A word from the editor: The Vital Social Need for a Bahraini Folk Arts Troupe
After attending the inaugural ceremony for the Serbian chapter of the International Organisation of Folk Art (IOV) in Belgrade, Serbia, I am sitting in the airport's gatehouse writing this introduction before flying back to Bahrain.
The event, which took place in connection with a major yearly Serbian folk arts festival, drew a total of 859 people, including children, teenagers, adults, men, and women, all dressed in traditional garb, raising flags, and performing lovely national music. Participants included club teams, youth organisations from towns and villages, and association and club musical mix-race ensembles. An upbeat national folk festival was broadcast live on their satellite station as it paraded around the streets.
I have witnessed a genuine joy of life in every person who joined this event, along with an unwavering belief in the authenticity of their works in the face of adversity, whether it be political, economic, or social. Through their shared sense of joy, innocence, and brotherhood, the inherited folk arts continue to bring together people of various origins and countries.
Every city and village I've visited has its own folk arts troupe, complete with children and veteran dancers and musicians, skilled stage designers, and everything else required to put on a show.
I was accompanied by a group of top officials from the official cultural sector, all of whom I heartily applauded for their unwavering commitment to each and every person and organisation. I thought it was really nice that they stopped over to see how things were coming along with the festival planning.
One of the officials I spoke with after the festival reminded me that some of the performing troupes came from government and private schools of varying grade levels and that the recommendation to prioritise the arts in education comes straight from the top. Curriculum planners at all levels ought to leave room for the realisation of tangible and intangible folk heritage. This festival's emphasis on this theme is seen in the high quality of the innovative performances I watched this year.
This devotion brought up memories of my late, great friend, artist Mohammed Al-Sanousi (1938–2022). who directed Kuwaiti television,
Including Abdulaziz Al-Mufarraj (Shadi Al-Khalij), Ghanem Al-Dikan, Faisal Al-Dahi, and Najm Al-Umayri, he formed a troupe of well-known Kuwaiti musicians for television in 1978. He invited a team of both Arab and international designers to design the events.
Among those chosen to take part were young artists who have made important contributions to their own troupes, on stages, and other creative groups. There was an abundance of activities as individuals explored for fresh ideas in the theatre and public performances of Kuwait's traditional folk arts. They worked on performances to ensure that they were both technically sound and visually appealing.
They were all dressed in traditional attire and performed in harmony with the music or songs they were performing. This was perfect for the on-stage celebration and the demands of the video cameras.
Thus, Kuwait has recorded information of excellent quality that may be utilised to teach the next generation, and Kuwait Television has maintained an archive that is commensurate with modern TV broadcasting.
In the 1960s, Egyptian brothers Ali and Mohammed Rida founded the Rida Troupe for folk arts, building on an earlier Arab experience. This group was quite successful in both movies and in Arab and international festivals. It recorded a wide range of Egyptian theatrical performances.
This reminds me of my tenure as the director of the Ministry of Information's Culture and Arts Department in the 1980s. Our department and the Bahrain National Museum used to work together on Bahrain's Delmun Exhibition, which included a concert employing Bahraini music as part of the activities accompanying the presentation of ancient artifacts. We had a challenging task in selecting one of the multiple competing Bahraini folk-art groups to go to Paris and conduct a musical concert featuring Bahraini vocal art and the ancient arts linked to pearl diving.
The most accomplished and well-known performers from every troupe were selected to act as ambassadors. Thus, creating a group of elite performers, and naming it the "Mohammed bin Faris Troupe". Fortunately for Bahrain, this talented group that we have assembled has remained a powerful troupe that continues to go strong till the present day.
Thus, it is conceivable to create a national troupe for folk arts, which necessitates a fresh outlook on culture and civilization and an unconventional decision.
Ali Abdullah Khalifa