Egyptian/Zanzibari double bill concert at The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi features Sufism vs. Modernism and Zanzibari Taarab & Kidumbak

●       Sufism vs Modernism is performed by Egypt’s Grammy Award winner Fathy Salama and renowned Sufi chanter Sheikh Mahmoud Tohamy

●       Taarab & Kidumbak is performed by Zanzibar’s only music school dedicated to the preservation of the music heritage of the Dhow Region, Dhow Countries Music Academy

●       The Arts Center lineup offers four Off The Stage events alongside the performance, including two workshops and a documentary film screening

The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), in collaboration with the NYUAD Music Program, is set to host the UAE Premiere of Sufism vs. Modernism by the Arab world’s only Grammy and BBC Awards winner Fathy Salama and renowned Egyptian Sufi chanter Sheikh Mahmoud Tohamy, along with the Zanzibari Taarab & Kidumbak Ensemble presented by Dhow Countries Music Academy (DCMA). The extraordinary double bill will take place on Thursday, September 26 at 8pm in the Red Theater at The Arts Center.

Expanding on the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development’s Al Burda platform to support contemporary Islamic arts and culture, the performance explores Arab and Islamic sounds of the African continent from Egypt to Zanzibar. Fathy Salama and Sheikh Mahmoud Tohamy’s Sufism vs Modernism brings the sounds and rhythms of traditional Sufi chanting and contemporary Egyptian jazz together in a unique harmony of Arabic sounds. Meanwhile, DCMA’s concert of Zanzibari Taarab and Kidumbak will blend the instrumental colors of Western Indian Ocean culture with the African-Arab synthesis of Taarab music.

Fathy Salama is best known for his band Sharkiat, which has performed over 2,000 times across the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals and contributed award-winning music to the Egyptian movie Angel Paradise by Director Osama Fawzy. In addition, Salama served as the producer and conductor, accompanying N’Dour’s music with his own ensemble, in collaboration with Youssou N’Dour, which resulted in the Grammy Award winning 2004 album Egypt. Salama and N’Dour most recently performed in the UAE to celebrate the reopening of Sharjah’s Africa Hall.

Hailing from Egypt, Sheikh Mahmoud Tohamy is the son of renowned Munshid singer Sheikh Yassin Al-Tohamy and the grandson of an Imam at the Great Mosque. Tohamy holds a great legacy, having received his musical training under his father and Sheikh Al-Arif Billah.

Sharing the bill, the DCMA will perform the Indian Ocean African-Arab blend of their Zanzibari Taarab/ Kidumbak Ensemble. The Academy was established in 2002 by a group of local musicians and music enthusiasts. It is the only music school in Zanzibar dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the music heritage of the Dhow Region with emphasis on teaching the traditional music styles of Taraab, Kidumbak, and Ngoma. DCMA have developed strong relationships with researchers and programs at NYUAD, including the Music Program, a co-sponsor of DCMA’s residency.

Furthermore, the collaboration will bring four Off The Stage events to The Arts Center, including Fathy Salama’s Creator’s Workshop on Arabic Music Composition exploring New Age Sufi Music on Tuesday, September 24 at 7pm; Taarab Music – Singing and Composition Creator’s Workshop underlining the Taarab terminologies, the methods used, and influences that the composers have borrowed from the Dhow Countries, the West, and the Caribbean on Saturday, September 28 at 6:30pm; and a screening of a documentary film shot by NYUAD students titled Dhow Countries Music Academy Documentary, followed by a Q&A with NYUAD Music and Film & New Media Program faculty on Saturday, September 28 at 5pm. Prior to the concert on September 26, NYUAD professors Erin Pettigrew and Andrew J. Eisenberg will lead a pre-concert talk at 7pm with the Fathy Salama and members of Dhow Countries Music Academy.

Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development said, “I am delighted to see The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi’s presentation of such a stimulating concert for the local audience that celebrates the depth and breadth of Islamic culture in its many forms.”

Executive Artistic Director of The Arts Center at NYUAD Bill Bragin added, “Last year, when The Arts Center hosted a concert and awards ceremony for the Al Burda festival, we were struck by the strong response from the audience for innovative contemporary approaches to Islamic music. Fathy Salama’s project with Sheikh Mahmoud Tohamy seemed like a perfect follow-up to that event, showcasing a powerful Sufi chanter in innovative contemporary jazz arrangements. Similarly, so much work on campus looks at the relationships between the Arab world and East Africa through Gulf and Indian Ocean exchange. The pairing with the DCMA seemed like a perfect opportunity to build on the work of NYUAD’s Music Program exploring these shared histories.”

Assistant Professor of Music at NYUAD Andrew J. Eisenberg commented, “This double bill brings together two complex sound worlds from the African continent that intersect in beautiful and surprising ways. Each group builds on the legacy of twentieth-century Egyptian music by bringing it into dialogue with other cultural forms. Two of Umm Kulthum’s most interesting musical grandchildren are about to meet for the first time on stage.”

For more information on the performances, please click here.

The Arts Center at NYUAD is a performing arts center that presents distinguished professional artists from around the world alongside student, faculty, and community productions.

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