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Egypt is a diverse and rich country in every sense and its music heritage is no exception. The music comes from the people and is reflected the every-day life of Egyptians. Historically, it has expressed their joy and pain, their victories and defeats and has been a mirror of major events affecting the population. Today El Mastaba follows this same road as it works on renewing the national memory, recapture the roots of the Egyptian character and emphasizing the idea of belonging, all of which come to life through the music.
El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music is a unique civil society organization that was founded in 2000 by Zakaria Ibrahim, with the aim of reviving Egypt’s rich and unique performing arts heritage. The Center, not only preserves, documents, and develops traditional music in Egypt, but is unique in its efforts to reintroduce folk music in its original communities and to revitalize its role in the daily life and imagination of the Egyptian people. In showcasing the diversity of Egypt’s musical traditions, El Mastaba demonstrates an inherent strength of Egyptian society, its pluralism. El Mastaba further seeks to mitigate the threat of extinction facing traditional music by creating an appreciation and awareness of its value to communities and to cultural identities that is expressed in market value, encouraging younger generations to see this as an economically viable profession.
Today, El Mastaba Center manages a network of traditional musicians from diverse traditions in Egypt, including Bedouin, Sufi, Nubian, Delta, Upper Egyptian, Sudanese and the Canal Zone. The bands perform regularly in their original communities and in El Mastaba’s theater space, El Dammah Theater, in the Abdeen area, downtown Cairo. Several bands tour regularly internationally and have received awards and special mention for their work. With their focus on performing arts and their grassroots activism that builds from rural and working classes upwards, El Mastaba is uniquely positioned to address the lack of information and bias that shape intra-class perceptions, stigmatize difference and intensify sectarianism in Egypt today. Three schools founded by El Mastaba in Ismailia , Port Said and El Arish encourage the younger generation to discover the beauty of their music and dance heritage. The aim of El Mastaba's archive and program of performances, tours, training and audio/visual production is to introduce this music to local and foreign audiences, not only to entertain, but to communicate the core and genuineness of this folk expression.
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