Tuesday 22 April marked the launch reception of this year’s Spring Festival, biennially organised by Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy (Culture Resource). The reception was held in Cairo’s Swiss Club and attended by members of the press as well as various artists, culture enthusiasts and professionals.
The 2014 Spring Festival, set to run from 24 April - 26 May between Cairo and Beirut, is an interdisciplinary feast encompassing music, theatre, dance, poetry, cinema and visual arts.
The event is also hosting parts of the Norwegian Red Zone festival -- which seeks to push the boundaries of free expression -- taking place outside of Norway for the first time this year.
The reception kicked off with a speech by Culture Resource managing director Basma El-Husseiny, who thanked the team behind the event for their efforts. Starting with festival manager Debbie Smith, El-Husseiny then introduced each team member to the attendees seated at the elegant tables that filled the spacious Swiss Club garden.
“We only host this festival every two years but it takes a lot of hard work by a huge team of extra dedicated individuals to make it happen,” El-Husseiny said, “We truly hope you are satisfied with the outcome and that the festival accomplishes what we first founded it for.”
This year’s Spring Festival will be focusing on Africa, bringing artists from all over the continent to the Egyptian capital in an attempt to expose audiences to different aspects of contemporary African art.
“Our Egyptian culture is essentially African, and African culture affects us in many, many ways,” El-Husseiny said.
She also informed the crowd that South African star Miss Lira will be opening the festival with a performance in Cairo’s Prince Taz Palace on Thursday, 24 April, to be followed by another concert in Al-Azhar Park’s Al-Geneina Theatre on Saturday, 26 April.
After the speech, the lively youth of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Arts School delivered a heartening performance joined by musicians from Makan (Egyptian Centre for Culture and Arts) as well as El Mastaba Centre for Egyptian Folk Music.
Performers were ingeniously scattered across the garden, each sitting at a different table with attendees, incognito. The performance started with one of them drumming away at his tabla (oriental drum), before another – seated at a table on the other side of the garden – joined in. One by one, other musicians followed suit, while the guests, chuckling in delight each time the music emanated from their table, raised cellular phones to capture photos and videos.
Soon enough, the performance turned into a full-fledged tabla contest, each musician flexing musical muscles to surpass the rest.
The drumming marathon was complemented by a Nubian duo with dufs (rhythmic drum), another duo comprised of a woman in sparkling traditional dress, also with a duf, and accompanied by a man who danced energetically with a maraca in one hand.
It wasn’t long, however, before the stage emptied for the youth of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar again, this time seated on a line of adjacent wooden chairs -- which they used as percussion instruments -- each of them taking the lead for one solo drumming act after the next.
For the show’s finale, the chair percussionists, the Nubian duf duo, the woman and the man with the maraca, and the tabla performers, were all joined with two saxophonists in a cheerful medley that drew a loud round of applause from the audience.
After the performance, guests were free to mingle and socialise while helping themselves to everything the buffet and beverage bar had to offer.
This year’s Spring Festival lineup includes a host of diverse artists from Egypt, the Arab region and Africa, and will also incorporate percussion, contemporary dance, capoeira and hip hop workshops given by the visiting performers.
Check the festival's programme here
Ahram Online is a press partner of this year's Spring Festival