ALCASA introduce Arabic Songs to the Adelaide Fringe Festival

In the 60 years of Fringe in Adelaide, this might quite possibly be the first time an all-Arabic music event has been on the program – and a SOLD OUT event of 120 guests as well!!
On the 14th March 2020, the Arabic Language and Culture Association of SA (ALCASA) proudly presented ‘Aghaani Zamaan’ – classic Arabic songs that have enchanted generations in the Middle East.
There was an electric atmosphere at the Nexus Lion Art Centre as a huge crowd revelled to a medley of talented and passionate local artists who breathed new life into classic Arabic hits of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. The show opened with a 60s classic from Taroub – Ahla w’sahla bil ahbab that really made the crowd come to life. Rania and Nouha vocals seduced the audience as they sang in harmony to Charlie on the qanun, Rabih playing the oud, Ahmed on the tabla and Ahssar on the percussions.
A diverse audience of all ages and backgrounds were overwhelmed with nostalgia and raw memories of their homeland as the melodies sent them back to their childhood and their rich cultural heritage. Classic hits from superstar Fairuz, Sabah and Nasri Shamseddeen had the audience on their feet soaking in the history. One audience member was ecstatic and thanked ALCASA for the opportunity for their mother, who is suffering from dementia, to be able to sing along to every song; “I haven’t been as connected to mum as I was tonight. Bless you all for the wonderful experience.”
The performance also exposed to a whole new audience the legacy left by the legends of Arabic music and showcased the significance of some iconic songs from long ago. The artists provided a new experience for lovers of world music by contextualising each song and even providing phonetic lyrics so the audience could sing along – karaoke, Arabic style!
The crowd participated with their singing and clapping and gave a standing ovation to the musicians. The audience celebrated the singers and received many congratulations; one audience member praised the singers for their “amazing voices and beautiful presence”. This event was certainly a night to remember and one our audience members will never forget!
ALCASA would like to thank all involved for their outstanding commitment and support to allow us to host this event and we are humbled by the amazing community endorsement to continue to host great events like this one. Special thanks to Nexus Arts for encouraging us to participate in the 2020 Fringe Festival. We felt so lucky for receiving subsidies to present this unique ALCASA performance. We look forward to the opportunity to share with you all again soon.

Hassan Mekawy
ALCASA Secretary

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ALCASA Team and their First Song, February 2019

The ALCASA Music Workshop with Julian Ferraretto (Nexus Arts – Creative Cohesion) was an active and engaging experience for all, which was filled with ongoing laughter, listening and learning!

Not only did the kids put their musical talents to the test, but also the adults were tapping and clapping to the rhythmic nature of the diverse Middle Eastern instrumental beats that were produced.

The grand finale was the highlight for most, whereby the audience (adults and children) incorporated Arabic lyrics and tailored them to Ferraretto’s original piece depicting the typical sounds that one would find in a local Souk market. Thus, the scene that followed could only be described as an authentic, musical masterpiece.

Tania Zebian

ALCASA 2018 Sahra

On a warm Autumn night the nostalgic beat and rhythm of centuries of Arabic music and culture was heard in the heart of Adelaide.

On the 24 March 2018, the Arabic Language and Culture Association of South Australia (ALCASA) hosted their third annual Sahra event سهرة to a sell-out crowd of 100 guests. Members, family and friends from a broad range of cultural backgrounds and diverse nationalities gathered at the Burnside Community Center to play, sing and dance.

Firstly we were treated to a magical performance by the world-renowned belly dancer, Nayima Hassan of the South Australian Belly Dance Academy . She mesmerised the guests with a stunning opening dance swathed in fairy lights, impressed with her classic dance of the swords and blew the crowd away with her final routine atop a derbake!!! Nayima then got the whole crowd involved and led guests through some basic introductions to the art of bellydance.

The main focus of the night was to celebrate Arabic music and dance and the audience were lucky enough to hear demonstrations of some classic Arabic instruments including the oud, qanun,  derbake and buzuq. Thank you to Charlie Yarak, Rabih Aintarazy, Raja Jamaleddine and Abu Hassan, Ahmed Sdik, for the traditional music and supporting the beautiful voice of Rania Daou. Rania delighted the crowd with some well loved classics and had the whole audience singing and swaying to the songs of their homeland and of their youth.

The surprise of the night was our invitation for audience members to participate in the line and sing some of their favourites. What an amazing talent our members and friends have! We heard from males and females, the young and old, classic songs from across the Arabic nations and some heart-wrenching emotional ballads that had the whole crowd in tears.

ALCASA members treated our guests to an array of Arabic sweets and delights and the evening line-up broke up for a chance to meet each other and foster positive relationships between cultural backgrounds, both Arabic and non-Arabic. We sipped strong coffee and shared stories and memories before we were attracted by the arrival of the Glimmers of Hope, Palestinian dabke dancers. The young performers brought to life 1000s of years of tradition to celebrate their passion with the audience and their hope to carry on the tradition with the young children in the crowd. It was wonderful to see the 3 generations dance alongside each other to explore and embrace their history.

What a night to remember! So many wonderful experiences to keep for all in attendance, we know everyone enjoyed the evening very much. Thank you very much to all the artists, musicians and singers and especially the ALCASA members and volunteers for their significant contribution to a hugely successful event.

Hassan Mekawy

Posted by Arabic In Adelaide on Sunday, March 25, 2018

Arabic Story Time in March

ALCASA Children’s second session this year was held on the 18th of March 2018. This time the class was full with children from different backgrounds and various levels of Arabic language.

We have started our session with singing and dancing on one of Fairuz’s songs, then one of the children with the help of her parent read a story to the children. All the parents helped their children to learn the words of the story.

Following the theme of the story, we have asked the children to get into groups and come up with a story similar to the one we read. They needed to use the Arabic words they’ve learned to create and read their own stories.

They amazed us with their work. They all worked so well together and performed stories written and acted by the them, in Arabic!

A very successful day, new friends, new words, yummy food and lots of outdoor play!

Nadia Sbahi

Dardasha in March

We had a most enjoyable “dardasha” session on Sunday 18 March, with much laughter and fun. There were five native Arabic speakers and six others with varying degrees of Arabic fluency.

We were very lucky to have the company of Lur, a young Iraqi writer, newly established in Adelaide. Five years in Australia, honours degree in writing from Adelaide University. She has written a book, hosted conferences, written for magazines and made videos, a very positive role model for women of any persuasion.

Next, another newcomer, Najwa, who came to Australia from Lebanon two years ago, showed us a Triz game which uses a board with shapes drawn on and a white and black pawn.

It was then time for a few of us to talk about a book we have read.  Alison commenced with an outline of Juha and his Donkey جحا وحماره.  This is a famous Arabic fable wherein Juha is travelling with his son and his donkey.  Juha is constantly criticised along the road by various people he meets.  He is accused of being cruel or stupid whether he rides the donkey, his son rides the donkey, they both ride the donkey, or they walk alongside the donkey.  Eventually he and his son carry the donkey, in an attempt to please everyone.  But they are ridiculed for this too.  The moral of the story is that you cannot please everyone all the time.

While I did not understand all what Alison said as I am still very much a learner of the Arabic language, it did prompt me to look up the story further on the internet when I got home.  There are various YouTube videos of this story and I particularly liked the one by a group of children as part of the “Hands up project”.  The video was obviously taken by another young student and it was not a professional video, but it was heart-warming to watch.  From my internet searches, I now see that Juha has lots of adventures, all with a moral.  Thanks Alison, for introducing me to this character.

Next, Alice spoke about her time in Lebanon as a university student there.  She thought it was amusing that one of her subjects in Lebanon happened to be English literature.  However, she had an excellent professor and particularly appreciated books about memories of war and the sense of emotion these evoked.

We moved on to Mary, a teacher of Japanese and student of Arabic, who showed a colourful, A3, laminated production of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”   الدودة الجائعة جداً.  This is a favourite book for young children as the caterpillar eats its way through various fruits and vegetables and ends up becoming a beautiful butterfly فراشة.  Mary spoke in Arabic about the book and explained that she had translated it into Japanese and a friend had prepared the pictures from the original book.  How’s that – from English, to Japanese and then to explain it in Arabic – fantastic, Mary!

Andrew, displayed a fun book which his young grandson loves – all about cars, trains, planes, buses and trucks السّيّارات والقطارات والطّائرات والباصات والشّاحنات.  It was most enjoyable to hear Andrew speak in Arabic about this book and he did an excellent job of describing the various means of transport and stations, along with the colours.  He was not sure how to describe the “forty flaps” which his grandson delights in opening, but I believe we settled on “أربعين صورة” in Arabic.

Bruno chose a more serious subject to talk about and he spoke fluently. Bruno enticed us to watch the movie and to read the book بناية يعقوبيان.

It was then my turn to speak and I had chosen a book by a Japanese lady, Marie Kondo, called “The life-changing magic of tidying”.  I confess that I had to use Google Translate to find out how to say that in Arabic سحر تغيير الحياة بالتّرتيب.  A book on tidying seems rather trivial in a world with daily news of wars and other terrible events, but it seems that many of us are struggling under the weight of too many material things in our homes.  The author believes we should only keep items that “spark joy” and this entails holding each item in our hands to decide.  She advocates throwing out or recycling everything else that is not essential to our daily lives.  It was interesting to learn about the widespread Japanese belief that material things have feelings and they should be thanked for their help in our lives.  This book prompted a discussion about the minimalist movement around the world and we discussed expressions like الزهد والتنسك، التقشف

Japanese seems to have come up rather a lot in this article, but we were speaking in Arabic – no matter how basic – and it felt like a very joyful meeting.

We were then joined by the children’s group for afternoon tea where everyone was happy to keep chatting for well over the half-hour allotted time.  A big thank you to all involved.

Sue Young