The Office of the European Union Representative
(West Bank and Gaza Strip, UNRWA)

MAISHA – An Afro-European Music Experiment

25/07/2019 - 09:26
News stories

Convinced by the power of art to unite, the EU Delegation to the African Union created the project MAISHA (‘life’ in Swahili). The first edition of MAISHA – an Afro-European Music Experiment – gathered 12 musicians from the two continents in Addis Ababa last May, to engage in a two-week music residency where they had the chance to collaborate and co-create original musical pieces. On Europe Day they performed their magical fusion of sounds in a public concert at the Ethiopian National Theatre. The whole process of this fascinating musical experiment was filmed for a documentary beautifully showcasing the challenges of creating unique new sounds and defeating cultural barriers. A short version of the documentary was recently released at the European Development Days.

MAISHA, musicians, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

A magical and moving experience for musicians and audience alike, the MAISHA show was a one-of-a-kind public event, attended by 1200 persons, a mix of the diplomatic community and local youth. A blend of authentic sounds from traditional and modern instruments, showcasing a high degree of teamwork. In the words of Ethiopian star pianist Samuel Yirga, part of MAISHA, "this unique and well-planned project – one of my favourite collaborations so far - had a beautiful vibe - fusing culture is always amazing and inspiring".

The documentary on the MAISHA experience will finally be released in August at the 40º edition of The Rimini Meeting, an international cultural festival born in 1980 with the "desire to discover the beauty of reality". Later on, the documentary will be promoted in various film festivals.

In the meantime here is a little teaser:

The musicians who took part in MAISHA, representing 10 different nationalities from Africa & Europe, were carefully selected after an open call to which over 300 musicians had applied. During the two weeks of the residency (April 25 – May 9), they co-created music, gave workshops at local music schools and recorded a 12-track album. As part of the MAISHA project, and thanks to partnerships with the European Investment Bank, The Netherlands and Sweden, the Ethiopian National Theatre was itself partially refurbished.

Cultural actors across Africa and Europe have already expressed interest in organising further concerts and launch a MAISHA TOUR by the end of this year. Who knows? This could be just the beginning of a beautiful Africa-Europe cooperation project committed to spread values of coexistence and peace-building.


MAISHA concert, Ethiopian National Theatre, Addis Ababa


The musicians’ line-up: from Polish flautists to Zimbabwean Mbira players

The crew of musicians who gathered together for MAISHA is an ode to diversity. There are six Africans, five Europeans and a twelfth artist in between the two continents. This is the case of Fatime Songoro, a Hungarian/Tanzanian saxophonist who was born and raised in Budapest. She is an acknowledged jazz musician, always on the look-out for experimental projects where she can stretch the limits of music genres.

Among the European musicians we find Polish flutist Michał Żak, French accordionist Maryll Abbas, French guitarist Sébastien Giniaux, Belgian percussionist Amine Kanzi Belghiti and Italian double bass player Maurizio Congiu. Although they may not be very well-known for the general public, they all have impressive backgrounds and share a passion to discover new musical horizons. Just to give a few examples: while Żak moves freely from classical music to contemporary improvisation and often composes film and theatre music, Kanzi Belghiti made a tour across Belgian Dutch-language primary schools to introduce Moroccan culture to kids through music and dance.


African music is represented by Zimbabwean Mbira player Nancy S. Mutize, (aka ‘Nasibo’), Tanzanian bass player Shabani Ramadhani, Ethiopian piano player Samuel Yirga, Ethiopian Masinqo player Haddis Alemayehu, South African drummer Tefo Mahola and Malian Kora player Cherif Soumano. Listening to their music is a unique way to discover the sound of millennia-old traditional instruments such as the Mbira, a wooden board with staggered metal tines coming from Eastern and Southern Africa; or the Kora, a sort of harp built from a small calabash cut in half, that the Mandinka tribe has been playing in West Africa since the 14th century.

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