From ‘Omar’s Is­lam’ to Jaber Cul­tural Cen­ter

Kuwait Times - - FROM THE ARABIC PRESS - By Mudaf­far Ab­dul­lah

Jaber Cul­tural Cen­ter could have been opened by a Kuwaiti sym­phony band be­cause we have the Higher In­sti­tute for Mu­sic for four decades now, while the Omani Royal Orches­tra was es­tab­lished in 1985 - 10 years af­ter the estab­lish­ment of our mu­sic in­sti­tute. But it is now one of the top three Arab bands af­ter the Iraqi and Egyp­tian or­ches­tras.

The first play ever per­formed in Kuwait - Omar’s Is­lam - was in 1939, that is of course with­out for­get­ting the first at­tempt made by Sheikh Ab­dul Aziz Al-Re­shaid at Ah­madiya school in 1924 un­der the ti­tle ‘Re­form De­bates’. ‘Omar’s Is­lam’ was writ­ten by a Pales­tinian teacher Mah­moud Na­jem, who played the role of Caliph Omar Al-Farouq. The cast was made up of school stu­dents in­clud­ing the late Ha­mad Al-Ru­jaib, who later be­came a cul­tural and artis­tic icon. The play was per­formed at Mubarakiya School in the pres­ence of the ruler Sheikh Ah­mad Al-Jaber, Bri­tish Po­lit­i­cal Agent Ger­ald de Gaury and a large au­di­ence. The per­for­mance was fol­lowed by a din­ner ban­quet at the ruler’s palace in the cast’s honor, where a silent Chap­lin movie was shown.

That is how Kuwait was ever since in­cep­tion. Its peo­ple loved mod­ern­iza­tion. This was ex­actly the thought I rec­ol­lected while watch­ing the Jaber Cen­ter’s in­au­gu­ra­tion and made an anal­ogy be­tween both the­atri­cal per­for­mances - the one pre­sented 40 years be­fore in­de­pen­dence and the open­ing of the be­jew­eled build­ing over­look­ing the Ara­bian Gulf.

It was surely a joy­ful in­ci­dent that made us all happy, but we still have some con­cerns, just like the ones we felt af­ter open­ing the Jaber Sta­dium while we have no sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion that iconic Kuwaiti artists who had hon­ored Kuwait for long decades have grown old, can it be ac­cept­able to open a huge cul­tural ed­i­fice that can hardly be op­er­ated by Kuwaitis nowa­days?

We should also won­der why Kuwaitis have failed to form a Kuwaiti orches­tra 40 years since the estab­lish­ment of the mu­sic in­sti­tute in 1976. Why did the one formed by Kuwaiti com­poser Ghan­nam Al-Daikan dur­ing his dean­ship van­ish in thin air? It is log­i­cal that af­ter four decades of car­ing for mu­sic, a Kuwaiti band would play at the opera theater, but this is only a part of the gen­eral de­te­ri­o­ra­tion the state has been suf­fer­ing from since the 1980s, when re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism and ad­min­is­tra­tive cor­rup­tion started pre­vail­ing.

The Omani Royal Orches­tra is grad­u­ally work­ing on na­tion­al­iz­ing its staff from both gen­ders through spe­cial train­ing. It started with a small num­ber of am­a­teurs and is now an in­ter­na­tional pro­fes­sional band. The Jaber Cen­ter will act as a chal­lenge for Kuwaitis be­cause it is a su­perb cul­tural, artis­tic and lit­er­ary estab­lish­ment that needs to be run by Kuwaitis, al­though our cur­rent cul­tural sit­u­a­tions are too de­te­ri­o­rated to do so. As I said, it was a joy­ful event, but it re­opened old wounds.

PS: The de­ci­sion to re­move vi­o­lat­ing ve­hi­cles’ li­cense plates is too harsh and not stud­ied enough, there­fore ex­cep­tions were made for stu­dents and hospi­tal vis­i­tors - haste is waste!

—Trans­lated by Kuwait Times

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