From Uganda to Egypt, 11 countries along the Nile Basin rely on the use of Nile water for their national development plans. Although some 437 million people live in the river basin, no shared vision for the development of the common ecosystem has really emerged to date. While formal, government-led initiatives have made some progress towards cooperation, civil society and NGOs in the countries concerned are often isolated and inhibited by a lack of platforms for exchange.
It was precisely with the aim of creating channels for dialogue and exchange among Nile Basin citizens, local communities, artists and students that Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero founded the Nile Project in 2011. Supported by the SDC since 2013, the initiative carries out activities in the fields of music and education. Through these, Nile citizens obtain information, inspiration and empowerment to work together to foster the sustainability of their ecosystem and understand each other’s cultures and needs.
The project promotes regular residencies with musicians from Nile Basin countries, as well as workshops and concerts. A residency is a space for musicians to learn about other musicians and musical traditions. The artists compose and record new music that results in a performance-ready set.
With the support of the SDC, a first Nile Gathering occurred in January 2013 in Aswan, in Upper Egypt. The encounter lead to the production of an acclaimed CD (‘Aswan’), two subsequent residencies in Jinja (Uganda) and Minya (Egypt), an Africa tour in five countries with the participation of 14 musicians from seven countries and, in 2015, a tour in the United States. During the US tour, the project combined musical performances and academic activities in a dozen renowned universities. A fourth Nile Gathering is planned for 2016.
In parallel, a Nile choir composed of Egyptian citizens and Nile Basin residents, in particular refugees, will be created in Cairo. The choir’s performances will be video-recorded and uploaded to the Nile Project’s website to make it available around the world, and all song lyrics will be translated into Amharic, Arabic, English and Swahili as a contribution to intercultural dialogue.