Top Choices for May: MENA-Related Music, Performance, Film & Plenty More!++

Dear Readers


May brings a plethora of options for the Arab-Londoner and everyone else who is interested in MENA-connected arts and culture activities. The month sees a wonderful choice of music events, theatrical productions, exhibitions, film, comedy, book club and more.

Below are just some of the highlights from the music, theatre and film sections, but there is always more you can find and access through My Curious Inbox page.

Top Choices for Music

One of my top choices would be the award-winning Syrian-Armenian singer and songwriter Lena Chamamyan who will be performing at the Cadogan Hall on 12 May. Presenting her new work 'Lawnan' and a selection of her most famous songs from past albums, Chamamyan's style revives Syria, Armenian and Bahraini folkloric songs with modern styles and incorporates elements of jazz, fado, Latin, African music and opera. If you haven't attended her in concert before, she is one not to miss!

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Another strong contender for top choice is the Palestinian singer-composer Omar Kamal who will be performing at the Cadogan Hall on the 15 May. Named the Palestinian Frank Sinatra, his taste in music ranges from Sinatra and Michael Jackson to Arabic greats such as Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Fairouz and modern trend setters like Weeknd. He sings in a variety of genres in a number of languages, plays his own instrument and also composes some of his music.

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Another important concert will be that of the Lebanese Yasmine Hamdan. This will be an opportunity to hear material from her new solo album 'Al Jamilat' in which she continues to explore her personal modern take on Arabic pop music, as well as looking at the mutations at work within the Arab world. Whilst her vocals are connected to traditions of Arabic music, the structures and arrangements of the songs are remote from its codes and take in elements from contemporary Western electronic, pop and folk music. Taking place on the 15 May at the Scala venue.

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Theatre & Performance 

Three different productions are taking place this month, beginning with the Egyptian Extravaganza from 10-13 May at the Colab Factory in SE London. Dubbed as a comical and thought-provoking immersive cabaret-inspired performance, roaming characters will be inviting the audience to explore the impact the discovery of King Tutankhamun's tomb had on everything, from fashion and film to music and dance in the West. Produced by the Saudi Soha Khan and directed by Rosalind Othen, the show is designed to use iconic imagery and specific histories to create a narrative that explores these famous characters, whilst also challenging how the West portrays and romanticises Egypt.

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Next up will be Camouflage, a dark comedy play by acclaimed writer Ahmed Masoud that also marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank. It considers the subject of survival under occupation through the eyes of four young Palestinians: a refugee who tries to flee the conflict in Syria, a young girl in Ramallah who is in denial, a boy in Gaza falling in love and an aspiring actor in Haifa who has to come to terms with the unjust society he lives in. It will take place on 18 May at the Amnesty International London headquarters.

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The third production is Spring Reign. Based on the real-life accounts collected from Syrian refugees, aid workers, activists, journalists and photographers, Spring Reign will feature live per­formance, video, original music and frontline photography. Set in the besieged city of Aleppo, where Salah and Aisha have lost control of their lives and are falling headlong into an uncertain future, the Syria they had hoped to change is gone and in its place there is only violence and destruction. The work considers how they will survive as they fall further away from hope and from what they know and from what they used to be. Coming to London as part of a national tour, it will take place on 24 May at the Albany theatre. 

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Documentary Film

Fortunate to have previewed the documentary film The Pirates of Salé, I can highly recommend attending its first UK screening. Set in the city of Salé on Morocco’s old pirate coast, it enters the inside of Morocco's first professional circus and the lives that have been transformed through its training programme. Located on the edge of the poorest slums, one follows the fate of the teenagers who audition for the chance to improve their chances. 

We witness how they learn to be independent, express themselves, challenge convention and embrace the concept of artistic freedom as well as the joys of fluid body movement. Directed by Rosa Rogers and Merieme Addout, it will be on at the Curzon Soho on 17 May to be followed by a panel discussion with the production team.

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The Full Listing of Events - My Curious Inbox

There is, of course, much more to attend this month, including other music events, great exhibitions, comedy, book club and other events that I post on my listing page and update regularly.

Please do make sure to scroll down the page so as not to miss out.

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If you want to be in the super-know, you can also follow me on Twitter at: @NahlaInk.

Best wishes to all!

Nahla Al-Ageli
Freelance Journalist + Blogger
London, May 2017