Music is one of the universal languages of humans. In beats, no matter how foreign or eccentric, we can find rhythm. In lyrics we can sense the emotions that led to the creation of the song, and without understanding the back story we begin to weave it into our own stories. Music connects us all and thus, when the creators of the Nile Project, a musicians’ collective, wanted to engage people from around the Nile Basin to connect and ease the geo-political tensions around the Basin, they chose music.
The Nile Project is an exemplary collaborative cultural organization. The musicians’ collective is comprised of 35 musicians and is growing every year. Mina Girgis, the Project’s producer and CEO notes “since its founding, the Nile Project has attracted over 60,000 people to 75 concerts in Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States. It has held over 120 participatory workshops and cross-cultural dialogues at 40 universities in the Nile Basin and the United States providing approximately 10,000 students with unique intellectual experiences to deepen their understanding of the Nile River.”
The Nile Project produces African fusion music that’s a mesh of beats, lyrics, languages, instruments and nations. The collective is nurtured by the 11 nations that drink, dwell and live on the Nile River and its Basin; Burundi, DR Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda and Eritrea. Since its inception, Sudanese artists AlSarah and Asia Madani have joined the ranks of the musicians’ collective.
Participants gather in a location overlooking the Nile and magic happens. Each musician is chosen carefully to represent local traditional music and instruments. When brought together, the various artists exhibit outstanding energy by bringing together the various tongues, instruments & tempos. During their 2-3 weeks long residencies, dubbed the Nile Gatherings, artists engage in meaningful cultural dialogues, find common grounds and contemplate cultural differences. The workshops and concerts as well as recording sessions are organized frequently to fuse all the learning and the musical creations and blast them to the world. The Nile Project amassed fans from all over the world after touring the US and Nile Basin and appearing on the wildly popular Egyptian show (now off the airways) El Barnameg hosted by Bassem Youssef.
Source: The Nile Project
Mina Girgis recalls his first thought before creating the Project in 2011 “it was the result of a concert and the answer to a simple question: As an Egyptian, why have I never been exposed to the music of Ethiopia.” His background as an ethnomusicologist paved the way for his creation of the Nile Project, binding his experience design background and innovative musical production and collaboration.
Jinja is the Nile Project’s second studio recording (their first was Aswan, an ode to the first Nile Project gathering which took place in the Southern Egyptian city). Jinja features artists from Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. The album consists of 10 original compositions that were crafted during a Nile Gathering along Lake Victoria in Jinja, Uganda. The Nile Project stuck to its signature fusions mixing Ethiopian jazz with Ugandan harp and Egyptian drums. The music represents the people, the history, the culture and is appealing to many tastes as each production is differently composed and arranged.
The Project takes it upon itself to inspire peaceful water conflict resolution by connecting a network of international food and water sustainability experts in policy making and academia to engage in conversation about the Nile Basin. It uses music to inspire a paradigm shift among citizens of the 11 Nile countries – to see the Nile Basin as one connected watershed. The Nile Project is also working to foster citizen dialogues and collaborations across the basin through its University Program and its professional network. The Project launched both programs this year and students are working with local communities in 6 cities across the basin to develop innovative solutions at the intersection of water and food. In parallel, members of the scholars network are working to develop collaborative research opportunities that would bring together academic departments from universities across the Nile Basin.
Look out of the Nile Project’s third album “Tana” coming out soon and follow their Facebook to learn more about their European tour in the summer. For beautiful modern and eclectic Nile fusion music, check out the Nile Project’s Soundcloud channel.