London’s Shubbak Festival opens to global audiences for the first time

Hip-hop, spoken word and karaoke are what are on the lineup for this year’s Shubbak Festival.

A decade after its launch, the biennial festival returns to London for its sixth edition with a program full of Arab art, cinema, music, theater, dance and literature.

Organizers say almost all of the work was commissioned or specially designed for Covid-19 compliant conditions, including the use of outdoor spaces, digital programming and live streaming.

Shubbak’s artistic director Eckhard Thiemann said the festival tapped into a vast network of international venues, from Sleimani to Casablanca and Cairo to Riyadh, to offer audiences a wide range of performances. “This year’s festival program transcends the boundaries of all of our previous editions,” says Thiemann. “As our world opens again after the pandemic, Shubbak offers opportunities to reconnect, share and explore our new local and global realities.”

Some of the UK organizations partnering with this year’s festival include Dardishi, a platform showcasing the contributions of Arab and North African women to contemporary art and culture, and the SAFAR Film Festival, the UK’s only festival dedicated to Arab cinema. SAFAR will host a special hybrid edition of its festival at Shubbak 2021 with its selection of films reflecting 10 years of the Arab Spring, both on the big screen and at home.

Shubbak’s recently appointed board chair, Shadia El Dardiry, said the ability to host the festival this year was the result of “courageous and inspiring responses to a radically disruptive year.”

“It has compelled artists and curators to think about new ways of collaborating, creating and presenting art. While the festival will retain its roots and physical presence in London, it will be open for the first time in its history. to a global audience through a series of online and international initiatives, ”said Ms. El Dardiry

The Festival said it was receiving crucial funding from the government’s £ 1.57bn ($ 2.18bn) Culture Restoration Fund to help deal with the challenges of the pandemic coronavirus.

Shubbak’s special commissions include a collaboration between two of the most sought-after Arab hip-hop artists. Palestinian-Jordanian The Synaptik and Egyptian-American Felukah will combine their dynamic music on stage for the first time in a live and streaming event that will premiere two new songs. Felukah, who released her debut album, Dream 23, last summer, recently said The National she was eager to go on tour once the restrictions imposed by the pandemic were relaxed.

Another genre-focused Shubbak commission comes from Dubai-based filmmaker Phlilip Jamal Rachid (aka Soultrotter) who uses dance, spoken word and street art in his film. This is not where you come from to explore the young booming hip-hop scene of the Gulf region.

Other works on display include a live, experimental digital performance retracing the history of the legendary Egyptian cabaret Cairo KitKat Club, and a specially curated selection of works by Saudi artists who blend movement, live performance and choreography into their artistic work.

The Shubbak Festival will run from June 20 to July 17.

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