When Meklit Hadero, a San Francisco-area musician, performed “Abbay Mado” during a tour in Ethiopia in 2011, several listeners approached her to speak about the song, which translates to “across the Nile.” The artist talked with the group about the Nile River and the 11 East African nations in the basin.
Hadero met fellow artist Miles Jay over a pint of beer, and they discussed the information barriers that separate these nations. The artists decided to support the region’s cultural identity and develop cross-cultural cooperation among the nations of the Nile river basin.
Joined by Mina Girgis, an Egyptian ethnomusicologist, Hadero and Jay started The Nile Project with the goal of increasing communication through music. Combining strong percussion with traditional regional instruments, vocal performances and a diverse group of 12 artists, The Nile Project will launch its North American tour in 2015.
The Hopkins Center for the Arts hosted artists and representatives from New England universities today during a planning meeting for the upcoming tour. At the meeting, the group discussed the project, the Nile and the group’s upcoming North American tour.
The Hop is also working to provide musicians with educational materials to distribute to school and university students during the tour, programming director Margaret Lawrence said.
Nile River Basin nations have a common interest in the river’s sustainability, and Lawrence said that the project resonates with the Dartmouth community because students care about environmental sustainability as well. Lawrence was interested in bringing a sustainability project to campus that combined art and political impact.
Hadero said the Nile Project’s target audiences are students in universities around the world. Students are at the center of a “nexus of learning and practical experiences,” which allow them to connect the theory they learn in the classroom with the issues they see in their communities.
“They want to know that the things they are learning about have a practical application,” she said.
Girgis, executive director of the Nile Project, said he joined the group after realizing that collaboration among musicians can help the Nile, which he called one of Egypt’s most important life sources.
The natural human instinct to control resources in each of the diverse communities surrounding the Nile prevents cooperation and dialogue among people and nations, Girgis said.
Girgis said connecting communities through music makes people think of themselves as citizens of the Nile, not just citizens of their respective nations.
Girgis worked on a similar project founded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma called the Silk Road Project, which attempted to connect communities along the historic Silk Road through performance arts.
Attendees to the meeting included representatives from Wesleyan University, Middlebury College, the University of Vermont, Boston University and University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Tags: Ester Cross, hopkins center