Mazaher Ensemble: Zar Music Straight from Upper Egypt

Last night, we were swept away by Mazaher Ensemble’s performance at Makan. In fact, we were so mesmerized, to the extent that we thought it necessary to share without readers the story behind this unique band. Mazaher Ensemble has been blessing the ears of all Cairenes with their traditional music, inspired by the captivating musical culture of Upper Egypt. Their unique sound has helped them garner the attention and admiration of many music lovers in Cairo.



Lady Madiha, or Om Sameh, is the band’s lead singer and has been singing since she was just 11 years old. Her mother was also a Zar singer, and young Madiha started singing with her mother when she was just a little girl, living in Upper Egypt. Despite her carrying the Zar flag from her mother, none of her children have followed in her footsteps, especially after the challenges she had to face in raising them while facing obstacles of her own in her musical career.

While Om Sameh is the lead singer, she actually wasn’t the person behind the idea of forming a band, that man was Dr. Ahmed El-Maghrabi. He founded the band, gathered the members, and managed to take their music on global tours, with performances in France, Belgium, and Italy.

One of the goals of the band, as well as Om Samiha herself, is to correctly portray Zar Music, and tell people that Zar Art is different than the Ancient Zar that they’ve seen on media outlets. The band is home to members hailing from different governorates in Upper Egypt. Even though the band members are predominately illiterate, they have still managed to add different flavors and elements to the traditional Zar Art. You’ll find that Mazaher’s music is a mixture of different cultural tunes: Nubian, Upper Egyptian, and Sha’by, presented in one single and unique voice. All this makes the band members true innovators and pioneers in the art they present.

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