Fifth edition of international music festival held in Sharjah aims to break down cultural barriers through the medium of music
Now in its fifth year, Sharjah World Music Festival (SWMF) is taking its audiences on an inspiring aural journey through the realms of Arabic and Western music. The international concert event is hosting eight days of unforgettable performances, spanning the genres of classical Arabic, orchestral and Andalusian music, as well as opera, jazz, blues and more.
SWMF 2018 is presented by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) in a strategic partnership with Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority and Al Majaz Amphitheatre. Organised by Furat Qaddouri Music Centre, this year’s festival is bringing together a select group of the best singers, musicians and bands from all corners of the globe.
Running from January 13-19, the fifth edition of SWMF is taking place at four main venues in Sharjah; Al Majaz Amphitheatre, The Flag Island Amphitheatre, Al Qasba and Al Majaz Waterfront. Festival-goers will be able to enjoy an impressive array of concerts by musicians, bands and singers from 11 Arab and foreign countries, including Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Spain, Argentina, Ukraine and Hungary. The performances from the eclectic array of artists will speak the universal language of music, in the process breaking down linguistic barriers and geographical boundaries as they entertain the audiences.
The Flag Island Amphitheatre
SWMF 2018 opens on January 13 with an ‘Andalusian Night’ at The Flag Island featuring guitar maestro Vicente Amigo. A highly praised exponent of the flamenco style, Vicente is considered one of the most talented and outstanding guitarists of his generation. A musician renowned for his impeccable technique, Vincente’s music captivates audiences everywhere, with his performances garnering acclaim for being both daring and effortlessly natural.
In memory of Abdel Halim Hafez
SWMF 2018 has dedicated January 14 as a special night to pay tribute to the late iconic Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez, who died 40 years ago. The tribute performances will feature Egyptian artists Ahmad Effat, Mai Hassan and Mohammad Metwalli, with the trio accompanied by the Cairo Opera House Orchestra conducted by Mohammad Esmail Al Mouji.
‘Magical Classic & Jazzy Night’
On January 18, renowned Hungarian violinist and singer Katica Illényi will perform at The Flag Island Amphitheatre. As one of Hungary’s most versatile and popular musicians, Illényi will enthrall audiences with her beautiful melodies, with her singing accompanied by SWMF’s orchestra conducted by Mohammed Othman Siddiq.
The Flag Island Amphitheatre will also host accomplished Lebanese singer Ghada Shbeir who will be wowing the audience with a selection of her hits and her ‘Muwashahat’ improvisation. Shbeir will be accompanied by the SWMF Orchestra conducted by Mohammed Othman Siddiq on the last night of the festival (January 19). Also performing on the same night and at the same venue will be Rasha Rizk, with the Syrian singer’s crystal voice forming the heart and soul of her Arabic music and opera fusion repertoire. Rasha will also be accompanied by the SWMF Orchestra conducted by Mohammed Othman Siddiq.
Al Majaz Amphitheatre
Balqees and Abdullah Al Rowaished
Al Majaz Amphitheatre, a subsidiary of the Sharjah Government Media Bureau, will host renowned Kuwait singer Abdallah Al Rowaished and Emirati star Balqees on January 19. Known as the ‘Ambassador of Gulf Song,’ Al Rowaished won the ‘Best Arab Singer’ award in 1999 for his song The Last Beloved and the ‘Outstanding Artistic Creativity’ award in 2010 at the ART Festival. Award-winning singer Balqees made her debut in the music industry in 2013 with the record-breaking album Majnoun Balqees and has since earned herself millions of fans and many prestigious accolades, including iTunes’ ‘Best Singer in the Middle East’ in 2015 and the Murex d’Or’s ‘Best Arab Khaliji Singer’ in 2017.
New events at SWMF 2018
1. Sharjah World Music Festival (SWMF) Orchestra:
Led by Mohammed Othman Siddiq, the SWMF Orchestra is appearing for the first time at the festival. Their inclusion this year was conceived by artist Furat Qaddouri, manager of the festival, who selected Siddiq due to his mastery in leading musical bands.
2. Singing Competition:
On the sidelines of SWMF 2018, a singing competition is being hosted by Masrah Al Qasba Theatre. Held in line with the vision of the SWMF management to develop the musical landscape in the UAE, the competition has been designed to offer a prime opportunity for youths to showcase their musical and singing talents in front of an audience of experts and music enthusiasts. The contest will run January 13-19 from 6:30-7:30pm each evening.
The competition will be supervised by a judging panel composed of Iraqi musician and composer Waseem Faris who supervised the second and third editions of the Gulf Singing Competition. He was a member of the voice separation committee in the talent programme and trainer of voices at Dubai television. Faris also supervised the first three editions of ‘ Sharjah Munshid’ where he was a member of the voice selection committee and the artistic supervisor of the programme. He composed the song for the opening and closing ceremony of the Sharjah Munshid and also the song of the opening ceremony for the seventh and eighth editions of the International Burda Award on the occasion of the birth of Prophet Mohammed (Peace be Upon Him), organised by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development in Abu Dhabi.
Also sitting on the e judging panel is Romanian musician and singer Ona Aurelia, who is also a tutor at a music school. Aurelia has participated in several European TV shows and singing competitions and has supervised a number of contests in Romania.
An array of free music acts will be held outdoor at Al Qasba and Al Majaz Waterfront from 8:30-9:30pm throughout the seven-day SWMF 2018, with the concerts performed by accomplished bands from Ukraine, Argentine, Bulgaria, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq, among others. Among these is an evening titled ‘Love and Peace’ by Iraqi composer, guitarist and songwriter Saif Shaheen, which takes place January 13-14.
In the evenings of January 14 and 17, a trio of Argentinian artists, Flor Milagros, Matej Sodja and Diana Radzhabaeva will fascinate the audience with a magnificent performance titled ‘Women Dance Tango.’ The performance highlights the story of the South American artistic form through a combination of dance, music, acting and singing. Also participating in the free concert schedule is ‘Alwan’ band featuring zitherist Bassam Abdelsattar, who will bring various styles of Arabic and Turkish music to the audiences on January 15.
January 15-16 sees a group of distinguished musicians from the Furat Qaddouri Music Centre – organisers of SWMF 2018 – and other music institutes treating the audience to a selection of musical pieces inspired by authentic Arab heritage.
On January 16, SWMF 2018 will host the ‘One Night in Sharjah’ evening, performed by Ukrainian artist Olesya Zdorovetska whose melodic recitals will be accompanied by Gossou band playing a fusion of classic and contemporary jazz, while Syrian musician Samer Abu Raslan and his band Arabesque Classics will enthrall the audiences with beautiful oriental pieces on the following evening. On the same day, Kurdish artist Ronahi will stun the crowds with a selection of songs in a fusion of Qudoud Halabiya, a form of improvisation from the Syrian city of Aleppo, which combines Arabic songs and Kurdish music.
Other bands appearing at SWMF 2018 on January 18 and 19 include Takht Sharki, with the six-piece outfit performing a range of songs from their oriental classical repertoire, including Qudoud Halabiya, Andalusian Muwashahat and the songs of Um Kalthoum and Abdul Halim Hafez.
Also participating is Syrian artist Sara Al Houshi who will co-perform with Ukrainian guitarist and singer Jenny at an evening titled ‘Harmony,’ blending Western and Arabic music in a harmonious fusion on January 13.