The Junction hosts a celebration of art and love in the Middle East this Valentine’s weekend
Named after the Arabic word for lovers, Ahbab, Cambridge Junction’s festival of Arabic music and film offers plenty to sweep you off your feet this Valentine’s weekend. Featuring film screenings, live music, panel discussions with leading academics and expert-led workshops, the event runs 12-14 February.
On 12 February, Egyptian musicians Tarek Abdallah and Adel Shams el Din and Syrian kanun player Maya Youssef will be performing their respective takes on classical traditions from Alexandria to Damascus. Tarek and Adel’s latest album Wasla was one of Songlines magazine’s best albums of 2015, and Maya won the Exceptional Talent award, which enabled her to migrate to the UK in early 2012 for her innovative work on traditional instrument the kanun.
On 13 February, there are two documentary films about the musical and creative hubs of Algiers and Baghdad in the first half of the 20th century in the name of the day’s theme, ‘cities, communities and collaborations’. The films on show will be On the Banks of the Tigris and El Gusto, a film about a group of Algerian Jewish and Muslim musicians separated over 50 years ago and reunited once more to share their common passion, Chaabi music. In the evening, there will be performances from lively modern artists the Baladi Blues Ensemble and Natacha Atlas. Natacha began her career as part of the world fusion group Transglobal Underground, and her most recent album Myriad Road is her first step into the world of jazz music. She worked on it with one of France’s most eminent jazz musicians, Ibrahim Maalouf. The Baladi Blues Ensemble is known for urban Egyptian dance music, and will feature master quarter-tone accordionist Megdy Twefik.
Valentine’s Day itself sees ‘songs of love’ (what else?) as the theme, hosting leading academics from Oxford, Cambridge, King’s and Anglia Ruskin Universities, who will be speaking about themes of love in Arabic music. There’ll be workshops for both musicians and families with professional artists, as well as film screenings of some classic Egyptian musicals and a grand celebration of music from Egypt’s golden age of film in the evening, performed by Oxford Maqam’s ‘Abd al-Halim’ Ensemble. Fresh from their performances live at the BBC, London Jazz Festival, and St Paul’s Cathedral, the group are set to perform their programme of orchestral, jazz and Egyptian classical music proud, wrapping up the festival with aplomb.
Times and prices vary, see online for more details and to book tickets.