Songs on the Nubian minibus

Tracing his lineage back to the Nubian Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, this man stands as a proud testament to the resilience of the Nubian people. Taken on Heissa Island, near the Aswan High Dam, one of the only Nubian villages to remain after the completion of the dam in the ancient kingdom of Upper Egypt.

Tracing his lineage back to the Nubian Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, this man stands as a proud testament to the resilience of the Nubian people. Taken on Heissa Island, near the Aswan High Dam, one of the only Nubian villages to remain after the completion of the dam in the ancient kingdom of Upper Egypt.

Its been nearly a month since the last entry- The Baba Project sends its condolences to anyone left hanging due to a drought in content. But rest assured, this past month has been one of deep learning, musical exploration, and pristine sunsets on the banks of the Nile. I’ve spent the last month in Aswan, Egypt, participating in the first annual Nile Project gathering, held at the beautiful Fekra Cultural Center.

Returning from the first Nile Project concert, held in Aswan on January 27th – the second concert set to take place tonight in Cairo – I found myself hurtling through the night in a tightly packed minibus alight with celebration. The Nile Project is a musical celebration of the Nile and all its surrounding cultures, from Uganda to Egypt. Nubian culture, now a displaced minority culture of Upper Egypt, is intimately connected with the ancient life giving watercourse, and was prominently featured in the concert.

Packed tightly into the back were seven or eight Nubians, staff at Fekra, my temporary home, whom had become my friends during my stay there. Others present for this magical ride were Ethiopian born, San Francisco based singer, TED fellow, and co-founder of the Nile Project, Meklit Hadero, Egyptian Oud virtuoso and revolutionary Hazam Shaheen, Sudanese born, Brooklyn-based singer and ethnomusicologist Alsarah, and Egyptian percussionist worth his weight in gold, Hany Bedair.

Using the roof and windows of the bus as improvised percussion, clapping hands, and the simple joy of call and response singing, my Nubian friends propelled our little jam-packed bus down the banks of the Nile, past massive boulders with Pharaonic inscriptions left in them, casually dotting the landscape.

Perhaps it is because this culture has experienced such loss – the majority of their homeland is now underwater in Lake Nasser – that I find their songs to be so inspiring.  With passionate love songs, festive songs of celebration, and nostalgic laments for their lost home, Nubian folk songs have an irresistible quality to them – full of both sorrow and celebration, joyfully defiant, smiling at annihilation.

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