Jordan’s veteran musicians revive Arab song

1 / 2
Salwa Al-Aas, a 74-year-old Jordanian singer of Palestinian origin, performs during a concert with the Beit Al-Rowwad ensemble at Hussein Cultural Center in Amman on March 20. (AFP)
2 / 2
Jordanian singer Mohamed Wahib, center, sings with the Beit Al-Rowwad ensemble during a concert at Hussein Cultural Center in Amman on March 13. Beit Al-Ruwwad, founded in 2008, celebrates the golden era of Arab music as well as Jordanian folklore songs. (AFP)
Updated 28 May 2018
0

Jordan’s veteran musicians revive Arab song

  • Beit Al-Ruwwad (The House of Pioneers), founded in 2008, celebrates the golden era of Arab music as well as Jordanian folklore songs
  • “The old songs are different from those of today, and people who come to see us feel that they are transported into the past”

AMMAN: A group of musicians are causing a sensation in Jordan by reviving the golden age of Arab song — and not one of them is under the age of 50.
“I would give you anything for the feast, my angel.”
Beshara Rabadi, 62, sang the line to an enthusiastic crowd at a concert hall in central Amman.
Many instantly recognized the song of famous Iraqi singer, Nazem Al-Ghazali, responding with applause and singing the rest of the phrase:
“But you have everything. Should I give you bracelets? I don’t want to tie your hands.”
Beit Al-Ruwwad (The House of Pioneers), founded in 2008, celebrates the golden era of Arab music represented by Ghazali and legendary Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum as well as Jordanian folklore songs.
The singers, some of them in their 80s, wear dark suits and in some cases sunglasses as they play a wide range of instruments: oud (Arabian lute), flute, drums and accordion.
Each Tuesday, they give a free concert at Amman’s Al Hussein Cultural Center.
“Our goal is to preserve classical Jordanian and Arab music and provide a comfortable social space that supports original art and artists,” said the group’s founder and leader Sakher Hattar, 54.
A buzz spread throughout the audience as the group performed another well-known song about a girl leaving her family home to get married.
Women raised their hands while an older man span a cane above his head and tried out a few dance steps.
“I come every Tuesday, I never miss the concert,” said Russayla Bayzidi, 75, sitting in the front row in a white hijab and an elegant electric blue jacket.
“I love these old songs because they take me back to a beautiful time,” she said. “I relax so much when I come to these concerts.”
The group’s fans include people from across Jordanian society and the concerts always have a family atmosphere, said Hattar, who is also an oud teacher and head of the Arabic music department at Jordan’s National Music Conservatory.
He likes to talk of how the group was formed.
He had met officials at the culture ministry to discuss having veteran musicians perform individually at the annual Jerash Festival, which brings artists from across the Arab world.
“They were rejected on the basis that they weren’t able to perform,” he said.
“That idea hurt, and it gave me the idea of setting up the band.”
He set about gathering a group of musicians in their later years, including singers Mohamed Wahib (84), Salwa Al-Aas (74) and Fuad Hijazi (70).
“These artists still have a lot to give, they have a really high standard of musicianship,” he said.
In May, 10 years since the group was founded, King Abdullah presented Hattar with an award for the band’s role in supporting pioneering musicians.
Singer Wahib said the group had “brought together pioneers who gave a lot to Jordanian and Arab art.”
“I’ve been passionate about music since my childhood,” he said, adding that he launched his career as a singer on Radio Ramallah in 1958.
The octogenarian, a contemporary of Arab greats such as Mohammad Abdelwahhab and Farid Al-Atrash, credits Beit Al-Ruwwad with giving him the desire to continue.
“The old songs are different from those of today, and people who come to see us feel that they are transported into the past.”
But the group also hopes to reach a younger audience, said sexagenarian singer Osama Jabbur.
“We try to create a link between old and new songs.”


Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures

Ad-Dir’iyah, seen in the distance, is the original home of the royal family and the country’s first capital, from 1744 to 1818. (Reuters)
Updated 11 December 2018
0

Al-Turaif: How Saudi Arabia is bolstering future tourism by reviving past treasures

  • Of the many Saudi UNESCO World Heritage Sites declared over the past decade, Al-Turaif is the newest (and oldest) kid in town

JEDDAH: In an increasingly accessible country with no shortage of cultural hidden gems, Saudi Arabia is in a unique position to develop and showcase its most fascinating heritage sites, from the architectural to the archeological.
Five national treasures have already been added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2008, including Al-Ahsa oasis, Al-Hijr archaeological site (Madain Salih), Historic Jeddah and the rock art at Hail.
The fifth site, recognized by UNESCO in 2010, is Al-Turaif Historical District, the remains of a settlement that dates back to the 15th century. Located in the north-western outskirts of the capital, Riyadh, it is one of the Kingdom’s oldest heritage sites, though its potential was only recognized relatively recently.
It is set against the backdrop of the historic Ad-Dir’iyah oasis, a place that is dear to the hearts of the Saudi people and has a special place in the history of the Kingdom, as the original home of the royal family and the country’s first capital, from 1744 to 1818.
The surviving mud-brick structures, in the Najdi architectural style, overlook the oasis and palm gardens of Wadi Hanifa. They include historic palaces, monuments and administrative buildings used by the First Saudi State, such as Salwa Palace, the home of the ruling family at the time, and Saad bin Saud Palace.
When Ad-Dir’iyah was established as the capital, under the rule of Imam Mohammed bin Saud, the founder of the first Saudi State, tribes from across the desert flocked to the city, which expanded to accommodate them.
The city’s borders ran along the edges of the valley, and the mud-brick walls were designed to cope with the harsh desert weather, including summer temperatures hat can reach more than 55 C. With a valley below, vast farm lands and palm trees covering most of the region, the city thrived and flourished.
During Imam Mohammed’s rule, Ad-Dir’iyah became one of the most important cities in Najd, thanks to its position on the trade routes from east to west, the military strength of Al-Saud family, and its importance to pilgrims, granting them protection and accommodation during their journeys.
Now, Al-Turaif district is undergoing a major renovation project to preserve the historically important structures and showcase them as a reminder of the place and time from which the Kingdom’s founding fathers emerged.
This is just one of many projects planned or underway to safeguard Saudi Arabia’s national treasures and develop them as major tourist attractions. As part of the ongoing process, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage last week added 19 archaeological sites to the National Antiquities Register, which aims to develop and preserve Saudi’s heritage sites.
Ad Dir’iyah has long been considered one of the nation’s greatest treasures. In the run-up to the celebrations in 1999 for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, at the time the governor of Riyadh, ordered the formation of a committee to develop Ad-Dir’iyah, following a request by Prince Sultan bin Salman, the president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. The main aim was to preserve the historic mud-brick buildings and monuments of Al-Turaif, as part of a wider program to develop the Historic Ad Dir’iyah site.
The SCTH has launched many projects across the country as part of an ongoing overall effort to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the top tourism destinations in the Middle East.
In 2010, Al-Turaif District became a registered World Heritage site after a number of development projects were carried out in preparation for its inclusion. The development program, drawn up by the Riyadh Development Authority in corporation with the SCTH and Ad Dir’iyah Governate, focused on the historic and political and cultural value of the city.
Ad-Dir’iyah Salwa Palace Museum and the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Mosque are among the major buildings being developed and preserved. There are four other attractions in the area: a Social Life Museum, a Military Museum, an Arabian Horse Museum and a Trade and Monetary Museum.
Another main attraction is Al-Bujairi Park, a modern development project that includes a spacious park, cafes, restaurants and an art gallery that is popular with international tourists and locals thanks to its relaxing atmosphere away from the city’s hustle and bustle. It serves as the main recreational attraction of Historical Ad Dir’iyah between Al-Bujairi and Al-Turaif Quarter also has steep rock formations, passageways and water creeks, making it a unique location in the capital.
On December 9, 2018, after the GCC Summit in Riyadh, King Salman attended the opening ceremony of Al-Turaif Historical District Development Project in the presence of GCC dignitaries and leading Saudi officials and guests. The project will help transform the Ad-Dir’iyah area into an international and national tourism and cultural hub.
“Al-Turaif has been transformed into an open museum with the restoration and documentation of its archaeological sites,” said Prince Faisal bin Bandar, Emir of Riyadh and chairman of Riyadh Development Authority.
As a key focus of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, tourism is seen as one of the most important sectors that can contribute to job creation in the Kingdom.
It currently employs more than 900,000 Saudis, a number that is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.