Top Egypt musician sees bright future for a Saudi national orchestra

Egyptian violinist Mahmoud Sorour, left, aims to train 50 Saudi violinists to a level that will allow them to perform at a new opera house in Jeddah. (Supplied photo)
Updated 04 March 2019
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Top Egypt musician sees bright future for a Saudi national orchestra

  • More than 250 people have registered to join music institute so far
  • Classes are available to people of all ages and ability levels, although Sorour is most interested in those aged between 10 and 20

RIYADH: Famed Egyptian violinist Mahmoud Sorour taught his first official lessons at Riyadh’s music institute on Saturday night. 

The musician, who gained widespread attention in Saudi Arabia from his concerts in the Kingdom last year, has performed alongside regional stars such as Mohammed Abdo, Majid Al-Muhandis, and Rashed Al-Majed. 

He set up the institute with support and sponsorship from the Saudi government.

Sorour led three classes on Saturday, with 5 students in each. But these 15 are the first of many. 

The institute has received hundreds of inquiries about lesson availability, particularly from women.

“We have huge plans for the development of the music scene in Saudi Arabia,” he told Arab News. “In time, we hope to offer lessons for a variety of other instruments, such as the oud and piano. We’re also working on a professional recording studio and an instrument store as well.”

Students learn to handle the violin, as well as receive instruction on music theory and note-reading, in order to get the most out of their lessons with Sorour. 

The Egyptian’s main focus will be on Arabic music, rather than Western composers. 

“Not only is it easier for the students to start with, but it also pays tribute to our own culture. I myself studied with European or Russian teachers. I want to give my students a more personalized experience than I had.”

Sorour has decades of musical experience and is well-known in the Arab music world. His most recent Saudi performance was at the Winter at Tantora cultural festival, which was held in Al-Ula county and finished last month.

He told Arab News in January that more than 250 people had registered to join the institute and that he expected this number to double. 

Classes are available to people of all ages and ability levels, although Sorour is most interested in those aged between 10 and 20. 

One of his biggest goals for the institute is to train enough musicians to assemble a Saudi national orchestra.

But he encouraged anyone with the drive and desire to learn to apply. 

“You never know whether or not you’re going to be good at something until you try. If you love something, and you have the focus and the drive and the passion, then that’s all you need to be successful.”

Meshal Aldeghiman, a 33-year-old bank worker, tried to teach himself the violin but his attempts were unsuccessful. 

However, this failure did not stop him, and he was one of the first to sign up for lessons when he heard they were available.

“It’s incredible to think that we could learn from someone like Mahmoud Sorour,” he told Arab News. “He’s such a respected name in the industry.”

Aldeghiman has high hopes for a Saudi orchestra and, depending on how he fares at the institute, is willing to consider joining it.

“Why not? It would be a wonderful thing to have an all-Saudi orchestra representing the country. This is only the beginning of what could be something amazing.”


Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium opens in Riyadh for the first time

Updated 35 min 29 sec ago
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Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium opens in Riyadh for the first time

  • Since their arrival, the international artists have enjoyed tours of the city, including to Al-Masmak Fortress, as well as newer landmarks such as Kingdom Tower
  • The symposium will run until March 22

RIYADH: The first Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium kicked off in Riyadh on Monday morning in the capital’s Diplomatic Quarter, featuring the works of 23 artists from 18 different countries.
Participants of note include South Korean sculptor So Dong Choe, Mexican artist Carlos Monge, and Japan’s Yoshin Ogata. The symposium’s three Saudi participants are Ali Al-Toukhais, his nephew Talal Altukhaes, and Mohammad Althagafi.
Altukhaes, an organizer as well as a participant, told Arab News that the goal of the symposium was to create an environment in which artists could share techniques, collaborate with one another, and promote a sense of camaraderie.
The sculptors will assist each other in creating their artworks despite the language barriers between them, but Altukhaes told Arab News that words were not as important as demonstrations of technique, given most of the sculptors would wear ear protection to guard against the constant buzz of heavy machinery anyway.
Since their arrival, the international artists have enjoyed tours of the city, including to Al-Masmak Fortress, as well as newer landmarks such as Kingdom Tower. “Everyone is happy, you can see it in their smiles as they’re working,” Altukhaes said.

New Zealander Anna Korver, covered from head to toe in white dust, grinned as she told Arab News how excited she was to be part of the symposium.
Ogata expressed how happy he was to be in Saudi Arabia for the first time, and that he was enjoying the new experience. “It’s a nice place. The dry climate is a little different to what I’m used to, but the heat is something I’m accustomed to. It’s always a pleasure to work with other sculptors — I usually work alone in my studio back home, so I enjoy seeing everyone here together, and being able to watch them work.”
“It’s my first time in Saudi Arabia, and I was always curious about what it would be like. I had no idea what to expect when I first came, but I’ve been having a great time so far. The symposium is perfect. It is great to work with people who really know what we need as artists — we have all the assistance we need.
“My work is always sort of a narrative about women, and I often like to use the dress form as a symbol of femininity. I’ve chosen to incorporate the hijab into my design. It should give a feeling of lightness when it’s viewed.”
Al-Toukhais, who has had work displayed all over the Arab world, said the secret to becoming an excellent sculptor was patience and commitment. “Sculpting is not for those who are looking for instant gratification, or to become famous overnight. You have to have passion, and drive, but most of all you have to be patient.”
Dr. Fahd bin Mushayt, the executive chairman of the General Authority of the Embassies, thanked the minister of culture, Prince Badr bin Abdullah, for sponsoring the event. In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, he added that more than 20 masterpieces would be produced by the end of the collaboration.
The symposium will run until March 22.