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The Choir Project: Singing from the Heart in Cairo

The Choir Project: Singing from the Heart in Cairo
written by
Zainab Magdy

‘A workshop where work is a joy, a source of
vitality, and daring experience.’ Their slogan speaks the truth just as
their songs do. The Choir Project has been performing for ten months now in
several venues across Cairo, and they have been spreading a seed of joy with
their singing. A stream of positive energy follows their performances and audiences
keep returning for more.

In May 2010, the
Choir Project performed the Cairo Complaints Choir to a few hundred spectators
at the Factory Space in Rawabet Theatre. Since then, the choir group has grown
in members, projects, and fans. This choir group’s success and popularity may
be due to the fact that it projects the concerns of the people back to them in

The Complaints
stemmed from an international project of singing the people’s complaints
instead of just complaining. A call for participation was sent out through the
internet, whereupon young people from different backgrounds and professions
with little or no artistic background joined the week-long workshop to create
songs out of their complaints, and to rehearse for the performance. The
workshop resulted in a fifteen-minute-long performance on the state of Egypt from
a personal and communal perspective. The Choir Project was born.

Several other
projects were launched out of similarly organised workshops. The Ads Choir was
the following project, which initially started as a workshop to create a choir
about advertisements that affect our society, but resulted in a choir singing
about a variety of social concerns. The group performed this choir project at the Jesuit Culture Centre in Alexandria. The following project worked in
coordination with a cultural centre in El Gamaleya, where the neighbourhood’s
youth participated and wrote their own songs about their daily lives.

The fourth
project was the Proverbs Choir, a workshop to create songs from traditional Egyptian
proverbs. The Choir chose proverbs that reflect their lives greatly and are an
echo of Egyptian society’s current state. One song began with the proverb, ‘Oh
Pharaoh/ What has made you so ruthless/ The Pharaoh replies/ No one was there
to stop me.’

Their latest
project is the Utopia Choir, which was first performed at Rawabet Theatre. The video for the Utopia Choir, which calls for participants, creates a utopia of Thebes and
Egypt as we would love to see it. The workshop lasted for five days and recruited more singers
and musicians for the choir.

The Utopia
Choir’s song dreams of a city where ‘clothes in shop windows would be beautiful/
And jokes would replace advertisements.’ In their utopian vision, the choir
members dream of things that are reachable and attainable: ‘There is no fear/ No
police embodying this fear/ No longer will ‘No’ be used’.

Viewed on
their YouTube channel thousands of times, the Choir Project’s video for one of the Utopia
Choir songs is very popular. The audience asks for an encore of that specific
song every time they perform. The song ‘Hayat El Midan’ (Life of Tahrir Square)
is a vision of the life in Tahrir Square during Egypt’s January 25th
Revolution. It’s a call for a continuation of this civilised society that few
believed Egyptians to be capable of. ‘The
people want the life of the Square,’ they sing and the audience sings with

The Choir Project
has also travelled abroad to Amman, Jordan where they conducted a workshop. ‘The
Choir Project could create a network in the Arab world through song,’ says
Salam Yousry, founder of Al Tamye Theatre Group and The Choir Project. ‘It
happened in Amman, it could happen all over the Arab world.’

‘So instead of
it being just 50 individuals in Cairo, it would be 2000 all around the world;
it would be a huge web strung with song.’

The Choir
Project is open to anyone who wants to join and spend a creative time making
something substantial and worthwhile. Members do not need to have a background
in music or performance; all you need to join is to show up, be enthusiastic, and
sing from your heart.

The Choir
Project has performed in the Rawabet Theatre Space, at the Nahda Cultural Centre
(Cairo Jesuit Centre), Darb 1718 as well as at Abdeen Square as part of Al Fan
Midan Festival. For more info on the Choir Project’s upcoming concerts, keep
checking Cairo 360’s events page.