Musicians’ Nile River Project

I really enjoyed what Siddhartha Mitter wrote in the Boston Globe recently about a collaboration among musicians from several different African countries.

The countries themselves tend to be focused on their own internal issues, Mitter says, and the cultural activities mostly stay within national borders as well. “This makes the Nile Project, a collective of musicians from 11 Nile basin countries (from Egypt to Burundi) … more than a fusion project. It’s an intervention, aimed not just at making music, but also at driving concrete work on shared issues like water rights, food security, education, social empowerment, and climate change.

“A tall order for mere artists, maybe. But Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis, who founded the project in 2011 with Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero, sees a natural fit. ‘We’re finding ways to use music to solve challenges beyond music,’ Girgis says. ‘Music can play a role in the sustainability of the basin.’ …

“The Nile Project’s music-making is an equally deliberate process. The traditions of the region share instruments — flutes, lyres, percussion — that are related but used in very different systems of scales, rhythms, and song. At the Nile Gatherings, musicians find themselves on turf at once familiar and foreign. ‘We are so close, as African neighbors, and yet there is not much sharing,’ says Ethiopian saxophonist Jorga Mesfin.

“Using a modified version of Theory U, a group collaboration model devised by MIT professor Otto Scharmer, Girgis says the gatherings begin by putting musicians in small groups, then gradually merging their ideas through composition and arrangement. Most of the artists are bandleaders themselves; here, they must check their egos.”

Read more at the Globe.

Photo: Matjaz Kacicnik

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