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Egypt's blind orchestra

IT HAS been said many times that art, especially that which does not require words, is the best bridge between cultures and also a rewarding article for export. This is also true of the Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) Orchestra from Egypt. It is probably unique in the world, as it is comprised solely of blind women playing classical music: the conductor sets the rhythm just by snapping his fingers at the beginning of every piece.

Al-Nour Wal Amal. (Source: Roman Herda for BKIS)

IT HAS been said many times that art, especially that which does not require words, is the best bridge between cultures and also a rewarding article for export. This is also true of the Al-Nour Wal Amal (Light and Hope) Orchestra from Egypt. It is probably unique in the world, as it is comprised solely of blind women playing classical music: the conductor sets the rhythm just by snapping his fingers at the beginning of every piece.

As part of their European tour, the Al-Nour Wal Amal Orchestra visited Bratislava on September 9, the concert being co-organised by the Egyptian Embassy to Slovakia and the Bratislava Cultural and Information Centre – BKIS. Conducted by Dr. Ali Osman (the orchestra’s only male member), the Egyptian women performed a superbly arranged combination of world-renowned pieces of classical music (by Rossini, Verdi, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian and Bizet), modern Oriental classics – some inspired by folklore (Ahmed Abou Eleid, Refaat Garrana, Rageh Dawood, Abou-Bakr Khairat), made a bow to local classical music also inspired by folklore (Brahms – Hungarian Dances, Bartók – Romanian Dance, Dvořák – Slavonic Dances No 7 and 8, and Johan Strauss Jr.’s Blue Danube Waltz). Two tunes were tailored for the orchestra: the concert’s last piece, Mikis Theodorakis’ motif from Zorba’s Ballet Suite, was specially adapted by A. Osman, and The Swiss Medley by Gian Piero Reverberi was specially composed for the orchestra. The musical body added a specific note to the performed music, sometimes rather tender and timid but always pleasing.

The Al-Nour Wal Amal Association is a charitable, non-profit organisation founded in 1954 by a group of female volunteers as the first Middle East centre for the education and integration of blind girls into society. Over the years its chamber orchestra has developed into a body consisting of 38 women who have become the most famous element of the association.

Part of the evening was also an exhibition of artworks by Hossam Hassan, a young Egyptian artist. The paintings presented in the concert venue, the City Theatre of P. O. Hviezdoslav, reflected the artist's vision of the Revolution of the 25th January in a forceful, emphatic way and in shrill, bright colours.


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