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14/08/2017 - 13:00hs

Arab music and poetry a hit in São Paulo concert hall

The concert Al Um’tamid turned into music the poems of the Andalusian king of the 11th century and captivated the audience of São Paulo’s main concert hall. The event was promoted by the Arab Chamber, Icarabe and Osesp.

Rodrigo Rodrigues/Arab Chamber

The musicians came from Portugal, Spain and Morocco

São Paulo – The concert hall Sala São Paulo hosted on Saturday (12) evening the concert Al Um’tamid, King Poet of Al-Andalus, the first music concert of Arab origin to be presented in São Paulo’s main concert hall. A group comprised of two Moroccan, two Spanish and three Portuguese musicians turned into music the poems of the monarch born in what is Portugal today, who ruled in Seville in the 11th century and was exiled in Morocco.

The presentation was organized by the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, the Institute for the Arab Culture (ICARABE) and the São Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra (OSESP). It is also part of the celebrations of the Arab Chamber’s 65th anniversary and of the program of the 12th Arab World Film Festival, which began last week in São Paulo and runs until August 16.

The poems of the Andalusian monarch were put into music and are played in Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic by Cézar Carazo, Eduardo Paniagua, El Arabi Serghini, Filipe Raposo, Jamal Ben Allal, Janita Salomé and Quiné Teles. The set of voice, strings, keyboard and brass takes us on a trip throughout time and space with melodies that hark back to ancient days, but at the same time reveal the origins of rhythms such as flamenco, fado and even the samba.

Rodrigo Rodrigues/Arab Chamber

Rubens Hannun: young audience shows the success of the integration

And the music performance is coupled by a film exhibition produced by Portuguese Carlos Gomes, the concert’s creator and artistic director, which shows contemporary images of the three countries that the poet king passed through. It’s almost a road movie followed along by great song.

The litanies sang by Serghini are one of the highlights, almost never heard in Brazil, but that reveal the origins of the Iberian songs played by Carazo and Salomé. The latter, by the way, pointed to his Alentejan origins, such as those of the Arab monarch. A lot of this came to Brazil.

The great highlight of the night was the music “Nostalgia”, which mixes the poetry of Al Mu’tamid with the song of Afonso X, from Castile, and includes two Sufi poems praising the prophet Mohammed and Allah (God) glorifications. The Sufi are a mystic group within Islam.

Sang in Spanish and Arabic, the music was also played by Brazilian musicians Sami Bordokan, Willianm Bordokan and Claudio Kairouz, who also took part in the concert’s two other songs and the encore, when “Nostalgia” was played again.

The longest song in the concert, it mixes lyrics in Spanish, chorus in Arabic and solos of different instruments, such as the violin, cithara and the lute, and the vocals by Serghini come elevating, he stands up and keeps singing, throw his hand to the sky and continues, jumping like he’s in a trance. The audience follows the rhythm clapping, it’s almost like a Sufi catharsis.

With the concert hall packed, the Arab Chamber’s president, Rubens Hannun, pointed out that the concert was a “gift” that the organization, ICARABE and OSESP were giving to themselves and to the city of São Paulo. “Sala São Paulo is an icon of the city, and for the first time it hosted an Arab concert. That means a lot,” he said. “It makes me proud to see it packed, sold-out, and with a young audience,” he added, being applauded. “This shows an integration of cultures. If it’s up to our efforts, this will be the first of many concerts to come,” he concluded.

According to him, the Chamber considers it to be a “privilege” to bring some of the Arab culture to São Paulo. “It’s an extremely rich culture and important in the building of our civilization,” he pointed out, adding that the Arab community in totally integrated, in a productive way, in Brazilian society. 

Along the same lines, the Arab Chamber’s cultural director, Sílvia Antibas, underscored that the Arab Chamber and ICARABE tried to bring to São Paulo and innovative and “sophisticated” attraction. “The Arab Chamber has as its goal to promote trade, but also to promote the Arab culture in Brazil, and in this ICARABE is our partner,” she said. “And we now brought wonderful musicians that show a bit of two culture, the Andalusian and the Moroccan,” she highlighted, saying, as Hannun did, that the concert is a gift that the organization, in its 65 years, has given the city. 

According to Geraldo Campos, the concert’s and the film festival’s curator, the concert fit perfectly within the theme of this year’s festival: “The Territory that Crosses Me”. “It talks about the possibility of co-existence of different peoples, cultures and languages,” he said. To him, this is especially important at a moment in which xenophobia and racism are surging in current Western societies. In the audience, there were nearly 30 Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

Gabriel Sayegh, ICARABE’s vice president, also said that since the foundation of the institute, 15 years ago, its members dreamt of organizing a concert of this kind. “The dream was of holding a large concert in a great concert hall, and today it became reality,” he said. 

*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani

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