Dina el-Wedidi and Youssra el-Hawary - Egypt Today/Nourhan Magdi
WASHINGTON– 16 September 2018: An amusing night was experienced by fans who attended a shared club gig by Egyptian stars, Dina el-Wedidi and Youssra el-Hawary, who are currently touring the United States as part of the cultural exchange program, Center Stage.
In Washington DC'sTropicalia Lounge, both artists performed breathtaking informal concerts with their bands, flaming chants and non-stop cheers that lasted all night. The club gig attracted both Egyptian and Americanaudiences who were enthusiastic to listen to the music played by the sophisticated innovators, and support Egyptian bands.
Egyptians attending the share club gig in Washington DC-Egypt Today/Nourhan Magdi
“I found out about this amazing concert sponsored by the Department of State on Facebook, I came here with my friends to support Egyptians in the industry, and it really was a phenomenal experience,” said HananFawzy, an Egyptian living in Washington DC for 30 years. Both bands will be performing at the Kennedy Center in DC on Sunday and Monday, before heading to the next state in their independent tours.
Youssra el-Hawary during her performance at club gig in Washington DC-Egypt Today/Nourhan Magdi
The first Egyptian participation in US-sponsored cultural-exchange program Center Stagecomes as part of its fourth edition this year, with three music ensembles from Cairo are set for a month-long individual tours across the US. The public diplomacy initiative launched by the US Department of State in 2012, bringing to American soil a range of 154 artists in 24 ensembles from nine different countries.
Audience chanting as Dina and Youssra rock the stage at club gig in Washington DC-Egypt Today/Nourhan Magdi
From Egypt, the bands participating in the fourth season are: Dina el-Wedidi, Youssra el-Hawary and Karkade. Organizing the tour is almost a two-year process of coordination and preparations, said Lisa Booth, the general manager of Central Stage program in an interview with Egypt Today. Booth said that the Department of State firstly propose their preferences of the countries to participate each season, and then nominations come next and aredecided upon by experts in the industry.
Lisa Booth, the general manager of Central Stage program during orientation session to Dina el-Wedidi's band - Photo by Nourhan Magdi/EgyptToday
Booth added that collaborations with venues take place to get their preferences on whothey think should perform where. She also explained that they set the venues according to the type of music played, so for Dina and Youssra, “it is a mix of concert halls, and clubs with larger space to accommodate more audience.”
Dina el-Wedidi- Photo by Nourhan Magdi/Egypt Today
On Egyptian artists’ selection this year, she commented “we believe that each band of them has something to offer for the American public; they seemed eager when we met them to engage with the Americans. We felt that their work and personalities would make for a successful exchange.”
Ahead of her tour, Dina el-Wedidi told Egypt Today that she is excited about her participation. She also announced the release of her new solo album “Manam” or “Dream.” Speaking with the US Embassy’s Press Attaché Samuel Werberg about the Egyptian artists’ participation, he said that “Each group chosen from Egypt to participate this year brings something unique that American audiences would not normally be exposed to.”
He added that “the groups are also chosen based on their level of professionalism, their ability to sustain a lengthy tour across America, and their potential to move to a much higher level of international recognition through this program.” With around 85 US communities visited during the past years, the initiative aims to expand the audience platforms of the participating bands globally, and expose the US audience to different cultures.
In-door and out-door concerts, residencies in large and small cities, workshops, community gatherings and educational and artist-to-artist activities are vital features of each tour’s intensive schedule. Bands participating in the program includevibrant performing artists; they are selected by nominations made by artists, US Embassy personnel, individuals in the U.S. or people with knowledge about arts ensembles in the identified countries.
About Dina and Youssra
Dina el-Wedidi became an international icon for her delicate fusion of local and global styles of music that helped her earn a leading spot among the underground musicians in her country, Egypt. It was in no time when Wedidi’s voice caught the sentiments of Egyptian, Arab and foreign audiences, with her lyrics, music and performance on stage. She captured attention with her unique style, although she never knew she had the talent. It all started in 2008, when she decided she hadto explorethe beauty of music.
Dina el-Wedidi attending orientation session of Center Stage program - Photo by Nourhan Magdi/EgyptToday]
Her innovative original music in content and style, hercharismatic charm and lithe composition paved song-writer and accordionist Youssra el-Hawary's way to fame. Hawary first started with playing accordion, and then began singing about real-time events that influenced her. Hawary is visiting the US for the first time as part of her participation in Center Stage’s fourth season.
Youssra el-Hawary ahead of her concert at Tropicalia night club in Washington DC - Photo by Nourhan Magdi/EgyptToday
Her music was greatly inspired by the 2011 Revolution in Egypt. In 2012, she released her first track “El Soor” (The Wall), which was a satirical, political take on the Egyptian situation then.