Banat Masr: New all-women project to see light in Egypt
Ati Metwaly, , Monday 23 Mar 2020
Banat Masr is a new project of the Egyptian musician and vocal coach Mohamed Osman

Known for his strong presence in the music field, Egyptian musician, conductor and vocal coach Mohamed Osman is preparing a new project, Banat Masr (Girls of Egypt), an ensemble composed of women musicians.

In the past years, Osman has gained popularity with a number of musical projects he handled, with Ayamna Helwa (Our Beautiful Days) being among his shining stars. Founded in 2003, the ensemble consisting of young singers and a few instrumentalists has performed at many renowned venues, participated in local and international festivals and was featured on national television. Ayamna Helwa has also appeared alongside well-known Egyptian singers, such as Medhat Saleh, Ali El-Haggar, and Hala Roshdi.

Banat Masr is a new musical endeavour that Osman began working on a few weeks ago and which within days has received much higher feedback than he expected.

The idea of Banat Masr came to Osman after years of working on Ayamna Helwa, Monshedeen Masr, Sahibet Al-Saada television programme hosted by Isaad Younes on CBC, and many other projects, and with other musicians.

"I noticed that in Egypt we have many female talents who are not in the limelight. Banat Masr will be an opportunity for all women to shine, whether as vocalists or instrumentalists," Osman told Ahram Online.

He added that as Ayamna Helwa continues to grow, it can no longer focus on all new talents emerging in the scene. Moreover, Ayamna Helwa has established its own style, one that attracts many musicians and audiences but might not be the choice for many others.

The call for applications to a new ensemble that Osman launched a few weeks ago has already shaken the status quo.

"When I revealed the idea of Banat Masr, I was thinking I'd receive a few dozens of women interested to participate in the new ensemble. I was happily surprised to find that over 400 women sent videos of their works. Most applicants are vocalists though there are also numerous instrumentalists. I already chose 60 vocalists who will come to the final audition once it takes place." Osman specified the minimum age of applicants at 18. The majority of the women who applied are in their 20s and 30s with a few in their 40s, making it a multi-generation collection of musicians.

Osman aims to find either professional musicians interested in becoming part of Banat Masr or highly qualified semi-professionals, all required to have a high proficiency in reading music. He pointed out that it is possible that a few instrumentalists from the national orchestra will join the project.

Following the Ayamna Helwa's format, each member of the new ensemble will have their solo opportunity, however, Banat Masr will probably become larger in the musical scale.

"Preliminarily, I am thinking of a chamber ensemble consisting of a maximum of 15 musicians, in addition to vocalists, the number of whom can reach 25. All vocalists will be soloists; as such the choir will consist of soloists, with each member having an opportunity to present her talent during the performances. It's a teamwork."

Throughout his career, Osman worked primarily in Arabic repertoire and heritage-related compositions, several original works, and some arrangements. Due to its novel character, Banat Masr will have a place for the members to explore other musical genres.

"I depend on the teamwork and individual musical passions of the participants. For example, if one of them has a special interest in jazz, why not incorporate that into our future performances? While I expect that Oriental music will still be our base, the fact that the ensemble will include a few musicians representing classical music will definitely add new angles and open Banat Masr to different repertoires," Osman explained.

"An all-women ensemble consisting is definitely not something new. What triggered me is the fact that several female talents might find it difficult to get their place, and a few choirs and ensembles we have in Egypt have their own members. I wanted to open the door for more female talents as well as implement new ideas I have while introducing fresh ideas that the ensemble members will contribute to."

Once Banat Masr begins working, the ensemble will be promoted on social media and other Internet channels.

"I am not in a hurry. I will definitely begin by giving to the members extensive vocal workshops, topped with exercises of working in an ensemble. I want to make sure to reach perfection before showcasing our work.

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