Thursday, November 21

Jewel of

Jewel of

the Nile

‘Festival of the Nile’ showcases Egypt’s cultural history for

By John Mangum

Egypt conjures images of pyramids, tombs and the sphinx. Most
people don’t know that a colorful folk tradition flourished in
these monuments’ shadows for centuries.

"The Egyptians, as a people, have an old culture. We are
considered one of the first peoples to start civilization,"
explains Abdel Rahman El Shafie, speaking through an

El Shafie directs a company of artists, known as the Nile
Traditional Folklore Group, who devote themselves to keeping
Egypt’s ancient cultural heritage alive. The group’s "Festival of
the Nile" showcases its talents when it arrives at the Wadsworth
Theater tonight.

El Shafie has collected a variety of artists and brought them
together in an evening which chronicles Egypt’s vibrant cultural
history. Different traditions bear the mark of the country’s many
regions and the many peoples that have influenced the course of its
history, from the Persians and Romans to the Arabs and Turks.

"I had to construct the whole show from the South of Nubia all
the way to the Mediterranean," says El Shafie. "The show presents
music, dance, and popular games from the Egyptian culture."

Some of the traditions have been kept alive for more than 2000

"There is a musical part that goes back to the time of the
Pharaohs," El Shafie says. "Many of the other musical parts go back
to earliest Arab times (the seventh century)."

Musicians use instruments as unique as the music they play on
them. In most cases the performance traditions, as well as the
instruments themselves, involved are just as old as the music

"We have wind, string and percussion instruments," El Shafie
says. "They are all very old native instruments. The most
significant thing about them is that artists have been dealing with
them for thousands of years. They are absolutely different from the
musical instruments in the west."

Differences aside, the performance allows audiences to
experience the folk heritage of one of the world’s oldest cultures.
Kept alive by artists for centuries, these traditions reveal
themselves as living art which transcends its age.

"We hope that our culture will be presented all over the world,"
El Shafie says. "Our culture and our art are very important and we
would like to present it to everyone."

PERFORMANCE: "Festival of the Nile" at the Wadsworth Theater
Friday, April 7, at 8 p.m. TIX: $25, $22, $9 for students. For more
info call (310) 825-2101.

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