Fathy Salama and Sheikh Mahmoud El-Tohamy continue to revive heritage

Eslam Omar , Sunday 23 Feb 2020

Fathy Salama and Sheikh Mahmoud El-Tohamy speak to Ahram Online ahead of their sixth 'Sufism vs Modernism' concert, which aims to revive Islamic Sufi heritage

Fathy Salama
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-winning music producer Fathy Salama and members of his band Sharkiat will feature Islamic Sufi chanter Mahmoud El-Tohamy and a number of his musicians in another 'Sufism vs Modernism' resceduled concert on 23 March at the Cairo Opera House.

This is the sixth concert of its kind since Salama first introduced El-Tohamy at the Cairo Opera House on 25 September 2018, with the last concert held on 26 September 2019 at the New York University (NYU) Art Centre in Abu Dhabi.

"This project is evolving with time and I am always keen to introduce new things in each concert," Salama told Ahram Online on Sunday, revealing that the Sufism vs Modernism project has also been invited by acclaimed Norwich band the Source to perform in a collaborative concert this Summer in Oslo.  

انا مغرم بهواه - فتحي سلامه والشيخ محمود التهامي - Sufism vs Modernism

The godfather of many first-row indie bands and musicians, Salama, who played a vital role in shaping mainstream pop in the 1970s and 1980s, has paid special attention to traditional Islamic music since he formed Sharkiat in the 1980s, winning the Grammy and BBC awards for another Sufi project with Senegal's music icon Youssou N’Dour.

"The Sufism vs Modernism project proves that our authentic heritage and folklore contains all that is needed to reach an international audience with enough hard work," Salama added.

Salama’s set of keyboards mix jazzy chordal progressions with electronic sounds in a revolutionary fusion that blends pop, hip hop and rock grooves with traditionally Arabic lead solos.

Message of tolerance to humanity

Sufism is a very old mystical trend that exists in both Sunni and Shia Islam, but is rejected by conservatives. Sufism has its own forms of traditional music that are normally used as part of the ritual practices of zikr, remembering God, and praising the Prophet Mohammed and his family.

"The international success of the Sufism vs Modernism project proves that Islam's message of peace is for the whole of humanity," El-Tohamy told Ahram Online.

Alborda - Sufism vs. Modernism - Sheikh Mahmood Al-Tuhami and Fathy salama

The son of the famous Sufi chanter Sheikh Yassin El-Tohamy, Mahmoud mastered the deep-rooted Islamic musical art from early childhood, following in his father's footsteps.

El-Tohamy made headlines recently for his campaign against the Mahragan music genre.

"I hope the authorities pay more attention to supporting arts that could give an honourable presentation of our nation's culture away from the immodesty forced upon us lately," he demanded.

Besides founding and heading the Egyptian Association of Religious Hymns and Litanies, the 41-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 international language of music speaks directly to the heart," El-Tohamy said, adding that he aims to “spread the Islamic Sufi culture of tolerance.”

فتحي سلامه والشيخ محمود التهامي - زدني بفرط الحب Sufism Vs. Modernism - live in NYU Abu Dahbi

In Thursday's concert, the musicians will include Salama's friend and percussionist Ayman Sedky, tabla master Ramadan Mansour, guitarist Ziad Hisham, Ziad Essam, who will be switching between guitar and oud, bassist Peter Laurence from Sharkiat, and violinist Emad, along with vocals from the El-Tohamy troupe.


Monday 23 March at 8pm (Resceduled)
Small Hall, Cairo Opera House, Zamalek


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