Musicians of the Nile

Originating from the furthest reaches of Upper Egypt, the Musicians of the Nile have criss-crossed Europe over the last few decades. Like the ancient bards of time past, the difference is that they move through space and cultures as comfortably on an airplane as on the back of a donkey.

Discovered in 1975 by Alain Weber, who has been their artistic director ever since, the Musicians of the Nile is a group whose talent has always included some of the greatest figures of the Upper Egyptian tradition – among them, Metqal Qenawi Metqal, Shamandi Tewfiq Metqal and Muhammed Murad Mejali, all three of them members of the famous Mataqil clan of musicians.

Well before the world music wave, the Musicians of the Nile were the first so-called ‘Arab Music’ group to attain widespread popularity. Frequently imitated and sometimes plagiarised, the Musicians of the Nile have kept up with the parallel currents in music ever since the Chateauvallon Festival in 1975, where they met some of the greatest jazz musicians of the time, including Sun Ra and Keith Jarrett.

They were a part of the first WOMAD festival in 1983, which brought world music to international attention. Their recording for the music of Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ and its soundtrack album Passion brought them to the attention of Peter Gabriel and Real World Records.

The film Latcho Drom, directed by Tony Gatlif, which traces the great musical voyage of the Gypsies from India to Spain, has made even more listeners aware that the Musicians of the Nile are a part of the Gypsy tradition.

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