‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Theodorakis dies aged 96

‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Theodorakis dies aged 96
Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis speaks during a concert in support of Palestinian people in Syntagma Square, Athens, Greece, April 10, 2002. (EPA)
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Updated 02 September 2021

‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Theodorakis dies aged 96

‘Zorba the Greek’ composer Theodorakis dies aged 96
  • It was the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ ‘Zorba the Greek’ in 1964, and the slow-to-frenetic title score by Theodorakis that made him a household name
  • He spoke at rallies supporting Palestinian statehood, against the war in Iraq and more recently in opposition to an agreement to end a name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia

ATHENS, Greece: Mikis Theodorakis, the beloved Greek composer whose rousing music and life of political defiance won acclaim abroad and inspired millions at home, died Thursday. He was 96.
His death at his home in central Athens was announced on state television and followed multiple hospitalizations in recent years, mostly for heart treatment.
Theodorakis’ prolific career that started at age 17 produced a hugely varied body of work that ranged from somber symphonies to popular television and the film scores for “Serpico” and “Zorba the Greek.”
But the towering man with trademark worker suits, hoarse voice and wavy hair also is remembered by Greeks for his stubborn opposition to postwar regimes that persecuted him and outlawed his music.
“He lived with passion, a life dedicated to music, the arts, our country and its people, dedicated to the ideas of freedom, justice, equality, social solidarity,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in a statement.
“He wrote music that became intertwined with the historical and social developments in Greece in the postwar years, music that provided encouragement, consolation, protest, and support in the darker periods of our recent history.”
Born Michail Theodorakis on the eastern Aegean island of Chios on July 29, 1925, he was exposed to music and politics from a young age.
He began writing music and poetry in his teens, just as Greece entered World War II. During the war, he was arrested by the country’s Italian and German occupiers for his involvement in left-wing resistance groups.
Some of those same groups bitterly opposed the government and monarchy that led immediately Greece after the war, leading to a 1946-49 civil war in which the Communist-backed rebels eventually lost.
Theodorakis was jailed and sent to remote Greek islands, including the infamous “re-education” camp on the small island of Makronissos near Athens. As a result of severe beatings and torture, Theodorakis suffered broken limbs, respiratory problems and other injuries that plagued his health for the rest of his life. He suffered tuberculosis, was thrown into a psychiatric hospital, and was subjected to mock executions.
Despite the hardships, he managed to establish himself as a respected musician. He graduated from the Athens Music School in 1950 and continued his studies in Paris on a scholarship in 1954.
A prolific career as a composer began in earnest, as he worked in a huge range of genres from film scores and ballet music to operas, as well as chamber music, ancient Greek tragedies and Greek folk, collaborating with leading poets including Spain’s Federico Garcia Lorca and the Greek Nobel laureate Odysseas Elytis. A music series based on poems written by Nazi concentration camp survivor Iakovos Kambanellis, “The Ballad of Mauthausen,” described the horrors of camp life and the Holocaust.
But it was the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ “Zorba the Greek” in 1964, and the slow-to-frenetic title score by Theodorakis that made him a household name.
The movie starring Anthony Quinn, Alan Bates and Irene Pappas picked up three Academy Awards.
As Theodorakis’ fame grew, political turmoil in Greece continued, and his compositions were banned by a military dictatorship that governed the country between 1967 and 1974 — turning his music into a sountrack of resistance that would be played at protest ralies for decades. Tireless in later life, Theodorakis continued to work with emerging artists and compositions that included music for the opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, and maintained an active interest in politics.
He was a member of parliament for the Greek Communist Party for most of the 1980s but later served the cabinet of the conservative government. He spoke at rallies supporting Palestinian statehood, against the war in Iraq and more recently in opposition to an agreement to end a name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia.
His defenders saw him as a unifier, willing to take bold decisions to try to heal the country’s bitter and longstanding political divisions, many rooted in the Cold War. Fans who disagreed with him looked past his politics, and tributes to Theodorakis Thursday came from all of Greece’s political parties as well as his fellow artists.
“He was a giant and we were all proud of him. His music, his life, he was unique,” singer Manolis Mitsias, who worked extensively with Theodorakis said. “Greece was orphaned today.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared three days of national mourning, posting a photograph with Theodorakis at his home following a recent hospitalization.
“I had the honor of knowing him for many years ... and his advice has always been valuable to me, especially concerning the unity of our people and overcoming divisions,” Mitsotakis wrote.
“The best way to honor him, a global Greek, is to live by that message. Mikis is our history.”
Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.


Arab hip-hop culture takes center stage at BeatRoots in Riyadh

BeatRoots is a creative experience developed by Museland’s founder, Ali Al-Saeed. (Supplied)
BeatRoots is a creative experience developed by Museland’s founder, Ali Al-Saeed. (Supplied)
Updated 25 min 6 sec ago

Arab hip-hop culture takes center stage at BeatRoots in Riyadh

BeatRoots is a creative experience developed by Museland’s founder, Ali Al-Saeed. (Supplied)
  • Hip-hop artist and rapper Dattune told Arab News: “We already had a hip-hop culture (in the Kingdom) but we didn’t have enough spaces to either perform or connect with each other

RIYADH: The Saudi hip-hop music scene was in the spotlight at the weekend when local talent took to the stage in Riyadh at BeatRoots, a special music event that took place on Friday at AlMashtal Creative Space, in collaboration with Bahraini record label Museland.

The event, inspired by New York-style block parties, featured live performances by six Saudi and Bahraini artists, plus graffiti artists, b-boy dancing, and a market selling sneakers, street fashion and vinyl records.

AlMashtal, a creative incubator, regularly hosts collaborations with creators of various kinds, including musicians, visual artists and fashion designers. Its goal is to provide a platform to help creative talents to develop their crafts, grow and showcase their work.

“We really like to focus on these local talents, these up-and-coming artists that need a space to express themselves, to have their own audience, a chance to showcase themselves in front of an intimate audience; the right type of audience, the right type of space,” Elham Ghanimah, AlMashtal’s creative labs curator, told Arab News.

The night began with a mellow performance by Bahraini musician and graffiti artist Du$t. His music is inspired by diverse elements such as B-boy dancing, graffiti and surrealist art. He explained that it is important for his craft that he thinks outside of the box when creating his music, and said that he is pleased to see his style of music building a following in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s amazing to see it growing here as well,” he told Arab News. “In Bahrain (we’ve done) the same event there, so to bring it here and to see that everyone is involved brings a nice feeling.”

BeatRoots is a creative experience developed by Museland’s founder, Ali Al-Saeed. It is already a regular event in Bahrain and now the label is expanding to other parts of the region.

“Everyone’s happy; the energy is really good, everything is positive, the crowd is really enjoying it,” Ghanimah said. “I think at the end, that’s really what matters.”

Many people assume the hip-hop scene is relatively new to Saudi Arabia but its origins can be traced back at least as far as the early 2000s, with interest in the genre fueled by the growth of the internet.

“In general, everyone focuses on hip-hop in English … It’s OK to get inspiration from the West but it’s also good to see what you have here, to connect with your own culture, with your roots,” Ghanimah said.

Hip-hop artist and rapper Dattune told Arab News: “We already had a hip-hop culture (in the Kingdom) but we didn’t have enough spaces to either perform or connect with each other. That’s what I love about these kinds of events. I’ve met a lot of people that I wouldn’t have met if we didn’t have these spaces. The talent is already there; all we need is a chance to perform.”

In addition to Dattune and Du$t, the BeatRoots lineup included Fizzy, Septemba, Str8tup Rkls, and hip-hop artist, rapper, and crowd-favorite Albakri, who gave a hardcore yet heartfelt performance that included two as-yet-unreleased songs.

Albakri said his inspiration comes from looking inward, citing his culture and personal identity as huge influences on his work.

“I’m a guy of mixed identity: I’m Jordanian, I’m Palestinian and I’m Saudi. I’m all of these. So it’s just about how I can connect with those three cultures,” he told Arab News.

When it comes to his unique sound, he said his main inspirations come from around Riyadh, in particular his producers Leo, Mufasa and Dice, as well as DJs and friends such as Bucky Grooves, Vinylmode and Baloo. The rapper said he hopes to establish his own record label one day.

“I’m very happy that someone from Bahrain looked into (Riyadh) and was digging for artists … Seeing people open up to the genre, seeing collaborations between the hip-hop genre, the dance/house/minimal genre … and having a space, being a collective — all of that matters to the genre and the music in general,” he said.

AlMashtal’s stated aim with cultural events such as BeatRoots is to open the doors for discussions, cultural and artistic exchanges, and the promotion of creative ventures across the Arab region.

“We wanna do more collaborations just to put everything forward in a positive way,” Ghanimah said.

“Not everyone gets a chance and if people do get a chance, not everyone gets the right chance and the right type of support.

“So, you’re getting to showcase yourself not just at any space but at a creative incubator where the whole goal is to nurture these creatives and help them reach their goals.”


‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater
Updated 05 July 2022

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

‘Magnetic attraction’ of Makkah inspires work of Saudi visual artist Ahmed Mater

RIYADH: Contemporary artist Ahmed Mater’s first visit to Makkah sparked a magnetic attraction to the holy site that would shape his creative outlook on life.

Similar to many Saudis, his initial interaction with the city was as a child, but his most vivid memories of visiting Makkah came during his medical university years.

He told Arab News that on one trip, surrounded by construction cranes, he felt that his “imagination was more powerful than reality. Sometimes, we dream about change. And it happens because the power of imagination creates all of this movement.”

On his parents’ promise to take him to Makkah for the first time, he said: “They told me I would face something different when in front of the Kaaba, and that I would feel a magnet attraction.”

That moment stuck with him, and he continued building on it to inspire his work through his imagination.

One of Mater’s most popular artworks, “Magnetism,” was constructed using thousands of iron particles surrounding a magnetic cuboid, a symbol of the Kaaba, which becomes the center of attraction to the small particles. “I create most of my artwork based on attraction,” he added.

The viewer’s eye is drawn toward the contrast and simplicity of the color palette, with the black elements set on white canvas and all the specs attracting simultaneously to the center. The exhibit is surrounded by four glass screens, signifying the holiness and sanctity of the performance of Hajj that should not be disturbed by outsiders.

His work also plays with the idea of repulsion.

In an essay, British writer Tim Mackintosh-Smith, said: “The Kaaba is magnet and centrifuge: going away, going back home, is the last rite of pilgrimage.”

Mater said: “I think it’s very important after the coronavirus pandemic that things come back to life. I spent more than four to five years attending Hajj as a photographer and researcher, and really, it’s one of the most beautiful scenes when you hear all of the people with one sound. And you feel it. It really cannot be described by words.”

While entrance to the city of Makkah and the Hajj performance itself is reserved strictly for those of Islamic faith, Mater caters to the curiosity of outsiders within the context of community and urbanism.

In his 2017 to 2018 exhibition, “Ahmed Mater: Makkah Journeys,” staged at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, he presented a series of multimedia artworks centering on working conditions, construction, and urban redevelopment that have characterized recent Hajj seasons.

“Sometimes it’s really about memory and about the way that our culture teaches about spirituality, imagination. Because we are a very spiritual culture, a very emotional culture, in our songs and our intimacy and families. So, I think that’s part of our life, and it’s created a lot,” he added.

In his work, “Leaves Fall in All Seasons,” a documentative on-ground video compilation, he focuses on the workers that contributed to the mass expansion of the metropolis. He noted that Makkah, as a city, had been nourished and built by Muslim immigrants and pilgrims of all backgrounds, bringing a lively and perplexing feel to the holy city.

“Everyone dreams about this Islamic world. It’s their dream to do it once in their life,” he said.

His care for the social well-being of individuals and communities, attributed to his background as a medical doctor, shows through his work as he provides audiences with a glimpse of what a journey to Makkah would be like for those unable to go.

“My opinion is that our work now represents our time now. Every time represents its moment. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s there were great artists. They represent their time, and they built this kind of beautiful history. We are now building our time and history,” Mater added.

The physician-turned-artist is a powerhouse in documenting untold stories, and he has played a leading role in establishing the Saudi art scene and legitimizing it locally and internationally.

In 2016, Mater became the first Saudi artist to hold a solo show in the US with his symbolic cities display at the Smithsonian museum’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.

While most artists leave their work open to audience interpretation, Mater said he hoped the research and perception behind his art reached the viewer in some way. “My artwork has personal context, it’s personal. It’s my life,” he said.

The more the visual artist has delved into Islamic collective identity, the more appealing his work has become to global audiences.

“​​I think globally but act locally. We are in our timeline now, and it represents Saudi Arabia now,” he added.


Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ art exhibit, straight from Jeddah

The event seeks to establish Jeddah as the main destination in the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene. (Supplied)
The event seeks to establish Jeddah as the main destination in the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene. (Supplied)
Updated 05 July 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Ithra hosts ‘Amakin’ art exhibit, straight from Jeddah

The event seeks to establish Jeddah as the main destination in the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene. (Supplied)
  • Three-month exhibit was launched on June 30 and invites audiences to explore artists’ relationships with place
  • ‘Amakin’ displays works from 27 artists previously featured in Jeddah

DHAHRAN: A popular Arabic song by a legendary Saudi singer inadvertently became the inspiration for an entire art exhibition that debuted last year in Jeddah. For the first time, that exhibit is now housed in Dhahran, where original works of art serve as personalized portals of nostalgia that allow viewers to take a trip down memory lane to real or imagined destinations. The works will be displayed at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, or Ithra, for three months, where the exhibit opened on June 30.

FASTFACT

The exhibit was curated by world-renowned expert in Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art Venetia Porter and was originally displayed at SAC in Jeddah from March 3 to June 3, 2022. This is the first time it is shown outside of its hometown.

The exhibit wrestles with the simple yet profound question: “What does the notion of place mean to you?” During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of one’s “makan,” or “place,” became a contemplative space for some and a refuge for others. Some escaped to a place created by their imagination, and others used their physical surroundings to build up their idea of a place.

Curator Venetia Porter

In a special treat for Shargiyya residents in eastern Saudi Arabia, the works of 27 artists previously displayed in Jeddah, in addition to the work by local artist Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, were displayed locally. The exhibit was created for the ninth edition of 21,39 by the Saudi Art Council, which was founded in 2013 by a group of local art patrons and led by Princess Jawaher bint Majed bin Abdulaziz.

21,39 Jeddah Arts is a non-profit initiative organized by SAC. Using the geographic coordinates of the city of Jeddah (21.5433°N, 39.1728°E), it seeks to establish Jeddah as the main destination in the Kingdom’s contemporary art scene. The 28th artist, Shargiyya artist and author Al-Soliman, was added by Ithra for this iteration to pay homage to a local pioneer in the Saudi art scene.

Obadah AlJefri’s piece

The exhibit was curated by world-renowned expert in Islamic and contemporary Middle Eastern art Venetia Porter and was originally displayed at SAC in Jeddah from March 3 to June 3, 2022. This is the first time it is shown outside of its hometown.

“The exhibition ‘Amakin’ is inspired by the song ‘All the places long for you,’ by Mohammed Abdu, whom everybody knows. The exhibition started in Jeddah — this was an exhibition that included 27 artists — and each artist tells us, through the work they create about a place that means something to them, whether it’s a physical place or a place in the imagination,” curator Porter told Arab News.

“I am very happy to be talking to you today about our very special exhibition hosted in Gallery One called ‘Amakin’ in collaboration with SAC. ‘Amakin’ means ‘spaces,’ which is very fitting for where we are right now. Ithra is a very unique space within itself and for what it provides,” head of Ithra Museum Farah Abushullaih told Arab News.

Badr Ali’s sketches

The exhibition feels almost like a collage of emotional homes, where emerging Saudi and international artists display their interpretation of a “makan” next to the works of pioneer artists, representing various generations and styles. The works range from photographs to mixed media.

One such artist is Jeddah-born Obadah Al-Jefri, who brought pages from his sketchbook to life, creating a dialogue with his past and current selves, with each giant page representing a different version of his perspective.

“My artwork examines my relationship with a sketchbook and how I found different parts of my identity within the pages of my sketchbook. The work itself feels like a collaborative effort between my present and younger self, and I explore those themes and honor my younger self for pushing me forward to become an artist and to pursue art professionally,” he said.

Badr Ali, another artist, began with paper and shifted to a different medium, employing printmaking techniques to transfer his ideas to silkscreen and using the markings of the five places he frequents, either physically or emotionally.

His family comes from Jeddah, a place that greatly inspired him, but he also grew up in London, worked in Paris and currently lives in Berlin. His fascination with Florence also prompted him to explore those destinations and create a new visual experience. He created drawings for each of these locations and combined them to create new locations.

“My work is based on drawings I made in cities that I live in or have lived in and have a personal connection to. I created a whole series of drawings in each of these places, around 100. In each one, I register memories, feelings, thoughts, and sensations. I chose the method of silkscreen printing as a way to create or combine elements in each of these locations,” he told Arab News.

The 19 artists from Saudi Arabia are: Abdullah Al-Othman, Abdulhalim Radwi, legendary artist Safeya Binzagr, Reem Al-Faisal, Bashaer Hawsawi, Emy Kat, Mohammed Hammad, Obadah Al-Jefri, Sara Abdu, Badr Ali, Asma Bahmim, Hussein Al-Mohasen, Muhannad Shono, Lujain Faqerah and Shadia Alem.

The Shargiyya artists are: Abdulrahman Al-Soliman, Talib Al-Marri, Bader Awwad Al-Balawi and Manal Al-Dowayan.

The remaining nine non-Saudi artists are: Taysir Batniji and Sadik Kwaish Al-Fraji from Palestine; Aisha Khalid and Imran Qureshi from Pakistan; Dia Al-Azzawi, Ghassan Ghaib and Nazar Yahya from Iraq; Ali Cherri from Lebanon and Catalina Swinburn from Chile.

 


Louvre Abu Dhabi partners with Paris’ Musée d’Orsay to showcase 150 Impressionist works

‘Women in the garden’ by Claude Monet. (Supplied)
‘Women in the garden’ by Claude Monet. (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2022

Louvre Abu Dhabi partners with Paris’ Musée d’Orsay to showcase 150 Impressionist works

‘Women in the garden’ by Claude Monet. (Supplied)

DUBAI: The Louvre Abu Dhabi has partnered with Paris’ Musée d’Orsay on what is billed as one of the most significant Impressionist exhibitions ever to be held outside France — the upcoming “Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity” show.

Set to run from Oct. 12, 2022, to Feb. 5, 2023, the exhibition will bring together more than 150 works alongside etchings, costumes, film and photography to explore why Impressionism was considered so shocking in the 19th century.

Art enthusiasts will be able to enjoy works from Impressionist masters such as Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne.

Widely seen as a rebellious artistic movement, Impressionism is marked by its shift away from the academic convention and traditions of 19th century European painting, with pioneers known to have regularly caused a stir. In fact, Manet’s “Olympia” is regarded as one of the most scandalous paintings of the time and caused controversy when it was first displayed at the 1865 Paris Salon, while Monet achieved fame for his relaxed style, which was a far cry from the hyper-realistic paintings of the previous era.

The artistic movement “saw some of history’s bravest and most visionary painters embrace and extoll new ways of seeing, making art, and living. They celebrated this thrilling new reality, representing truthful observations of nature and modern life,” the museum’s website reads.

The upcoming exhibition on Impressionism comes as the Louvre Abu Dhabi expands its international collection with the recent announcement of two loans from the Philippines’ Ayala Museum.

Set to be on show until June 2023, the museum’s first-ever showcase of artifacts from the Philippines features two items that date back to the 10th-13th century. The first loan is a gold cup that was recovered from Nabua in the Camarines Sur province of the Philippines. It highlights the striking similarity of Filipino works to the Chinese gold and silverware acquired by Louvre Abu Dhabi in 2019.

The second artifact is a funerary mask from the city of Butuan in the Philippines. It places emphasis on immortality being the universal hope of mankind when faced with death, according to a released statement. This artifact is currently showcased alongside other historical items from the Levant and South America that exemplify this shared tradition.


New lake park in Historic Jeddah highlights cultural destination

The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals of cultivating environmental projects. (Supplied)
The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals of cultivating environmental projects. (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2022

New lake park in Historic Jeddah highlights cultural destination

The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals of cultivating environmental projects. (Supplied)
  • Jeddah’s historical district was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014, presenting a vivid recreation of life in the past

JEDDAH: The Jeddah historic district program has launched a new lake park — “Lake Al-Arbaeen” — launched in the historical district of Jeddah as an exclusive cultural destination.

The project is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 goals of cultivating environmental projects and improving the quality of life within the city’s historical area.

Several artistic sculptures from throughout the world are placed within the park. Visitors can stroll through historical architecture, natural scenes, cultural events, sports tracks, local restaurants and souqs that highlight the city’s heritage.

Jeddah’s historical district was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014, presenting a vivid recreation of life in the past.

Founded in the 7th century C.E., Al-Balad once served as a center of trade and commerce for Jeddah. But most of the ancient walls that surrounded the town, and the souq within it, became weathered and were eventually torn down as centuries passed.

As wealth from oil began to flow into the Saudi economy and the country began a march toward modernity, many people moved out of the cramped spaces of Al-Balad, leaving its more palatial homes and buildings to slow dilapidation.

There are more than 450 buildings within the historical walls of the city, 56 of which are in urgent need of repair.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pledged SR50 million ($13.33 million) to support the restoration of these buildings as they represent a major part of the Kingdom’s ancient heritage and are a significant tourist site.