Dina el-Wadidi is considered by some as a singer with a taste for revolution; her style evokes an irreverent cheeriness of the songs of the early 20th century while referencing struggles of the past and present.
Wadidi was born on Oct 1, 1987 in Cairo, and studied Oriental literature with a specialization in Turkish and Persian literature at the Cairo University.
In 2008, the singer composed her first song ‘El-Haram’ and since then has composed music for lyrics that inspire her.
Last week Wadidi spoke to The Cairo Post about her upcoming debut album and other projects.
Wadidi: I started singing in 2008 as a member of Al-Warsha Theatre. I performed in several plays including Isis and Osiris by Saleh Saad in 2007 and Sher Torwada (Troy Poetry) by Hassan El-Gritli in 2009. I also appeared in Sahrawiya (Desert Tales) by Effat Yehia in 2010. In 2010 I had a major part in Khayri Beshara’s television series Al-Horoub Men al-Gharb (Fleeing the West).
TCP : Can you describe your experience at Al-Warsha theatre?
Wadidi: Al-Warsha is an independent theatre, considered one of the first independent theaters in Egypt and established 27 years ago. It specializes in training beginners in acting, singing, and storytelling, aiming to revive heritage through the rebab [a single-string oriental instrument] and maddah [traditional Islamic recitation] training.
Wadidi: During the training period in Al-Warsha Theatre, I was committed to practicing old heritage and popular folkloric music. When I left it and started my own art in 2012 , I started to modernize my work since my dream was not to be known as a folkloric singer but to be known for my own compositions.
I repeatedly distanced myself from folkloric music; I don’t consider myself a folkloric singer.
Wadidi: Sira Helaliya is a kind of popular folkloric tradition that focuses on the history of Benal Helal tribe and their adventures. I see that we should use folklore and mix it with modern art; I use it, but most of my songs are modern.
Wadidi: I prefer to listen to composers from the 1930s such as Al-Sonbati and Baligh Hamdi, who were main reason for Umm Kulthum‘s success. I am working now to discover more personalities from our heritage such as Mohamed Roshdy, who didn’t receive any recognition. I intend to revive his works in my upcoming concerts.
I also have a great interest in famous musicians and composers such as Mohamed Abdul Wahab, Sayed Darwish, and Soaed Mohamed. I practiced some works of Sayed Darwish such as ‘Al Bahr Bydhek Leih’ [Why does the sea laugh] and ‘Shed Al-Hezam’ [Fasten your belt.]
Wadidi: First I would like to explain what the Rolex Arts Initiative is: it is an initiative presented to promising artists from all over the world to give them chance to acquire experiences from international mentors. I was lucky to take this initiative at the end of 2012, which now ended. My mentor is the famous Brazilian singer Gilberto Gil, which was a turning point in my musical career. This year, I toured and performed with Gil in many international music festivals worldwide in the U.S., UAE , UK, and Venice.
We also performed at The Cairo Jazz Festival, I want to mention that I still keep contact with him, and there is a duetbetween me and Gilberto Gil in my new album.
Gilberto Gil is my mentor and I owe much to him; he is nearly 72-years-old. He was the former Brazilian Minister of Culture; he was also a professional composer and lute player, with 55 musical albums.
Wadidi: My team and I will release our first album ‘Tedwar We Tergaa’ [You will search and come back] in April 2014. We finished nine songs, two remain, and the album will include songs with new composition.
The team that participated in that album included me as composer and Nancy Mounir as an arranger, but a Brazilian song will be arranged by a Brazilian musician.
Wadidi: My upcoming foreign tours will be in Africa since I’m part of The Nile Project, a musical and environmental initiative that brings together musicians and thinkers from all over the Nile Valley. Different African musicians will meet together in Uganda for 15 days to produce common artistic work. I will also participate in the opening ceremony of Al-Khartoum Film Festival on Jan. 19.
I will also perform in solo concerts in Norway and Sicily.
Wadidi: I believe that an artist should be honest with themselves. I had eight roles as an actress and after these roles, I felt I would not be able to achieve success in acting since acting uses a great effort from me and would isolate me from singing.
TCP: Do you consider the suspension of Bassem Yousef‘s El-Bernameg a setback in freedom?
Wadidi: The suspension of El-Bernameg, which was considered one of the most viewed satire programs over the world, is a sign that CBC’s administration only accepts what is in line with its interests. CBC does not accept different opinions to its views. I think that restrictions of freedoms still exist and we should not allow censorship.
Wadidi: In Morsi‘s era, we had a government that had black plans to suppress freedom of innovation. Closing some media such as the Dream Channel as an example, we don’t want to repeat this under the shape of the military rule or the existence of military censorship.