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Nedland Kultur was asked by the Romanian town Sibiu, which was European Cultural Capital in 2007, to come up with a proposal for a musical project involving Romanian and international artists as part of the cultural program for the “Capital of Culture” year. The project came to involve three artists, from Romania, Zanzibar and Norway, and it focused on one common characteristic of all three countries: a strong tradition for fiddle music.

Sibiu is a city in Transylvania, Romania. It is one of the most important cultural centres of Romania and, in tandem with the city of Luxembourg  it was designated a European Capital of Culture for the year 2007.

The violin is important in the traditional music of many countries, and the influence of Indian, Middle Eastern and Arab violin playing is widespread. In the mind of Nedland Kultur’s Sigbjørn Nedland, the idea of demonstrating the existence of a common thread of influence between countries far apart had been brewing for some years, and the invitation from Sibiu offered a chance to test this. His theory was that Norway could be the Northernmost place where Middle Eastern influences can be heard in the traditional playing, while Zanzibar could be the Southernmost area where the same influences are to be heard in the music. Romania can be said to have both Eastern European, Middle Eastern and Indian influences in its music. Thus the idea emerged to bring together one player from each of these threee countries to see if – after decades of separate development – there were still some themes and influences from ancient impulses from the Middle East in the traditional music of the three countries.

As soon as the musicians met and started playing their traditional tunes to each other, recognnition of common patterns and discovery of similarity in melodies were instant, and in the course of a workshop lasting less than a week, a concert program was developed. The music seemed to fit together seamlessly, so that you were never sure when the musicians moved from a Norwegian hardanger fiddle tune to a Zanzibari traditional taarab melody or a romanian song. The Sibiu concert audience were taken on a musical journey from South to East and North, and responded enthusiastically to the eclectic mix of Zanzibari, Nordic and Romanian music.  

Continuation of the project.

Following the performances during Sibiu’s European Cultural Capital celebrations in June 2007, the musicians were invited to play at the Førde Traditional and World Music Festival in July. Seeing that the musical collaboration created new enthusiasm and united the musical expressions – especially between Zanzibari taarab music and Norwegian hardanger fiddle music, Anne and Matona, the Norwegian and Tanzanian participants in the project, decided to continue working with Nedland Kultur to further develop the project. This led to a new workshop in Zanzibar in February 2008 to further develop the music repertoire, culiminating in concerts at DCMA, the Dhow Countries Music Academy, and at the residence of the Norwegian Ambassador to Tanzania in Dar Es Salaam. The collaboration then developed into a new phase with the formation of the NEWS Quartet.

Anne and Matona in concert at DCMA, Zanzibar, February 2008.