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Third annual Cairo Jazz Festival starts today

For all those who’ve had their fill of revolution-themed songs and patriotic anthems, the Cairo Jazz Festival will be a welcome break. The festival, running from today to 19 March at Zamalek’s Sawy Culture Center, will be headlined by a variety of local and international acts, including folksy Austrian quartet Stellzhamma, versatile Australian singer and composer Michelle Rounds, as well the Percussion Show and Ramy Atalla Quintet, both Egyptian acts.

Also participating in this year’s festival are local crowd-pleasers Eftekasat and the Riff Band, led by vocalist Ahmad Harfoush, who, along with pianist Amro Salah and bassist Samer George, founded the festival.

This year’s edition of Egypt’s only jazz-oriented festival will feature performances by acclaimed Dutch quartet Arifa. Based in Amsterdam, the members of the band hail from places as varied as Romania, Turkey and Iraq. Because of this, they are able to bring an element of diversity to their music, which incorporates ouds, qanuns, saxophones and laptops. In 2010, their debut CD “Beyond Babylon” was awarded Album of the Year by Dutch magazine Mixed World Music.

Other acts include the German Women Jazz Orchestra, Calima from Spain, and Egyptian performers Cocoon and Amro Salah Trio. The largest ensemble, the European Jazz Movement Orchestra, will close the festival on the evening of the 19th. Its 20 members come from Germany, Portugal, and Slovenia.

For the weekend of the festival, Sawy Cultural Center will be hosting a series of related workshops and discussions for musicians and jazz enthusiasts in particular. Musical activities for children, including lessons from the visiting performers, are also scheduled to take place at Sawy Culture Center on Friday and Saturday mornings.

The festival will extend beyond the stages of Sawy Culture Center, with special events held every night at 11PM at the Cairo Jazz Club throughout the festival’s duration.

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