ODD THEORY #17 (Session 1)

1. Sonic Contemplations on the Art of Halim El Dabh

Kamila Metwaly

06/07/2019 19:00

Mântuleasa 4, Bucharest, Romania

In this session we attempt to bend time, listen to the reverb an echo chamber, urged by traversing early experimentations in electronic music production. We fast-forward, rewind, we are beside time, we pause, and listen together towards a multifaceted history of experimental music and sound arts. This kinship of music, sounds, recordings, which led our way along and across the times of the life of Halim El-Dabh (1921 – 2017), becomes the context of recorded and unrecorded histories which go beyond the Euro-American canon of what we know as the avant-garde. El-Dabh, who composed one of the earliest – known to date – pieces of electroacoustic music (Taabir El Zaar in 1944) and whose artistic oeuvre spans a period of seventy years, has somehow vanished into oblivion and, has been omitted from “virtually all past and current general music history and literature textbooks for music majors and non-music majors alike.” (Denise A. Seachrist: “The Musical World of Halim El-Dabh.” 2003, Kent State University Press. The motive of this inquiry and listening encounter is to crack the map and rephrase Halim El-Dabh’s lifelong dedication to inventiveness and novelty across various musical genres and traditions. We will listen and juxtapose El-Dabh’s life long dedication to electronic music and experimentalism since his first electro-accoustic piece composed in 1944 Taabir El-Zaar, to Sanza in 2016 which he has released shortly before passing. The session will also be collaged with a series of conversations excerpts that took place between 2016 and early 2017, in a concealed Skype conversation between Halim El-Dabh and Metwaly, shortly before his passing in September 2017 at the age of 96. This listening encounter, about the Egyptian experimentalist, avant-garde musician, electroacoustic composer, creative ethnomusicologist, and pan-Africanist Halim El Dabh, is part of an ongoing retrospective research project “Exploring the Sonic Cosmologies of Halim El Dabh” which debuted in the form of an exhibition in Dak’Art 2018, conducted and curated by Bonaventure Ndikung and Kamila Mohamed Metwaly.


Kamila Metwaly

Kamila Metwaly, born in Warsaw 1984, is a music journalist, electronic musician and a curator based between Berlin and Cairo. Metwaly founded an independent arts and culture publication in Egypt, which specialized in music, arts and cultural writings from 2004 to 2009. Later, she worked in radio and the independent flm scene, maintaining a strong presence in Cairo’s cultural and activist scenes for many years. Since 2014, Metwaly has specialized in music journalism for various independent Egyptian and Arab publications. In 2017, Metwaly joined SAVVY Contemporary and is curating an ongoing sound project titled: Untraining the Ear Listening Sessions. She has been involved with various sound based exhibition projects in the space; including ‘What Has All This Got To Do With Coconuts And Rice: A Listening Exhibition on José Maceda’, ‘Sonic Gestures’ by Pamela Z, ‘We have Delivered Ourselves from the Tonal– Of, with, towards, on Julius Eastman’; and has co-curated a retrospective exhibition “The Dog Done Gone Deaf: Exploring The Sonic Cosmologies of Halim El-Dabh” with Bonaventure Ndikung in the Dak’Art Biennale in Senegal, 2018. She has been appointed as a guest research curator for the Donaueschingen New Music festival 2021 edition.