Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Mauritanian Artist Mixes Traditional Music and Modern Rhythms

Hayy Festival kicks off with Mauritanian singer Noura Mint Seymali performing for the first time in Egypt at the outdoor El-Geneina Theatre.

Noura Mint Seymali performing at Hayy festival at El-Genaina theater. (Photo: Bassam Al-Zoghby)

On Thursday, 18 July, Mauritanian artist Noura Mint Seymali gave a concert at El-Geneina Theatre in Al-Azhar Park, opening this year's Hayy Festival organised annually by Cultural Resource (Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafy).

This is the first time for Seymali to perform in Egypt, as well as the first time that El-Geneina Theatre hosts a musician from Mauritania.

Noura Mint Seymali was born in Mauritania in a musical family, where she started as a backing vocalist with singer Dimi Mint Abbas, one of the most renowned singers of the country.

Seymali's father was a music professor, known for composing music for Mauritanian artists.

While developing musically, in her early 20s, Seymali launched her own music ensemble. At the beginning, she performed traditional Mauritanian music only, but soon moved to fusing a variety of genres.

“By 2004, I started to mix between two types of music: Western music and African/Eastern music,” Seymali told Ahram Online.

Seymali’s goal was to spread Mauritanian music around the world and to make it available for diverse kinds of audiences.

She performed internationally at Festival au-Desert in Mali, Festival Pirineos in Spain, and Festival Timitar in Morocco.

After gracing the Egyptian audience with her performance in Cairo, 18 July, Seymali's plans include playing the Francophone Festival in France before embarking on a tour of the United States later this year.

Noura Mint Seymali and her ensemble.
(Photo: Bassam Al-Zoghby)

Seymali blends several musical genres, her music carrying distinctive elements from folk, reggae, blues, hip hop and zouk.

However, she asserts that sometimes this fusion can be risky, as some people do not accept this kind of experimentation, preferring traditional tunes.

But Seymali explains that she is still strongly linked to the traditional music by keeping authenticity in mind and "reflecting heritage through rhythm,” in her words.

Blending the sounds of the tidinit and guitars created a distinctive tune. (Photo: Bassam Al-Zoghby)

“In Mauritania, for example, it is difficult for local audiences to accept Western music because they really love and respect their traditional music. Nevertheless, this blend attracts some audiences,” Seymali said.

During the Cairo concert, Seymali engaged with the audience asking them to join her on stage and dance. The blend of tidinit (the traditional lute) with electric guitar and drums encouraged the audience to answer Seymali’s call.

The audience's enjoyment was evident in cheerful crowds asking Seymali for several encores.

Interacting with the music, the audience created a dance floor in front of the stage. (Photo: Bassam Al-Zoghby)

But Seymali's concert was not only about captivating music. Her lyrics address critical topics, such as the role of women in Islamic society, desertification, economic development, national unity, terrorism and romance, in addition to religious chanting and historical folk narratives.

"The choice of the theme is important to consider before making the music. Music carries messages to the people and that’s what I do, so that people develop better understanding on various topics,” Seymali revealed.

Currently, Seymali is working on new song dealing with the issue of breast cancer, which was the reason of death of her mother.

Electric guitarist gives an original scent to the traditional sounds. (Photo: Bassam Al-Zoghby)

Seymali's concert was the first one in the Hayy Festival series organised by the Cultural Resource.

This year, the festival includes five concerts from various countries to promote Arab-African cultural heritage, including artists from Tunisia, Palestine, Iraq and Morocco.

•By Adham Yousef and Engy Adham

•culled from www.english.ahram.org.eg

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