Gone are the days when the only form of entertainment after iftar is to park yourself in front of the TV set. This year, the choices are profuse. Ramadan is the high season to explore the city’s music scene with its jam-packed evening schedule.
More than 150 art shows and 110 performances are held in more than ten venues belonging to the Culture Ministry’s Cultural Development Fund, in both Cairo and Alexandria. And the icing on the cake is that the performances are absolutely free.
Another big plus is the diversity of choices, to appeal to everyone, and bring together oriental, western, Egyptian, instrumental and traditional music.
“We wanted to bring bands that would cater to all tastes, Artistic Director of the Cultural Development Fund Mohamed Zarif, told Daily News Egypt.
Zarif was instrumental in deciding this year s schedule, which is marked by putting big names on the culture scene alongside young, burgeoning talents. Among the performers are veteran pianist and composer Omar Khayrat, singer Ali Al Haggar, conductor Selim Sahab with his Arabic Music Ensemble, oud player Naseer Shamma, and up-and-coming singers Fayrouz Karawya, Tamer Nour and Shaza.
“The program is great. I can t believe the number of bands and events that are playing this year. Each one of these artists can create a festival on their own. Now with a huge program like this, one is encouraged to cooperate with the Cultural Development Fund, said Amr Salah, who plays the piano with Eftekasat band, also performing this Ramadan.
But the music and the art per se are not the only reason why these performances will be so special.
Adding to the pleasure of watching art shows, the Fund brilliantly, carefully chose the venues which include monumental sites renovated by the Ministry of Culture, offering a dramatic backdrop.
“There is a reason why the Fund chose those places. If a renovated site is turned into a museum, only a few people will visit, but now they will go there to attend shows, which is a good reason to visit the place, explained Zarif.
The Fund spent over three months compiling the program. We don t just get anyone to perform. We go everywhere looking and searching fortalent, Zarif explained.
To put up these shows for free, the fund paid LE 591,000 as a minimalamount.
Artists cooperate with us. They know that we don t make money out of it andthat we offer this to the people for free. They accept small amounts ofmoney and in return they get a well-equipped theater and an audience thatappreciates art, Dr. Ahmed Megahed, Director of The Cultural Development Fund, told Daily News Egypt.
Over the years the number of theatres increased, as did the number of performers. In 2000, Beit El Harawy in old Cairo was the only innovative venue. More locations gradually joined, adding more performers till it reached 12 this year. One of this year’s highlights is the Prince Taz Palace, which follows Wekalet Al Ghoury and Beit El Seheimy, while the rest of the sites are new cultural centers like the Traditional Crafts Center in Fostat and the Alexandria Center for Creativity, the first such venue outside Cairo to join the program.
“As the program acquired a good reputation over the years, more famous artists are pushing to take part in it, said Megahed.
For the first time cooperation between the fund and the Spanish and French embassies brought European bands to more than five performances in Ramadan. This year the Spanish Musica Antigua and the French ensemble Ibn Arabi joined the Ramadan extravaganza.
“We have good relations with all embassies. Sometimes we suggest foreign bands to perform here, and sometimes embassies offer to sponsor bands from their own countries, explained Zarif.
“This is a very good opportunity for dialogue between people, said Zarif.
No one was left out in this festival, with special shows and workshops for children.
But what most people don’t know is that the Fund’s cultural activities are not only held in Ramadan. Free performances are open for everyone year round. “We re putting together a monthly schedule for performances that will be held after Ramadan, throughout the year, noted Zarif.
All shows start at 9:30 pm, except for The Cultural Garden in Sayeda Zeinab which starts at 11 pm.
The booklet listing the times and venues of performances is available at The Cultural Development Fund’s headquarters in the grounds of the Opera House and at the various locations.
For more information about the Funds Ramadan Program, please visithttp://www.cdf.gov.eg/Arabic/Ramadan/2007/index.htm
For more information about the Funds programs and projects, please visitwww.cdf-eg.org