NYU Abu Dhabi's Barzakh Festival to return with global sounds from Algeria to Italy

The event will feature artists playing everything from folk to traditional shamanic music

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Music from North and East Africa, as well as traditional Korean music and sounds from southern Italy, will feature in the Barzakh Festival next month.

Running on February 3 and 4, and being held outdoors in the East Plaza in front of the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre, the festival will be returning after a three-year hiatus, owing to the pandemic.

Held under the art centre’s seasonal theme, stories, the event will highlight the cultural traditions of four international acts through music.

Opening night will feature a performance by Lemma, a female collective whose music stems from the southern regions of Algeria.

With songs borrowing from spiritual and indigenous poetry, their songs are often hits on the world music circuit. They've toured Europe and performed at the 2019 Womex festival in Finland.

“Telling our stories and experiences are at the heart of what we do,” singer Souad Asla tells The National.

“We do want to showcase our culture and show how this music has been historically carried by women from south Algeria.”

Joining them on the night will be Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, also known as CGS.

Hailing from the southern Italian region of Puglia, the group is renowned for their take of Salentinian music, an Italian folk genre defined by its use of the tambourine, flamenco guitar and reggae and dub music bass lines.

The final night will represent the eclectic nature of Barzakh Festival, with sets by Korean group Ak Dan Gwang Chil and Sahra Halgan from Somaliland.

The reaction to their online concerts for the Arts Centre in 2020 was positive, and fans of the will now get the chance to experience the real thing, as the group will deliver their sacred, shamanic and secular traditional Korean folk music linked to the Hwanghae-do region, now a part of North Korea.

Meanwhile, Halgan and her band will deliver original and traditional Somali songs featuring distorted guitar grooves and percussion.

Carried by her distinctive quavering vocals, Halgan's songs speak of the resilience of her country.

"Barzakh Festival is really the annual highlight of the art centre's season and it really captures our goal of bringing different audiences and art forms together," Bill Bragin, NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre executive artistic director, tells The National.

"The artists who are selected each year reflect people who are working across tradition and contemporary approaches or across cultures. They really capture the nature of living in the UAE.”

Barzakh Festival will run on February 3 and 4 at the East Plaza in front of the NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Centre. Tickets are Dh150 for one night and Dh250 for two. More information is at nyuad-artscenter.org

Updated: January 25, 2023, 4:01 AM