She Arts is the title of the newly established music festival launched this week at the AUC Culture Center in Cairo’s Tahrir. The three-day festival aims to provide a vision of the contemporary musical scene from a feminist perspective.
The festival sheds light on female music performers representing different music genres and styles. Sponsored by Prohelvetia, Maat Dance Company and others, the event took place in Ewart Hall, the Oriental Hall and the Garden Theater from 9 to 11 September.
On the first day, the festival managed to attract a considerable audience, Egyptian and foreigners residing in Egypt, despite the fears of a new wave of Covid 19. However, the numbers decreased in the following two days.
“The event is designed to promote the artistic spirit of women in Egypt and to support creative female musicians belonging to different generations. It largely reveals the importance of women’s participation in the culture scene now,” says Nevine Qenawy, the founder and director of the festival.
The Festival is held in cooperation with the AUC Tahrir Culture Center and Egypt’s Ministry of Culture. It hosted performances and workshops from Egypt, France, Portugal and Palestine.
Opening the festival was a brilliant show by the Egyptian Harp Ensemble led by leading female musician Manal Moheiddin. The show included Russian valse and classic music and Argentinian Tango music among other fabulous tunes.
The concert by Portuguese singer Susana Travasso was out of context due to the lack of info on her achievement and the difficulty understanding the language. The singer did not even care to translate the meaning of the titles of her songs into English. Along with two male musicians on guitar and accordion, Travasso played traditional Spanish, Brazilian and Portuguese ballads, including one written by Fernando Pessoa.
Heba Soliman’s performance was another good surprise. Accompanied by Mohamed Aly on violin and Amr Galal on percussion, Soliman led a small band presenting electronic music adaptations of traditional songs by Warda, Um Kolthoum and Mohamed Rushdy.
One of the festival’s interesting sessions is the Women behind the camera discussion with established script writer Mariam Naoum, talking about her achievement in television drama and her newly established Sard, a company producing quality drama scripts based on script writing workshops by ten writers. During the seminar, held at the oriental hall, shots from Zat and Segn El-nessa, two of her most popular dramas, were screened.
“The sensitivity and the flow of such disturbed feelings, depicted by the actress were remarkable,” she comments on the sexual harassment scene of the Segn El-nessa directed by another brilliant woman Kamla Abu Zikry, as one example of how her cooperation with Zikry is notably successful.
Adressing her audience, Naoum noted that scriptwriting is one of the professions that requires hard work. “It took me nine years after my graduation in 1996 for my first movie One/Zero to be released. However, young script writers can take shorter time now that all information is available online.”
In addition to concerts, one of the exhibition halls opposite to Ewart Hall hosted “She is always inspiring”, a small photography exhibition featuring a rare collection of pictures and clippings of old magazines featuring Egyptian icons in the entertainment field such as Um Kolthoum, Bahiga Hafez, Farida Fahmy and Sherihan in an exceptionally attractive display, with captions both in Arabic and English, revealing women’s creativity in the 20th century.
La Ronde Quatuor, a silent contemporary dance performance by Yasmine Hugonnet from Switzerland, featured slow motioned body movements by a group of three women and a man, all dressed in blue jeans and black shirts. The dancers, who were most time connected by arms during the short show, failed to impress the audience. It was a disappointment, not displaying of any idea related to women issues or creativity.
Fabrica, a music troupe led by prominent international soprano Nevine Allouba presented “Journey”, featuring the story of girls striving to become professional singers in a society that still belittles the role played by female musicians in modern time. The show featured single performances by twelve female singers of different ages (ranging from 11 to 30), who played different genres of music.
The beautiful young singer Nouran Abu Taleb presented the final scene of the festival, playing some of her own songs, including O’ Star, inspired by the dramatic life of Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, as well as Tunisian and Saidi folklore songs.