The inaugural Sounds of Arabia festival kicked off this weekend with none other than legendary Egyptian composer and musician Omar Khaiyrat performing live at the Al Dhafra Auditorium, Cultural Foundation, in Abu Dhabi.
Organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach), the six-day event aims to revive the lost sounds of traditional Arabic music in an era of popular Western influence.
"Encompassing a history of more than 2,000 years, the music of Arabs is unique among the world's various cultures," said Isadora Papadrakakis, Art Manager, Adach. "From secular to sacred, instrumental to vocal, and traditional to contemporary, the evolution of this genre offers an insight into the cultural identities that constitute being an Arab in these present times."
The festival, which is set to be an annual event, offers everything from Iraqi maqam (melodic pitch) to the sounds of the Arab-Andalusian guitar, and will feature some of the Arab world's most revered stars.
Tonight, Furat Qaddouri, an Iraqi qanoon virtuoso (a flat zither-like musical instrument) will perform live. He will be joined on stage by Moroccan oudist Tarik Banzi, and his sister, flamenco guitarist Julia Banzi.
Qaddouri has participated in some of the world's most prestigious music festivals, including Cairo's Arabic Music Festival, Jordan's Jerash Festival, and the Mozart Festival in Belgium. The Banzis, meanwhile, play classical Arabic, latino and flamenco music, as well as original contemporary andalusian compositions. Julia is also the only female flamenco guitarist in the world.
Tomorrow's show will be dedicated to popular Lebanese singer Jahida Wehbe, while the fifth evening will feature the world-renowned Egyptian folklore dance troupe, Rida Popular Arts Group, as well as singer Nadia Mustafa. Finally, the festival comes to an end on Tuesday night with Iraqi singer Farida.
Adach will also present a number of award-winning documentary films related to music in the Arab world and its influence on people's lives, including Sacred Sounds, Improvisations, and We Loved Each Other So Much.
Directed by Carmine Cervi, Sacred Sounds is a documentary that studies the notion behind religious music and how it is used as means of communicating with the creator. Cervi filmed the project in a small Moroccan village, where she managed to break through the country's political, cultural, and religious barriers to present a vivid picture of faith, via music.
Raed Andoni's Improvisations follows the exploits of Trio Joubran, a celebrated Palestinian musical group, comprising three brothers, who have very different personalities, but share a passion for playing the oud. They go on a journey, travelling through several Palestinian cities under occupation to reach their final destination: Paris, France.
Once there, the Palestinian brothers hope to learn more about the music they are passionate about.
Finally, We Loved Each Other So Much, directed by Jack Janssen follows the story of legendary Lebanese singer Fayrouz, from the beginning of her singing career to her rise to stardom.
The film focuses on the singer's love for Lebanon.
SACRED SOUNDS: Tonight, 6.30pm, Bainuna Hall
FURAT QADDOURI, PLUS TARIK AND JULIA BANZI LIVE: Tonight, 8.30pm, Al Dhafra Auditorium
WE LOVED EACH OTHER SO MUCH: Sunday, 6.30pm, Bin Majed Hall
JAHIDA WEHBE LIVE: Sunday, 8.30pm, Al Dhafra Auditorium
IMPROVISATION: Monday, 6.30pm, Bainuna Hall
RIDA POPULAR ARTS GROUP AND NADIA MUSTAFA LIVE: Monday, 8.30pm, Al Dhafra Auditorium
FARIDA LIVE: Tuesday, 8.30pm, Al Dhafra Auditorium