Changing society one song at a time

Don’t miss Egyptian singer and former Rolex protégée Dina El Wedidi in concert in Cape Town.

By Debbie Hathaway
Changing society one song at a time

Shortly after the release of her new single, ‘Wusul’ (the Arabic word for arrival), Egyptian singer and composer Dina El Wedidi will perform at The Baxter in Cape Town on Friday, 30 September, and Saturday, 1 October 2022, at 8.15pm.

Although she was among more than 200 esteemed artists and arts leaders who attended the prestigious Rolex Arts Weekend at the Baxter Theatre Centre in February 2020, this is the first time the former Rolex protégée will perform in South Africa. An ensemble of six musicians will accompany her: Ayman Mabrouk (percussion), Hussein Elsherbini (electric guitar), Mostaga Elkerdani (drums), Mounir Abdou (bass guitar), Reda Moustafa (saxophone), and Yasser Hasheesh (guitar). They will also conduct a workshop on oriental and Egyptian rhythmic music and music production during their visit.

El Wedidi graduated with a degree in Oriental Literature from Cairo University in 2008. It was only when she joined El Warsha Theater Troupe and learned to sing a variety of traditional genres through tutor Maged Soliman that she realized her passion for music. She never thought that she had a voice for singing, and, at the time, singing on stage was considered a male preserve. “I often got harsh criticism, but the support I received was massive and gave me faith,” she said in an interview.  

The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative is part of the brand’s long-term commitment to
global culture, which has helped some of the world’s most talented artists and leading cultural institutions to perpetuate artistic heritage for over 50 years.

The mentoring programme assists artists in transferring knowledge from one generation to the next, based on the belief that artists are inspired by those who went before them. In keeping with the Rolex tradition of encouraging individual excellence, younger artists of exceptional promise – the protégés – are given the rare opportunity to spend significant periods in a one-to-one creative exchange with world-renowned artists in their field – the mentors. 

Brazilian music icon Gilberto Gil chose El Wedidi as his protégée in 2012. She performed with Gil in Egypt, Italy, and London and met up with him while touring in the US, Switzerland, and Brazil. She has since participated in various projects with international artists such as American violinist Chelsea Green, Grammy-award-winning Egyptian musician Fathy Salama and Kamilya Jubran.

El Wedidi said in an interview that the experience taught her to be more relaxed. “I used to be nervous, but I learned from Gilberto that if you stay calm and quiet, you can do new things – everything is going to be all right.” 

She released her first album Tadewar w Tergaa (or Turning Back) in 2014 and her second, Slumber, in 2018. The following year she was chosen as one of Time Magazine’s Next Generation Leaders for her ability to “draw from history to inspire change for the future.” Her authentic sound is powerful and nuanced, her songs ranging from “wistfully evocative” to “percussively violent”, and her music a fusion of jazz, folk, and oriental.

She sees her music as a way to serve the Egyptian nation because “music affects lives”. She reportedly told Rolex: “Most of my songs are political; some are about the army and the government and the situation here. I believe music can change society for the better. Every musician has a message to deliver, and music is one of the best ways to spread awareness, especially as it doesn’t just communicate with the brain but also touches people’s emotions.”

Tickets are R150 and R100 for students and block bookings. Booking is through Webtickets or at Pick n Pay stores. 

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