UMD: A Globally Connected University

The Nile Project Sparks Cultural Curiosity through Music

The Nile basin is a complex region. Riddled by poverty and shared by 11 countries, it has become the subject of numerous resource conflicts.  To encourage dialogue about sustainability in the Nile basin, Egyptian ethnomusicologist and music producer Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero founded The Nile Project in 2011.  The collective brings together 27 musicians from all of the countries along the Nile basin.

The Nile Project aims to raise awareness and inspire action about the problems facing the Nile river basin by sparking cultural curiosity through music. “That spark of cultural curiosity drives environmental curiosity, drives becoming more interested in the Nile as a river basin,” he says.  “So you start seeing the Nile as an organism, as an ecosystem.”

The collective holds periodic two-week residencies, where musicians from a variety of Nile basin countries gather to teach each other their musical styles.  The musicians collaborate to compose songs that speak to their relationship with the Nile and with each other, combining a variety of languages, tonal systems, and rhythmic systems.

The Nile Project’s UMD residency at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, presented by the Artist Partner Program, includes a concert and workshops addressing food sustainability in the Nile basin.  One panel will discuss the role of musicians in peace and environmental movements and will feature Girgis; American University Professor Ken Conca, a world expert on trans-boundary water conflict; and University of Maryland Professor Jen Shaffer.

Ultimately, The Nile Project will mount a fellowship program along the Nile and launch university chapters that will work to promote not only environmental but political, social, and cultural sustainability of the Nile.

For the full article on The Nile Project, see the Spring 2015 issue of Maryland International.

By Emily Schweich