All seven members have grown up in families with musical backgrounds and have been making music for many years themselves. It has only been a short while, however, that they began to follow the path of their fathers and grandfathers by playing traditional Egyptian folk music, instead of focusing on mainstream pop and synthesized music.
The group plays the mawwal, a narrative ballade originating from the Egyptian countryside. The mawwal has links to historical forms of Arabic song and poetry, and the singer demonstrates his skill with non-metrical melodic improvisation on a poetic narrative text and melody, adding or substituting his own phrases to the words of a poet. Unfortunately, this unique style is in danger of becoming extinct, since the number of practitioners is dwindling.
Ward el Nil keeps those nearly lost traditions alive. They play the rababa – a double-stringed spike fiddle made from half of a coconut shell covered with fish skin and a bow strung with horse hair -, the kawala – an end-blown, oblique flute with six holes – and the arghoul, which is an ancient double clarinet characterized by two pipes of unequal length. The second pipe serves as a drone and can be lengthened by adding pieces. The player uses the technique of circular breathing to produce an uninterrupted sound. The arghoul is interwoven with Egyptian history and can even be traced back to Pharaonic times, as it is exactly depicted on wall paintings of the temples of the third dynasty.
“Makan” is providing Ward el Nil possibilities to perform and promotes the work and creativity of this unique group. Makan is especially committed to this since the performance of authentic folk music has become a rare musical experience in Egypt and very few people are able to play traditional instruments. Through groups such as Ward el Nil , “Makan” tries to preserve the rich musical history of Egypt.