February 18, 2016

Young Arabs to sing at festival in São Paulo

A young woman from Morocco and another from Iraq will represent the Arab world at the International Language and Culture Festival, on the 27th and 28th this month in São Paulo. The event’s 14th edition will also be the first ever held in Brazil, featuring young people from 16 different countries.

Brazilians and foreigners aged 10 to 18 will stage music and dance performances and show videos about the languages and cultures of their countries. Spectators will witness presentations by young people from Brazil, the Philippines, Germany, Morocco, India, Argentina, Mozambique, Portugal, South Africa, Iraq, Paraguay, Mexico, Ukraine, the United States, Kazakhstan and Georgia.

The festival was first held in 2003 in Turkey, featuring performers from 17 countries. It is currently held in different host countries. “The festival started out as a Turkish language Olympics. There used to be music, poetry and conversation contests. It gradually went global, and moved out of Turkey,” says Mustafa Göktepe, president of the São Paulo-based Brazil-Turkey Cultural Center (CCBT), which is organizing the Brazilian edition.

Göktepe explains that the CCBT is part of a Turkish social movement called Hizmet, which is Turkish for service. The word designates services rendered for the good of mankind. The movement is partners with several institutions around the world and champions respect of differences and interculturality.

According to Göktepe, the choice of performers is made by each local organizer. “They ask us if there are any countries we want to feature here, and we name countries that are reasonably present [in Brazil], not only in terms of people, but also businesses or any other influences,” he says.

The Iraqi performer in Brazil will be 17-year-old Przha Mustafa Mohammed. Born in the town of Sulaymaniyah, in the Iraqi Kurdistan, she will sing a song partly in Arabic, partly in Turkish. “It will be a tribute to Turkey,” Göktepe notes. Morocco’s 15-year-old Salma Babou comes from the town of Al Jadida and will sing the song ‘Al Maghreb,’ in Arabic.

This year, the festival will last from February to June and span over 25 countries, beginning in the Philippines and ending in Russia. In Brazil, five teenagers have been selected to represent the country abroad. They will perform in the United States, Mozambique, South Africa, India, Australia and Russia.

The performers are chosen by the festival’s directors in Istanbul. “The festival’s musical directors travel to all of the countries and pick the performers one by one,” says Göktepe. Following selection, the youngsters undergo three months of training leading up to their performances.

Brazil-Turkey relations

Located in the Middle East, Turkey is not an Arab country. Göktepe recalls that when he arrived in Brazil, in 2004, cultural ties between the two nations were near-inexistent. There used to still be visa requirements, which stemmed tourist flows.

Once said requirements were eliminated, in 2006, more Brazilians began travelling to Turkey – between 10,000 and 15,000 a year. In 2013, as Turkish Airlines started offering non-stop São Paulo-Istanbul flights, Brazilian tourist numbers in Turkey grew significantly. According to Göktepe, in 2010, 30,000 Brazilians went to Turkey; three years later, the number soared to 120,000.

The CCBT president also says the Brazilian TV channel Rede Globo’s soap opera Salve Jorge, which was partly set in Turkey, played an important role in advertising his country to the Brazilian people. Another factor is the airing of Turkish soap operas on another channel, TV Bandeirantes. In 2015, the network has featured ‘One Thousand and One Nights,’ is now running ‘Fatmagul’ and has announced that it will air yet another Turkish drama, ‘Sila.’

Published on Brazil-Arab News Agency, 17 February 2016, Wednesday

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