Culture ministry protesters to mark World Music Day on Friday

Ahram Online, Thursday 20 Jun 2013

Sit-in by artists and intellectual at culture ministry enters 16th day, performance planned for World Music Day on 21 June

Dancers from the Cairo Opera Ballet Company perform ballet Zorba on the street outside ministry of culture in Zamalek, to protest the attack on arts and culture in Egypt, 9 June 2013. (Photo: Sara Elkamel)

Artists and intellectuals continue their sit-in at the Ministry of Culture in Cairo's Zamalek for the 16th consecutive day on Thursday to demand the resignation of Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz.

On Friday 21 June, the sit-in will celebrate Fête de la Musique or World Music Day, through a line-up of performances including artists from the Cairo Opera House.

Protests at the Cairo Opera House began on 28 May when Abdel-Aziz sacked leading ministry officials. They were joined by a large number of artists and intellectuals. The opera soon resumed its performances, but protests continued and artists still occupy the ministry.

An artistic element has been the hallmark of the sit-in. While protesters have occupied two large meeting rooms inside the ministry, effectively stopping the minister from entering his office, daily cultural evenings have been organised, in which local artists perform on a small stage constructed on the street outside.

Musicians such as Bassem Sabry and Azza Balbaa have belted out politically charged songs, and the audience has chanted against President Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and the culture minister. Members of the Cairo Opera Ballet Company have also put on a show, performing excerpts from Ballet Zorba.

Politicians, including former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi and head of the liberal Constitution Party Mohamed ElBaradei have also made appearances on stage.

The artists will perform a concert on Friday 21 June to coincide with World Music Day, featuring a group of Cairo Opera House artists including sacked head Ines Abdel-Dayem (flute), Manal Mohey El-Deen (harp), Nesma Abdel-Aziz (marimba), and Maged Sorour (qanun) and vocalist Rehab Metawei.

The concert line-up also features performances by the Cairo Opera House's National Arab Music Ensemble and Talents Development Center. Ballet Zorba will also be performed again, by the Cairo Opera Ballet Company.

Meanwhile, the parallel sit-in at the Beram El-Tonsy theatre in Alexandria moves into its sixth day. Artists and intellectuals have been sleeping inside the theatre's lobby and holding daily cultural events. Artists in Egypt's coastal city insist the movement is bigger than discontent with the culture minister; their main concern is the ineffective policies governing culture and attempts to centralise Egyptian culture in the capital.

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