Normally I go to at least a few events during the Edinburgh Festival season, but this year I hadn't gone to anything. Today though I won a ticket to an evening of Egyptian poetry and music at Edinburgh International Book festival.
The poetry came from Amin Haddad and the music from Eskenderella (you can see some of their music videos on YouTube here). Eskenderella are one of the foremost revolutionary bands in Egypt and they perform musical settings of many Egyptian poets, historic and contemporary but for tonight they performed solely their settings of Haddad's poetry.
The poetry was in Arabic with English translations (by Professor Marilyn Booth) showing on the screen behind the musicians. The opening poem was about Bread and this was a theme that wound through the rest of the poems, along with the blood of the martyrs and themes of solidarity and freedom. I was fascinated by the walking, talking trees, a seemingly silly piece of whimsy on one level but a powerful metaphor for political freedom on another level. Likewise the flying horses that gathered children to safety. All through the poetry, trees, moon and sun seemed to be participating in the creation of poetry and there were many beautiful phrases.Thanks to Edinburgh International Book Festival's Twitter feed I can rememeber at least this one:
Poetry is the startled heartbeat when the danger siren goes
Powerful rousing music to accompany the words. Played on ouds (a pear shaped instrument related to the guitar), a wonderful variety of drums, with bass guitar and keyboard.
There was a standing ovation and, possibly for the first time in the history of Edinburgh International Book Festival, an encore.
Eskenderella have an album coming out soon, it will be worth checking out, but if you ever get the chance to see them live, take it.
Thanks to Edinburgh International Book Festival for my ticket for this event, which I won via a competition on Twitter.