Cairo festival narrows down the field
The Citadel Festival was inaugurated in 1989, with the aim to bring music to people who might not go to formal concerts. Usually the festival falls on the ten days between July and August. This year, however, the event is limited to one week beginning at the end of August. Under the auspices of the Cairo Opera House, the festival takes place at the historic Salaheddin Citadel, in addition to concerts at the Opera's open air theatre. Every year, during the festival's opening ceremony, the Opera House grants prizes to Egyptian musicians.
At the time of its creation, with Sherif Mohieddin as its first Artistic Director (1989-2001), the festival incorporated many musical genres from symphonic, operatic or light music to Oriental music and jazz, presenting both Egyptian and international musicians. In the past few years, however, the festival started to depend more and more on Egyptian performers. The 20th festival that took place in 2010 hosted Arab musicians from across the Arab region, while last year it was limited to Egyptian artists, and this year appears to be the same.
It was more understandable for the Cairo Opera House to limit the festival to Egyptian musicians last year, for "security reasons," as the event came barely six months after January 2011 revolution and in a context of political instability. Those who hoped for some international appearances this year will be disappointed.
The Citadel Festival is one of the very few music festivals held in Cairo that goes to an unconventional location in order to reach new audiences. The summer breeze of these open-air performances attracts hundreds who attend with whole families and friends.
Based on the experience of recent years, this dynamic initiative manages to get music to people from across the social spectrum. Ahram Online has at previous festivals met people from all walks of life enjoying several elements in the programme. In past years, the programme's diversity is welcomed by all attendees who come to see their favourite singers and performers, as well as explore new musical experiences.
Though it is apparent that while the festival manages to attract a large number of listeners, over the past years it has suffered some logistical and technical problems. Last year some audience members pointed to a number of unexpected and often not-communicated in advance schedule changes which left them watching a different performer from who they anticipated. While one hopes that this year this will not be repeated, it is advisable that the audience members call the Cairo Opera House prior to the event and double check on the evening's programme.
The programme of the 22nd Citadel Festival for Music and Singing points to many returning musicians who grace many stages in Egypt all year long. As per tradition, the Cairo Festival Orchestra will open the festival on 29 August and will give additional concerts throughout the festival. Nesma Abdel Aziz will return with her marimba on 30 August. Among the festival's highlights are Eskenderella band scheduled to perform on 31 August and Al-Nour Wal-Amal Orchestra for blind girls, operating under the umbrella of an association of the same name, will perform on 2 September. While several other concerts will please the tastes of Oriental music fans, jazz lovers will be able to listen to Ahmed Rabie on 5 September.