United Nations; Musicians from Wales and Egypt Are Teaming Up for a Special Tour Which Highlights Their Shared Legacy of Drowned Communities. Here Lisa Head, One of Those Involved with the Unique Project, Reveals How It Came About

Article excerpt

WALES and Nubia. Two lands. One shared legacy. Now a new music tour will be shining a light on it...

The Dammed Nations project emerged from a conversation between Graham Breakwell, from Shrewsburybased world music agency Access All Areas, and Michael Whitewood, from 30ips, both of whom had been working together with Nubian frame drummers Nuba Nour for some time.

Both Graham and Michael were familiar with Nuba Nour's history, especially in respect of the social and cultural impact on Egypt's Nubian people resulting from the building of President Nasser's Aswan High Dam during the 1960s.

This, coupled with Graham's knowledge of the social impact of the controversial damming of Tryweryn in North Wales, led to comparisons between the respective plights of the Nubian and Welsh communities affected by the act of damming, and the resulting loss of homelands and livelihoods in both Nubia and Wales.

It was from this early notion that Dammed Nations was conceived and in-depth research from all parties began on how the concept could be delivered.

Graham contacted Dilwyn Davies, of Theatr Mwldan, a long-time collaborator on other projects, and Mwldan came on board to add its expertise of producing and touring world music projects in Wales.

The exploration of how political decisions and divisions in the 1960s continue to shape the current world was a strong narrative hook. We were excited by the way the project brought together voices from two seemingly unconnected communities.

It was decided that the artists - Nuba Nour and musicians from Wales - would unite on stage to recall the fates of the flooded village of Capel Celyn in North Wales and the drowned Nubian homelands in Aswan, Egypt.

The search then turned to finding collaborators from the rich inventory of Welsh folk musicians. After a period of consultation with various respected members of the Welsh music industry and community, a shortlist was produced. It was renowned Welsh world music "guru" Owen Hughes who suggested Sian James and Gai Toms as ideal partners.

With the support of Arts Council of Wales and the British Council, the initial rehearsals for the project were undertaken in summer 2013 at Theatr Mwldan in Cardigan - and the frame drum rhythms will be warmed up once more this month when the artists reunite at Mwldan.

When Nuba Nour first visited Wales in July last year, the band had the opportunity to visit the site of the Tryweryn Reservoir. This helped to create a common bond between the Nubians and their Welsh counterparts. It was a very profound and moving experience for the musicians - particularly visiting the memorial and viewing the gravestones from the site of the original chapel. Until that moment the concept of the tour - exploring the shared legacy of drowned communities - was still quite an abstract concept.

As the rehearsals developed, Nubian and Welsh tunes were brought together to form a common language that reflected the emotional content of the project's ideals. …