Egypt’s orchestra for blind women is challenging stereotypes with incredible music-making
4 March 2021, 16:48 | Updated: 4 March 2021, 16:55
This Egyptian orchestra for blind women is captivating audiences and enriching the lives of its musicians.
Egypt’s visually-impaired women’s orchestra is challenging stereotypes with its incredible music-making.
The Al Nour Wal Amal orchestra, meaning ‘light and hope’ in Arabic, is a chamber ensemble of 44 women, established in 1971.
The group specialises in playing Western classical music, but they also perform beautiful Eastern melodies.
Given they can’t read music or see the conductor, the women have learned, through special memorising techniques and hours of practice, to play without music or a physical guide.
Shaymaa Hussein, who leads the orchestra, said: “With this orchestra, I’ve been able to change the Egyptian and world view towards the physically challenged.
“I told the world that despite losing my sight, I’m a distinguished musician,” she told TRT World.
The orchestra is part of an NGO (non-government organisation) set up by a group of volunteers to give blind women educational opportunities and professional training
Sumeya Muhammed, one of the members, describes the orchestra as her “second home”.
“I spend most of my time here,” she tells the news channel. “This is where we celebrate together, and we mourn together.”
The women bring their extraordinary musical skill and spirit to monthly concerts in Cairo, and generally perform once a year outside Egypt, in countries from Austria and Spain to the UK and Kuwait.
Another member told DW News: “I joined the orchestra when I was 21. Now I am 59. People’s reactions have varied a lot. There were people who said music is haram [forbidden in Islam]. Other people say it is a beautiful thing to do.
“There are also people who think the blind should just be going to cemeteries and reciting the Quran for the dead.
“We are trying to change these ideas.”
Want to vote for your favourite music in the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2021? Enter now for the chance to win a smart speaker, iPad and luxury hamper.