The Nile Project: Connected by a river

The Nile Project: Connected by a river

URBANA — Because the Nile River is the longest river in the world, bordering 11 countries, people living in its basin don't conceive of themselves as from the same region, said Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis.

The Nile Project: Nile of the Music, founded by Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero, strives to develop through music a sense of community among all Nile peoples.

"For them to start seeing there are ways to collaborate and come up with ideas — that's the paradigm we drive through music," Girgis said. "That's what you see on stage — collaboration among musicians."

The Nile Project will bring its mix of music to Krannert Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a concert in the Tryon Festival Theatre.

It will feature musicians from each of the 11 Nile basin countries, performing songs they composed together.

The sounds they make will be heavy on percussion, mixed with instruments such as the Ethiopian masenko and saxophone; the Egyptian ney, oud, violin, simsimiya and tanbura; and the Ugandan adungu and bass guitar.

The Nile Project also features six vocalists singing in 11 different languages.

The musicians, Girgis said during a phone interview, make music that's larger than the sum of the parts.

"It allows for a lot of the musicians' voices and their instruments and their musical visions," he said. "It's really that musical alchemy that allows for the collaboration to be meaningful."

Girgis believes people who live along the Nile, when they hear the music, develop an understanding of and sympathy for people who share the river with them.

"That's how we conceive of the project and how we think music inspires learning dialogue and action," he said.

In 2013, The Nile Project released a live recording, its debut album "Aswan." National Public Radio cited it as one of five must-hear international albums of 2013, saying it indicates "how much fun the crowd is having" listening to the musicians.

Along with performances and recordings, the Nile Project leads university-based workshops in the Nile Basin and while touring abroad. It also posts online teaching tools to make people more aware of geo-political and environmental issues affecting the basin.

Founded in 2011, the Nile Project was inspired by the Silk Road Project, a nonprofit performing arts organization that celebrates the traditions of the historical Silk Road.

The Nile Project focuses its efforts on university students in the Nile Basin as well as in other countries it tours.

"We do different things depending on the local context and the priorities of the university," Girgis said.

For example, the workshops and events here will include Community Water Day on Saturday at the Champaign Public Library.

The Nile Project also gives fellowships to students mainly in five countries along the Nile. That program focuses on developing the students' leadership skills and on having them work on creative, innovative solutions to sustainability and other challenges facing the Nile basin.

If you go

What: The Nile Project: Music of the Nile, featuring musicians from the 11 countries in the Nile River basin

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Tryon Festival Theatre, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, 500 S. Goodwin Ave., U

Tickets: $24, adults; $19, senior citizens; $15, non-UI students; and $10, UI students and youths high school age and younger

Information: 333-6280 and

Nile Project day set at Champaign library

The Nile Project will feature Community Water Day: Civic Engagement and Water Resources Management on Saturday at the Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St.

The events are free and open to the public:

— Information Fair, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Pavilion Rooms A and B, featuring community organizations leading water-related projects and conservation efforts

— 10 a.m., Pavilion Room C, "From the Nile to the United States: The Challenges of Sharing a River," presented by Andrew Rehn and Sarah Scott of Prairie Rivers Network.

— Noon, Pavilion Room C, a panel discussion with Nile Project president and CEO Mina Girgis and guest artists, with University of Illinois Professor Ximing Cai.

For complete information go to


Topics (1):Music