Music Spaces in the Arab World

A primer ahead of the 2017 edition of the Hamburg Kitchen Sessions, done in conjunction with the Goethe-Institut across the region. Below is an abridged version of the introduction of the project as found on the Musikraum website.

Living rooms turn into concert halls, kitchens morph into auditoriums. Popular entertainers jamming on couches, up-and-coming artists showcasing their skills between coffee tables and bookcases. “Musikraum” is a production of the Goethe-Institutes in the Middle East/North Africa region which presents live performances in private homes, and takes inspiration from the Hamburg-based project “Hamburger Küchensessions”. Young musicians as well as seasoned bands offer a wide range of music, from traditional songs to Arabic Alternative Rock, reflecting their environments with contemporary lyrics and modern sounds.

Yet the events are not confined to their tiny venues. Each concert can be experienced by a worldwide audience online, which allows artists to showcase their art to a large audience and connect with one another. In a region where concerts in public spaces are often socially restricted, music becomes alive in private spaces and on the internet.

The live concerts are organized as small, local events in a private setting, which means that selected audiences can get up close and personal with the musicians. In 2016 the Goethe-Institut produced 37 music videos (on Youtube and Facebook) and uploaded more than 40 audio files. The concerts were held all over the Arabic world, in Alexandria, Beirut, Bethlehem, Baghdad, Gaza, Cairo, Khartoum, Ramallah and Tunis. A further 30 music videos will be produced in 2017.

Shahin El 3abkary and Boflot of Y-Crew. Copyright – Goethe-Institut

The objective of both the Goethe-Institut and the Hamburg Kitchen Sessions is to connect musicians with one another and make their music accessible to audiences in the Arab world as well as in Germany.

The “Hamburg Küchensessions” project is a video blog, a concert series and a CD project offering both up-and-coming singer-songwriters as well as popular artists a platform to publicize their work. Through the cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, musicians from Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Sudan can now also get involved. The individual gigs of the music room are made freely available online. The cooperation began in April 2016 and will continue at least until the end of 2017.

In addition to the digital productions, the Goethe-Institut and the Hamburger Küchensessions are organizing public concerts with Arabic and German musicians which are to be held in Hamburg. Since 2014, trendy venues in the northern German metropolis have been hosting summer concerts as part of the series “Hamburg kitchen sessions are going out!”.

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