The Nile Project Give Multinationalism a Good Name

by delarue

The Nile Project blend slinky, pulsing grooves from Egypt and Ethiopia as well as from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – the Nile is a long river! The acoustic dance-folk jamband were first assembled by Egyptian wedding dj and ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American soul-folk pioneer Meklit Hadero for the purpose of raising awareness about the marginalizing effects of disputes over water throughout the Nile Delta.

Just two weeks after the group first jammed together, they had the nerve to record their debut performance at Lincoln Center – and then release it as an album, Aswan, streaming at Spotify. In the same vein as the famous Cairo Complaints Choir, the musicians make it a point to pull their material together on the spur of the moment before concerts, which no doubt has a lot to do with the album’s fresh, spontaneous flavor. They’ll be at Globalfest in the big room at Webster Hall on Jan 11 at 7:30 PM with a bunch of similarly first-class acts from around the world, to kick off their marathon 2015 US tour which continues into May.

The musicians here are some of the creme de la creme from Egypt to points further south. Tunewise, the album hits a long, hypnotic peak midway through, segueing through resonant, dusky Middle Eastern-flavored themes by oudist Hazim Shaheen, Nubian singer Adel Makra and sax player Jorge Mesfin, who adds a particularly crepuscular, noirish edge. Before that, the group make their way seamlessly through an Arabic drone, Nubian funk and stark Ethiopian folk spiced with masankop lyre and masenko fiddle. After the pensive majesty of the middle section, the group bring back the lithe, dancing rhythms with lively Ethiopian and Kenyan songs, an intense oud solo by Shaheen, then firebrand Egyptian singer Dina El Wedidi’s Ya Ganouby (Sad South), a mashup of poems from 1930s to the 60s that she orchestrated as a reflection of feeling like a stranger in one’s own land. The concert ends on a high note with more Ethiopian themes. It’ll be interesting to see how much different their performance on Sunday is compared to what’s on the album.