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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

El Wazery group from Ismailia at El Tanbura Hall

El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music presents a concert by "El Wazery" group on Thursday February 16, 2012 at 9:00 PM at El Tanbura Hall.
Ticket: 20 EGP (available at the door)
El Wazery group

The three cities of the Canal (Port Said, Ismailia and Suez) share similar traditions of music and song, though each has its special features.

Three tributaries combined to bring these arts to Ismailia, which is located half-way along the Canal. The first of these was the Sudanese, who have lived in the oldest quarters of the city-the "Slave Stockades" ('arayshiyyit il-'abid)-since it was built in the last third of the nineteenth century. The second was the interaction of local musicians with others from Port Said or Suez, as well as with the shipping passing through the Canal, which, at the end of the 1930's, brought the instrument known as the simsimiyya (a type of lyre). And the third was the influence of the other shores of Lake Manzalla, at one end of which Ismailia lies, and especially that of the fisher families living in 'Izbit el-Bahtini, who brought with them fishing songs and the songs of the damma ("street gathering"- a genre with its roots in Sufi music).
On the streets of the city, these tributaries mingled to produce what may be called "the popular art of Ismailia," which flourished from the beginning of the 1950's up to the war of June 1967.

After the war, the inhabitants of the city were forced to migrate to areas further inside Egypt, far from the battle line. In their diaspora, in the cities and villages and displacement camps, the people of Ismailia survived, and shared their singing with the displaced from Port Said and Suez, to the accompaniment of the simsimiyya, which, with its songs expressive of their common concerns, played an important role in creating a bond among them.

With the end of the war and the return of the displaced to their cities, things were different, in Ismailia as in the rest of Egypt. When the "open door" economic policy was adopted, social values changed and, at the beginning of the 1970's, the trend towards commercialism started to take over the old artistic tradition. Competition for the rich pickings of the wedding market intensified, leading to the withdrawal from this field of the authentic musicians, as some died and others retired.

Only one, the musician Muhammad El-Wazery - the King of Simsimiya, refused to retire into obscurity and continued to cherish his own simsimiyya, though he had no idea what to do with it on his own. Things changed when El-Wazery met Zakaria Ibrahim (the founder of the group), and embarked on a relationship with the Tanbura troupe experiment in Port Said, which attempted to collect the music and songs of Port Said by bringing together the old musicians, who, like their fellows in Ismailia, had gone into retirement.

Muhammad El-Wazery died on 2009 and the his group continued his legacy by presenting his style through different generations, specially his grandchildren.

* Notes by Zakaria Ibrahim, El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music.

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