Tracing the Re/Verberations of Halim El-Dabh

With this two-year long retrospective project, comprising of an exhibition, radio features, concerts, and a series of condensed public programs, SAVVY Contemporary pays homage to Halim El-Dabh (1921–2017). An influential avant-garde composer who became a paramount figure in shaping African and Arab sonic philosophy. El-Dabh, who composed one of the earliest – known to date – works of electroacoustic music, Taabir El Zaar (1944), and whose artistic oeuvre spans a period of seventy years, has vanished into oblivion and has been omitted from “all past and current general music history and literature textbooks for music majors and non-music majors alike” as Denise Seachrist states in his seminal work The Musical World of Halim El-Dabh.

For this project, we went against the grain of this erasure through listening to his work and delving into selected materials from his immense archive, that range from scores, letters, texts, photographs and videos. Contemporary transdisciplinary artists and contributors have been commissioned to make new pieces to relate and pay tribute to, get inspired by, and reflect on El-Dabh’s practices and positions within music history and beyond, to deliberate on what contemporary African and Arab soundscapes are today and where they stand within the genealogy and legacy of Pan-Africanism.