Isma’a: Films on Music from North Africa

Published April 23rd, 2008 - 02:45 GMT

Isma’a: Films on Music from North Africa

The transformation of music in response to melding communities and political realities is the premise behind The Third Line’s latest series of films, to screen from the end of April to mid-May.  Exploring intersections between the cultural and political issues of the region and the development of diverging sounds across North Africa, these four documentaries highlight stories from Egypt, Morocco and Algeria, from the iconic Umm Kulthum to hip hop on the streets of Marrakech.  By no means the whole picture, this series is the beginning of a journey through music of the Arab world, presenting a range of musical styles, their divergent/overlapping connections with historical movements and how they have come to shape the sounds of today. 
The first screening, Umm Kulthum, A Voice Like Egypt on April 26th, explores the life and career of the iconic "Star of the East" (kawkab el-sharq). Born in El Senbellawein in 1904, Umm Kulthum began her singing career disguised as a boy.  She grew to the status of a national, region and international icon, known for her passionate live performances that would often last for hours on end. This intense, highly personal creative relationship between singer and audience was undoubtedly one of the reasons of Umm Kulthum's tremendous success, as was her everlasting commitment to Egypt and the support of indigenous Arab culture. More than a musician, she became 'the voice and face of Egypt'."
Films at The Third Line seeks to illuminate aspects of life and culture from the region through the screening of Documentary and Feature Films from across the Middle East. With the support of a grant from the Emirates Foundation and under the direction of coordinator Mishaal Al Gergawi, this program is committed to furthering audience dialogue and a broader awareness of arts of the region. 

Screenings are free and doors open at 7pm, with films starting promptly at 7:30.  Seats are limited and on a strict advance RSVP only basis so that we can accommodate everyone comfortably and safely. Please book seats at or at 04-341-1367.



Saturday April 26th - Umm Kulthum, A Voice Like Egypt:
Narrated by Omar Sharif, Umm Kulthum, A Voice Like Egypt takes viewers into the singer’s home village and to the streets and cafes of Cairo where she lived and worked. Featuring concert footage, film clips and interviews with the famed singer’s friends and colleagues, Director Michael Goldman’s documentary places the life and career of Umm Kulthum in the context of the epic story of 20th century Egypt and wider Arab Nationalism. In Arabic & French with English Subtitles, 68 minutes long.


Saturday May 3rd - Sheikhates Blues (Doumou’ El-Sheikhates):
The female Moroccan musicians known as sheikhates sing about the realities of life: about the land, nature, wars, mountains, crises and, of course, about love – forming the musical heritage of Morocco. Director Ali Essafi offers a marvelous portrait of the daily lives of these regional folk singers, exploring how their music has evolved over the years – along with society’s acceptance of the women who perform this music in public. In Arabic with English Subtitles, 52 minutes long.

Saturday May 10th - Rai Story: From Cheikha Rimitti to Cheba Djenet (Hekayat Al-Rai):
Starting in 1923 the Algerian city of Oran, filmmakers Madeleine Verschaffelt and Ahmed Rachedi take us from the origins of the rai musical tradition, when early singers performed from behind screens at weddings and festivals so that their identity would be protected, through the transformation of rai music through the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s.  Evolving to express the political and social upheaval of the times, rai singing continues to adapt to this day, expressing the heart of the next generation.  In Arabic & French with English Subtitles, 84 minutes long.

Saturday May 17th - I Love Hip Hop in Morocco:
Wandering through the souks of the Marrakech medina while in Morocco on a 2004 Fulbright fellowship to research hip-hop, American Brooklynite Josh Asen was inspired by the sounds of Puff Daddy and Eminem over the strains of traditional religious music.  In I Love Hip Hop in Morocco, along with exploring intersections of urban music in Morocco, Asen documents and helps found the country’s first-ever hip-hop festival. In Arabic, French and English with English Subtitles, 80 minutes long.

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