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ARTICLE: Amal - Hope

A Collaboration between Celebrate Life events and Arts Canteen

Rich Mix – September 10th

Celebrate Life events and Arts Canteen came together to host another fantastic evening at Rich Mix, full of melodies, rhythms, storytelling and theatre. The theme was ‘Hope’, with a focus on music from the Middle East and the surrounding region. We were delighted to have a full house for the concert.  As people entered the space, DJ Seb Merrick set the tone with a wonderful selection of music.


Wallee, our MC, introduced the evening with first artist, Attab Haddad born in UK of Iraqi parents. He began with a solo performance of exquisite improvisations on the oud (lute).


Leading storyteller Alia Alzougbi from Syria and Lebanon captured the audience's imagination with 'The Tiger's Whisker’, a story about a woman overjoyed to have her husband back from war but saddened to see his lack of vitality and spark.  Seeking a cure, she sought out a wise man who set her a task - going into wild, dark and dangerous mountains in order to seduce the tiger, so she could get close enough to pluck a whisker. She thought that the whisker would be used as a remedy. She had to find true courage, commitment, hope, and genuine love to achieve her goal. When she returned with the required tiger’s whisker it was only to learn from the wise man that the cure didn't lie in the tiger's whisker but the inner journey she’d faced and all the fears she had overcome to fulfil the task and obtain the whisker.


Hope is a subject International speaker, Prem Rawat, feels passionate about, and Wendy, our video editor, created an emotive short video all about hope with Prem Rawat's voice over.  Bonnendis (Greek word meaning 'mist') performed a carefully-spaced sound scape in between Prem's words, expressing through their music what hope meant to them. The audience became silent, absorbing the combination of improvised sounds and words about hope. It was enchanting.


Bonnendis stayed on stage to perform a blinding set of island music from Rhodes/Greece. A set of raw, earthy beats and old folk melodies. The band comprises multi-instrumentalist, Cassandre Balbar, lyra player Thodoris Ziarkas and Laouto player and vocalist, Nikos Ziarkas. They brought the first half to a close with a housing-rousing set of tunes, with the addition of the iconic Greek bagpipe, the tsambouna, and everyone in the audience clapping!


After the break Aser El Saqqa, founder of Arts Canteen, introduced the last act Olcay Bayir and her new band. Her reception was heralded with whoops, whistles and clapping. 

Olcay Bayir is an impressive newcomer to London's global music scene. Born in the Kurdish region of Turkey she now lives in the UK.  Her music is a combination of traditional folk songs that she loves, stretching from the borders of Asia, the Mediterranean coast, across to Armenia, The Balkans and Greece.  Her charisma and voice bring a unique flavour to old folk songs, and to her original, upbeat compositions. She performed some of her traditional songs but also new material from her upcoming CD.  


Olcay's set was received with thunderous applause and she came back to play an encore.


DJ Seb came back on the decks and made sure guests who weren't ready to leave, could dance and party on!

Roll on next Celebrate Life event.



Arts Canteen:

Olcay Bayir and friends

Alia Alzougbi / Lebanese Storyteller

Attab Haddad / Oud player extraordinaire

Bonnendis / Raw Greek folk music

Short Film of Peace Ambassador Prem Rawat


Thanks to Patrice Shema for the photos.

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