Cairo’s El Dammah Theater: Rango Band

In 2016, I went with a group to El Dammah theater in Cairo to see a show featuring top Egyptian-Sudanese musicians playing Nubian music.

About El Dammah

El Dammah is a small black box theater with about 100 seats that features musicians playing authentic traditional music. The organization that operates it is El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music.

El Dammah presents a show every Thursday night.  There are several different musical acts that it rotates through the lineup.  So far in my trips to Egypt, I have seen 3 different bands there.  One of them was Rango.

El Dammah is located at 30 A El Belaasa St, Abdeen, in downtown Cairo, Egypt. The phone number is +20 115 099 5354, and email address is info@el-mastaba.org.

Rango

The photo at the top of this post shows Hassan Bergamon playing a musical instrument called a rango, which resembles a xylophone.  The small version that was played in this show could be called a kamba. It’s a very traditional instrument from the southern part of Sudan. It nearly died out in the 1970’s, but the art has been kept alive. According to our contact at El Dammah, today there are only 7-8 people left in Africa who still know how to play one.

This photo shows up closeup view of the rango:

The musicians also played additional traditional instruments from Egypt and the Sudan.  Below, one of the men is holding a rattle in each hand, which is known as the shukh-shaykh.

Below, we can see Hassan Bergamon playing another instrument, the simsimiyya. It is a type of lyre, which resembles a larger, similar instrument known as the tamboura.

The angle of the photo above makes it difficult to see what a simsimiyya looks like.  The photo below provides a clearer view. In it, a member of the El Dammah staff holds up two examples of a simsimiyya.

The drummers served a vital role in the show.  They were excellent, and worked very well together with the others as an ensemble. It was truly a memorable performance.

The show opened with a performance of songs while everyone listened, then the musicians started recruiting audience members to get up and dance with them. By the end, the event felt more like a party than it did a music performance, but that was part of what made it such an entertaining evening. The quality of the music was definitely world class!

I’m already looking forward to my next visit to El Dammah, to enjoy whatever music they offer the next time I’m in Cairo!

About My Egypt Travels

For several of my trips to Egypt, I have traveled with Sahra Kent, through her Journey Through Egypt program.  El Dammah Theater is one of the places I have discovered through traveling with her.  I highly recommend the Journey Through Egypt program to anyone who is interested in a cultural perspective of Egypt.

 

African Renaissance Monument in Dakar, Senegal

One of the more spectacular landmarks in Dakar, Senegal is the African Renaissance Monument, known in French as Le Monument de la Renaissance Africaine.  It shows a man, woman, and child emerging from a volcano.  It sits high on a hill overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  At 160 feet (45 meters) tall, it’s the tallest statue in Africa, making it taller than the Statue of Liberty.

At the time this status was unveiled in 2010, marking 50 years of independence from France, Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade said, “It brings to life our common destiny. Africa has arrived in the 21st century standing tall and more ready than ever to take its destiny into its hands”.  The event featured hundreds of drummers and dancers.  I would have loved to have seen that!

Many people in Senegal were not supportive of the statue, criticizing it for various reasons.  For example:

  • Local Senegalese artists criticized the fact that the contract to design it was awarded to a Romanian architect and the contract to build it was awarded to a North Korean company. Why not use local talent?
  • Some have pointed out that the facial features don’t look particularly African.
  • It cost $27 million dollars, which was a big concern in a country where many live below the poverty line.
  • The skimpy clothing of the family does not represent the more modest preferences of the country’s Muslim majority. (95% of Senegalese people are Muslim.)

We had a chance to see this statue up close during our city tour on October 7, 2017, which is when I took this photo.  At night, lighting effects give it a beautiful glow.

It’s possible to pay an entrance fee and go inside it.  I did not do this during my visit.  There are stairs you can take to the top, and look out of windows in the man’s crown.

Why I Was in Senegal

In case you’re wondering why I was in Senegal for a month, I was there as part of the IBM Corporate Service Corps.   You can read more about that here: http://roaming-jewel.com/2017/10/17/ibmcsc/

Mosque of Divinity in Dakar, Senegal

The Mosque of Divinity is a beautiful structure located in Dakar, Senegal.  Its members personally built it, entirely on a volunteer work. No money was paid to anybody involved in constructing it.  All work was done by hand, without the help of cranes or other construction equipment.  The project took 5 1/2 years to complete, from Spring of 1992 to October of 1997.

We visited it because Tidiane Gueye, our local contact for our stay in Senegal, was a member of the mosque and wanted to share this part of his life with us.  It was a landmark near our hotel, which we drove past every day, and it was great to learn something of the history, as well as feel the personal connection to it.

The day I visited this mosque, October 7, the congregation was gearing up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of completing construction. The women had set up a fire with a cooking kettle to cook the meal they intended to serve for the celebration.

Behind the Mosque of Divinity is a beach that lies on the Atlantic Ocean.  There are fishing boats parked along this beach, that people take out on the water to fish.

Fishing boats
Fishing boats along the beach behind the Mosque of Divinity.

This beach is also a place where young people enjoy playing football (soccer).

Playing soccer on the beach.

I felt so inspired, visiting the Mosque of Divinity, because it clearly was a place created from the love that the members of the community feel for not only their faith, but also their relationship with each other.

Why I Was in Senegal

In case you’re wondering why I was in Senegal for a month, I was there as part of the IBM Corporate Service Corps.   You can read more about that here: http://roaming-jewel.com/2017/10/17/ibmcsc/