CSL for El Mastaba

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About El Mastaba

NEW!! Read this publicity package, containing articles and reviews (also access on our shared Google Drive space)

From their website:

"Egypt is a diverse and rich country in every sense and its music heritage is no exception. The music comes from the people and is reflected the every-day life of Egyptians. Historically, it has expressed their joy and pain, their victories and defeats and has been a mirror of major events affecting the population. Today El Mastaba follows this same road as it works on renewing the national memory, recapture the roots of the Egyptian character and emphasizing the idea of belonging, all of which come to life through the music.

El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music is a unique civil society organization that was founded in 2000 by Zakaria Ibrahim, with the aim of reviveing Egypt’s rich and unique performing arts heritage. The Center, not only preserves, documents, and develops traditional music in Egypt, but is unique in its efforts to reintroduce folk music in its original communities and to revitalize its role in the daily life and imagination of the Egyptian people. In showcasing the diversity of Egypt’s musical traditions, El Mastaba demonstrates an inherent strength of Egyptian society, its pluralism. El Mastaba further seeks to mitigate the threat of extinction facing traditional music by creating an appreciation and awareness of its value to communities and to cultural identities that is expressed in market value, encouraging younger generations to see this as an economically viable profession.

Today, El Mastaba Center manages a network of traditional musicians from diverse traditions in Egypt, including Bedouin, Sufi, Nubian, Delta, Upper Egyptian, Sudanese and the Canal Zone. The bands perform regularly in their original communities and in El Mastaba’s theater space, El Dammah Theater, in the Abdeen area, downtown Cairo. Several bands tour regularly internationally and have received awards and special mention for their work. With their focus on performing arts and their grassroots activism that builds from rural and working classes upwards, El Mastaba is uniquely positioned to address the lack of information and bias that shape intra-class perceptions, stigmatize difference and intensify sectarianism in Egypt today. Three schools founded by El Mastaba in Ismailia , Port Said and El Arish encourage the younger generation to discover the beauty of their music and dance heritage. The aim of El Mastaba's archive and program of performances, tours, training and audio/visual production is to introduce this music to local and foreign audiences, not only to entertain, but to communicate the core and genuineess of this folk expression.

The mission of El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music is based on these goals:

  • Re-create and revive traditional music in the diverse geographical and cultural regions of Egypt
  • Document and archive Egyptian traditional songs, music and musical instruments, as well as the voices, history and ideas of its musicians
  • Develop traditional Egyptian music in all its aspects: performance, instruments and musicians
  • Market folk artists and bands through regular performances, broadcasting, audio/visual productions
  • Organise and facilitate educational activities to inform the general public, educate the younger generation to encourage an awareness of the value of this heritage to the Egyptian identity"


See eClass video resource here

The Bands

Note: documentation from one band to the next is highly variable. Part of our CSL mission is to help improve documentation and access to archival materials.

Google Maps: Showing locations of El Mastaba band traditions

  • Tanbura (the original simsimiyya band from Port Said)
  • Rango
  • Beduin Jerry Can Band
  • NubaNour
  • Darawish Abu'l-Gheit
  • El Baramka - a family in the Egyptian Delta whose repertoire includes the archetypes of many Suez Canal songs
  • Hinna
  • El Wazery (another simsimiyya band featuring the simsimia player, El Wazery, from Ismailia)
  • Rawhana
  • Arwah - traditional musicians experimenting with new music
  • Maddahen - traditional religious praise singing
  • Mazameer El Nil - featuring Sheikha Zeinab, a traditional singer of Mawwaal (ballads) and praise songs

Background on Egyptian history, topography, culture, and music