Monday 1 August 2022, 8pm
Mazaher is one of the rare ensembles in which women play a leading role and are connected to a most ancient tradition practiced in several countries in the region. The musicians of Mazaher: Um Sameh, Um Hassan, Nour El Sabah are among the last remaining Zar practitioners in Egypt.
The music presented by Mazaher is inspired by three different styles of the Zar music in Egypt: the Egyptian or Upper Egyptian Zar, Abul Gheit Zar and the Tamboura or African Zar. Zar is a community healing ritual of singing, polyrhythmic drumming and dancing whose tradition is carried mainly by women (men have the second roles) and whose main participants are women. It’s distinctively different from other Egyptian music traditions.
This ritual has been widely misconceived as a form of exorcism. However, the goal is to harmonize the inner lives of the participants. The Zar is a space in which the human being can work out the tensions and frustrations of social constraints, which limit their movements, their dress, their voices and even their dreams. It is an ancient purification rite and it aims at pacifying numerous spirits. Communication with unseen spirits is driven by the insistent and varied drum rhythmic interaction, which can lead to an altered state of consciousness and even, trance. The experience can be cathartic, a physical and spiritual purification that leaves one calm and ready to face the world again.
A featured instrument in the Zar ritual in Egypt is the tamboura, the six-string lyre, which, like the Zar practice itself, exists in various forms in a an area stretching across East Africa to the Arabian Peninsula and Persia. Although this sacred instrument is pictured on the walls of tombs and temples of the Ancient Egypt. Other instruments are the Mangour, a leather belt sewn with many goat hooves and various percussion instruments.
The marginal status of Zar can be attributed to a complex dynamic of magic, sacrifice, mystery, Moslem, Christian and pagan spirits and its function as an alternative to mainstream social, healing and religious practices. Because Zar is a part of the underground culture, the music and songs have survived in its original form without any major interference. However, the practiced ritual has become limited and nearly vanished. Few musicians now make or play the tamboura and only Mazaher people all over the country still have knowledge of the musical legacy of the Zar. Makan have in its audio & video archive a very rich documentation of this unique musical legacy.