein explains.

"For instance, Qaseeda Modnaka in particular poses a lot of challenges for the singer given how the meanings and accents are formulated. The modulation is also incredibly important. Mahmoud tackled the task brilliantly. Kareem, who sang Mabyesalsh Aleya Abadan, delivered an equally excellent performance."

Hussein added that the entire jury was very happy with both Egyptian young singers.

The second award in the competition was awarded to a young singer from Turkey, while the third award went to an Azerbaijani contestant. A separate award for Creative Excellence was given to a contestant from Iran.

"I am very happy with the win. Upon our return, the Cairo Opera House's chairman Magdy Saber and the management met the winners and expressed their happiness that both boys from Egypt made all of us very proud," Hussein added.

Hussein also said that besides the victory, she and both contestants had a great opportunity to listen to music from many countries, to explore new colours and enjoy the heritage of each country participating in the festival.

"It was a wonderful and very enriching experience on both the professional [musical and artistic] and personal levels," Hussein said.

Both boys are members of the Cairo Opera House Children’s Choir, an artistic body founded in 1989 under maestro Selim Sehab as conductor and artistic director. Souheir Hussein is the choir's vocal trainer and artistic supervisor. Hussein also gives private vocal lessons to many children, many of whom go on to launch singing careers.

Baku competition
Magdy Saber, chairman of the Cairo Opera House welcomes back winners of the 11th Festival for Maqam Singing. L to R: Souheir Hussein, Mahmoud Ahmed Awad, Magdy Saber and Kareem Mohamed Ahmed (Photo: courtesy of Souheir Hussein)

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