A line-up of five female musicians from Mauritania, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco and Iraq plan to delight the Cairo audience during Ramadan in this year's Hayy Festival from 18 July – 2 August.
The organisers, Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy (Cultural Resource), one of Egypt's most dynamic cultural agencies, has a solid mission to support artistic creativity in the Arab world and foster rich cultural exchange in the region.
The nonprofit also participates in developing young talents and artists locally and regionally.
The Hayy Festival takes place in the open-air El-Genaina Theatre inside Al-Azhar Park. The venue, which was designed by the Young Arab Theatre Fund and inaugurated in 2005, has hosted many of Al-Mawred's festivals and performances.
Alongside Ramadan's Hayy Festival, El-Genaina Theatre also hosts seasonal festivals that feature Egyptian and regional, Arab performers.
The first edition of the Hayy Festival took place in Ramadan 2005, with a diverse line-up of artistic events, including music performances, Sufi chanting concerts, poetry recitals, circus and puppet shows and more, setting the tone for a series of dynamic and evolving editions over the following years.
The annual festival celebrated Ramadan with artistic events that reflect the multi-layered nature of Egyptian cultural heritage, featuring acts from Cairo, the Nile Delta, Upper Egypt, Suez, among others. Hayy also became an opportunity for regional and international artists to perform a variety of genres, including jazz, rock and classical music for a local audience, effectively expanding the scope of the Egyptian audience's cultural experience.
Evolving over the years, Ramadan's Hayy Festival turned towards showcasing female musicians.
Mauritanian musician, Noura Mint Seymali, kicks off the festival on Thursday 18 July. Seymali formed an ensemble that relies on traditional instruments, such as the lute, harp, bowl drum and Western bass and drum kit. Her songs, which tackle pertinent topics such as the role of music in Islamic society, economic development and terrorism, feature influences from reggae, blues and hip hop music.
Franco-Tunisian artist Nawel Ben Kraiem is featured the following Thursday. The singer mixes multiple languages (Arabic, French and English) and is influenced by pop, electronic and tribal music. Ben Kraiem also acted in Indignados, a movie by famed French filmmaker Tony Gatlif. She is currently working on her first album.
On Friday 26 July, Palestinian singer Sanaa Moussa, returning to the Hayy festival for a second time, is scheduled to bring her contemporary folk tunes to El-Genaina. Inspired to delve into classical Arab music and Palestinian folk by her father, who was a popular musician and singer, Moussa strives to preserve folkloric music and pass it on across generations. Moussa's music gives a voice to Palestinian women and the struggles they face under occupation.
Iraqi singer and dancer Baidar Al Basri will perform on 1 August. Al Basri, who sings in Arabic, Dutch and French, studied ballet and singing in Syria and learned opera singing at the Royal Conservatoire in the Netherlands, where she currently resides.
The festival's big finale is on 2 August with a performance by Moroccan artist Khansa Batma. The popular singer (who is also an activist and model) mixes folkloric Moroccan tunes with rock and international music.
Director of El-Genaina theatre Charles Akl told Ahram Online that choosing the line-up of artists this year was challenging due to security concerns. "A few artists regretfully backed out and had to be replaced," he said. "Nevertheless, I insisted that there should be a geographical variety in the programme to bring a broad spectrum of musical riches."
Commenting on possible security threats due to the ongoing unrest in Egypt following the ouster of president Morsi on 3 July, Akl said that the festival will be held despite the risks and challenges. "Even if there were only two people in the audience, we will go on, as long as it does not challenge the safety of the audience and musicians directly," he said.
Ahram Online is the Hayy Festival official media sponsor for 2013.
Thursday, 18 July
Noura Mint Seymali (Mauritania)
Thursday, 25 July
Nawel Ben Kraiem (Tunisia)
Friday, 26 July
Sanaa Moussa (Palestine) [Postponed]
Thursday, 1 August
Ghalia Ben Ali (Tunisia)
Friday, 2 August
Khansa Batma (Morocco)
All concerts start at 9pm
Al-Azhar Park, Salah Salem Rd.