Thousands attend opening of 8th International Festival for Drum and traditional arts at Cairo Citadel

Amira Noshokaty , Sunday 13 Jun 2021

The festival featured troupes from 30 countries

Opening of drums
Opening of drums. Photo Amira Noshokaty

On Saturday, thousands flocked to attend the opening of the long-awaited 8th edition of the International Festival for Drums and Traditional Arts at the Cairo Citadel, which features troupes from 30 countries.

The celebration started off-stage at the entrance of Beir Youssef stage, where the Police Music Troupe were the first to perform.

The path to the stage displayed handicrafts that represented the numerous countries represented.

Following the opening speech and the inauguration of the festival by Minister of Culture Ines Abdel-Dayem, the Ambassador of South Korea played on his saxophone the popular Egyptian song ‘Talat Daqat’ (‘Three Beats’).

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(Photo: Amira Noshokaty)

“This round, which was postponed from last year due to the pandemic, has a very special flavour, because it is about challenge and resilience. How can we make a festival when the circumstances are impossible to host one?” Intisar Abdel-Fattah, the festival’s founder and director, told Ahram Online.

“Minister of Culture Ines Abdel-Dayem was persistent to resume cultural activities [in Egypt], and so it was an opportunity for me to start preparing despite the small time frame. But how do we host an international festival during COVID? We came to the idea of approaching embassies and working with amateur troupes like we did with Samaa Festival, which proved to be the best round.”

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(Photo: Amira Noshokaty)

Indeed, the opening performance reflected great effort, talent, and resilience. With tens of troupes on stage playing passionately, sailing smoothly along the drumbeats of 30 different nations and cultures, and how somehow the beats resonated their similarities.

An outstanding performance came from Colombia, with their traditional dance and physical performance that was upbeat. Southern Sudan wowed the audience with their drum dance and unique rhythm and costumes. However, the heart felt cheers came when the Palestinian troupe took to the stage with their songs and Dabka.

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(Photo: Amira Noshokaty)

Egypt, on the other hand, was presented in multiple talents. The diversity of Egyptian Culture and its multiple layers shimmered on stage, as the beats from Port Said, Reda’s Folk Troupe, and the up-lifting music of the Beat band was nothing but enchanting.

However, it was hard to miss the unique voices that mesmerised the audience with their folk Egyptian Songs. Tablet Al-Set Egyptian Troupe owned the stage with their all women drummers and cheerful folk songs, leaving a mark on the audience with their red outfits. But the most heart-warming performance was the folk dance performed by young artists with special needs, or rather “those with white hearts and superpowers,” as Intisar Abdel Fattah chose to call them.

“This round is an exceptional one because of the travel restrictions. The drum beats are a very unique language that is highly affiliated with African countries, and in this festival, Intisar Abdel Fattah managed to bring together a melange of sounds and facilitate a drum conversation,” Siham Youssef, organiser of the festival and head of Al-Ghoury Dome, said.

“Such drum conversations, as well as discourse in art have a lot of artistic and political meaning in the long run. The audience today was 2.5 thousand individuals, which is half the original capacity of the theatre due to the coronavirus precautionary measures,” she concluded.

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