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El Dammah Theatre Egypt

  • Street / Area: 4 Sweqat Elsabbaeen Street. - El Dawaween (from Maglis El Sha'b Str.) El Sayeda Zeinab 11461
  • City: Cairo
  • Country: Egypt
  • Phonenumber: Telephone: +2 23 92 6768 Mobile: +2 011 50 99 5354 +2 012 23 22 6345
  • Email: info@el-mastaba.org
  • Website: https://www.el-mastaba.org
  • Education details: Music schools
  • Listed: November 11, 2017 2:00 pm
  • Expires: This ad has expired
El Dammah Theatre Egypt


Located in downtown Cairo (see Contacts for address), El Mastaba presents four regular weekly concerts: a weekly performance in Cairo at El Dammah Theater for Free Arts  brings performances by the 11 bands of the El Mastaba Network (for detailed information about the bands El Mastaba supports, click here) with a focus on the simsimia and damma traditions from Port Said  and the Suez Canal region in general, the music of Rango, originating from Sudanese and Egyptian Zar rituals and the Bedouin music from the Sinai.

Three performances of the bands, El Tanbura, El Hinna and El Waziry take place weekly in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, respectively. See Videos for a list of El Mastaba performances on the Web.

  • Schools:

El Mastaba has founded and maintains three schools, one in Port Said, a second in Suez and the third, just established (2012), in El Arish for teaching children their musical heritage. 15 students in each school range from the age of 6 to 16 years old and are taught to play the popular instruments and rhythms, and also to learn and keep and perform the popular songs and dances. The Center also fosters balanced growth by combining art and knowledge as it monitors and encourages the general educational development of the students, promoting the value of education to their future.

The students also gain experience as performers: they have performed in more than 15 concerts in the Canal Zone and in Cairo. These performances have attracted diverse audiences which includes a number of street children.  El Mastaba has brought these students together in three bands (see LINK to Bands), produced a CD of their work and found them opportunities to perform for audiences.

  • Archive:

The Center houses and maintains an archive of over 700 hours of audio-visual material, including recorded interviews, performances and films. A catalogue of the archive materials is available in Arabic and we have plans to translate it to English and put it online.

  • Production:

El Mastaba also produces Cds, DVDs, as well as films and promotional material for the bands. For a list of El Mastaba productions and how to purchase them, see Videos.

Why El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music?

Prominent folklorist, Dr. Abdel Hamid Awwas, cannot value the role of traditional music too highly: according to him, it has been the cement which holds communities together. Egypt is a diverse and rich country in every sense and its traditional musical heritage is no exception.  Each of the regions, and ethnic groups that comprise the geographic areas and people of Egypt have their distinct musics. Today, traditional Egyptian music has several faces: an annual Ramadan nostalgia for roots, an interlude to amuse tourists after a day of sightseeing (in a country where all but Western-style songs are excluded from the educational curriculum).

However, Egypt’s rich heritage of traditional music is at risk as a creative force. Illiteracy, poverty and low social status have led to the marginalization of traditional arts performers in Egypt despite their popularity among the poor and despite the prestige that some have acquired abroad. A variety of pressures linked to tourism and state cultural institutions eager to present popular Egyptian culture contribute to performers’ isolation and de-contextualization. Although tourist shows provide a source of income for these musicians and choreographed folklore shows are well-received by local and international audiences, the producers tend to dictate specific aspects of their art and, in extreme cases, treat the musicians not as artists, but as one more product to sell to consumers. The result has been to negate their creative voice and potential, eroding artists’ self-respect and self-confidence, seducing them away from their true voices and undermining the spontaneity and creativity of popular artistic expression. Understandably, traditional performers, even financially-successful ones, have been increasingly reluctant to pass on their skills and knowledge to a younger generation.

Educational policies put the arts on the bottom of the totem pole: most school arts programs consist of memorizing songs for an end-of-year concert or musical. Our focus is on the next generation, teaching them the music and dance of their cultures. This effort also encourages young people to value and maintain their rich cultural legacy and offers them alternatives to counter frustration, hopelessness, lack of self-esteem and the violence that stems from these.

For society as a whole to value the role of traditional musicians in the wider community, an expanded field of play and larger, more diverse audiences are required. There is a critical need to mentor and prepare traditional musicians for live performance in diverse contexts that demonstrate their importance to the larger cultural arena. We aim to expand the performance program in our new space, El Tanbura Hall with an educational program of lecture/demonstrations and documentary films to educate the public and to overcome local perception of traditional musicians as irrelevant to the ambitions of a modern nation-state, as well as to demonstrate their value as an artistic resource to contemporary artists.

We promote artistic creativity as a key player in educational and social change.

Current policies bring musicians out of their communities to perform for audiences unfamiliar with the cultural contexts of the art. By reintroducing the music to its original contexts, we can counter the trend to isolate folk music from its original communities, re- awakening the multi-layered complexity of Egyptian culture of music and arts and revitalizing the critical role it has played in the daily life and imagination of the Egyptian people.

As stated on the UNESCO website,  “To be kept alive, intangible cultural heritage must be relevant to its community.”

Before we can change policies, we need to change attitudes. We expect that the following strategies will impact on attitudes, especially as we focus on creating the critical mass that is needed for significant change:

Bringing together musicians and forming and mentoring music groups in marginal communities and encouraging them to network with each other and with musicians of other musical genres, such as jazz

Collecting and documenting the music and dance through audio, visual and print productions and making this material accessible to wider audiences

Promoting the artistic work in shows and festivals to raise the profile of the artist as  a creative professionals

Expanding audiences and educating new generations as to the value of this tradition as a creative resource

Encouraging media coverage of El Mastaba’s work that highlights aspects of diversity and creativity

Engaging community members in planning community outreach programs of performance and training

Developing traditional Egyptian music in all its aspects: performance, instruments and musicians.

Contact us to learn more.

Click here to learn more about us.

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