The Nile Project brings music, discussion to Hanover

by Maya Poddar | 4/15/15 5:34pm

Dartmouth musicians welcomed the Nile Project at “Sing Africa!”
by Eliza McDonough and Eliza McDonough / The Dartmouth

After driving two passenger vans to campus from Portland, Maine, on Monday, several of the musicians who form part of The Nile Project — a collaborative group of artists from 11 countries along the Nile Basin who use music to draw awareness to and provoke discussion about the region — will pile into yet another van this evening and head to Thetford, Vermont, for a local musicians exchange. There, as part of its mid-April residency at the College, the international group will participate in a “jam session,” Hopkins Center publicity coordinator Rebecca Bailey said.

Alongside a series of events planned around the Upper Valley this week — ranging from a panel on managing river resources to a visit to a local high school in Orford, New Hampshire — the Nile Project will also offer its diverse range of sounds to audiences at the Hop, performing shows this Friday at 2 and 8 p.m. and this Saturday at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. In addition, the Nile Project has already visited a number of classes and performed alongside student groups including the Jabulani African Chorus .

Planning to bring The Nile Project to the College has been in the works for roughly two years, Bailey said.

“We’ve had a long time to think about how we want to contextualize [the visit] with a number of residency activities, both on campus and with the community,” she said.

Founded in 2011 by ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and singer Meklit Hadero, the group seeks to address the cultural and environmental challenges facing the Nile River Basin. Given that its mission emphasizes not only music but also education and dialogue, the Nile Project has dedicated a significant amount of their time on campus to interacting with music classes and with courses across the sciences.

Geography professor Coleen Fox, whose students shared a session with members of the Nile Project yesterday alongside students enrolled in a course taught by fellow geography professor Frank Magilligan, spoke positively about the Nile Project’s visit to her class.

“It was an opportunity for both classes to hear about how...musicians were approaching issues or topics that in both classes we were probably approaching from a different angle,” Fox said. “I think a visit like that serves to broaden students’ perspectives in terms of how they’re approaching these issues in class.”

In addition to class visits yesterday, members of the Nile Project also engaged with the exhibit “Water Ways: Tension and Flow” at the Hood Museum of Art, and Nile Project founder Girgis participated in a panel entitled “Who Controls the Water?: Managing River Resources Through Civic Engagement.” The panel, moderated by government professor Christianne Wohlforth, also featured professors Fox and Magilligan and executive director of the Connecticut River Watershed Council Andrew Fisk.

“We’re a liberal arts institution, and the hallmark of a liberal arts education is the ability to make connections across disciplines,” Wolhforth said in explaining the panel’s value. “Prima facie, it is part of a hallmark of what we do to try and come at particular issues from very different perspectives, and in this case it means coming at the issue of civic engagement with water resource management through the lens of the arts.”

The Collis Center and Collis Governing Board have also been involved supporting the Nile Project’s work on campus. Yesterday evening, the Nile Project performed in Collis Common Ground as part of “Sing Africa!” — a concert funded in part by the Sykes Memorial Concert Fund.

“Working with the Hop has been a very useful collaboration, and a really good way to get performers and students to mingle,” assistant director of the Collis Center Tim Duggan said.

Tickets for the Nile Project’s Friday performance cost between 17 and 40 dollars. Performances on Saturday — in Alumni Hall at 11 a.m. and in Claremont, New Hampshire, at 3 p.m. — are free.