Eminent artists, scholars and musicologists came together in Assilah, Morocco today to discuss music in the world of Islam. The conference, organised by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH), through their Al Ain Centre for Music in the World of Islam initiative, was designed to give the artists an opportunity to discuss topical and wide ranging questions such as “How should we safeguard our musical heritage?” and “What musical heritage should we safeguard?”
The roundtable discussion heard contributions from participants from Senegal, Uzbekistan, France, China, Jordan and Turkey.
Cherif Khaznadar, chairman of the Advisory Board of the Al Ain Centre for Music in the World of Islam highlighted some of the centre’s work in this field to date, “we are working on local projects – organising workshops and concerts every month. In parallel, we are working on some large scale projects – including the digitisation of all of the content recorded at the Arabic Music conference in Cairo in 1932. This project, which has been a dream of musicologists for many years, will come to fruition next year – with 17 CDs being released.”
He also presented a short video clip highlighting one of the centre’s other major projects. “We want to raise awareness of lullabies. Many of these songs and many other children’s songs are disappearing as parents use CDs and other electronic devices rather than singing to children.” Khaznadar then presented a short clip from a DVD being recorded in Uzbekistan. The clip showed a mother singing a traditional Uzbek lullaby to her child. This is part of an ongoing project to document these songs in both audio and video formats.
Papa Massène Sene, advisor to the Prime Minister of Senegal suggested that we should look at how we should safeguard this musical heritage, “perhaps we should record these types of music for researchers and for museums. These are elements of our evolution. We should always keep them as a way of seeing where we come from, but we should not look at this as a means of revitalisation or a way of artificially keeping it alive.”
The conference ended with an evening of musical entertainment in Assilah’s Culture Palace. Delegates, speakers, visitors and locals were entranced by a performance of Sufi-inspired singing and music by ‘Hadra Chefchaounia’ – a women’s ensemble from Chefchaoun as well as a performance from Bait Al Oud Al Arabi from Abu Dhabi.
ADACH’s role in the development of culture and heritage in the UAE is evident throughout this year’s Assilah Festival. ADACH is holding several workshops and art exhibitions, lectures and seminars throughout the event, which addresses a range of topics from publishing and poetry to cultural diplomacy and music in the world of Islam. The festival is running from July 10th to July 27th.
ADACH, along with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Community Development and Masdar are representing the UAE officially at the Assilah Festival as a guest of honour this year.