Maestro Nader Abbassi

Orchestrating Magic

Earlier this year, all of Cairo and the world, witnessed the amazing Golden Parade that majestically transported the mummies of legendary kings and queens of ancient Egypt from the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization. Throughout, the parade was held to the accompaniment of a one-of-a-kind orchestral performance arranged and led by Maestro Nader Abbassi, who received worldwide acclaim for this extraordinary performance. eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey got in touch with Abbassi to get to know the legendary musical genius and to learn more about the preparations that went into executing that phenomenal performance.

Growing up, Nader Abbassi was a great student who was infatuated with music. At the tender age of 14, he began composing and he joined his first orchestra. “Since I was very young, this is what I wanted to do. I would play any instrument all day. I wouldn’t stop. I would even put on little shows as a kid for my family,” he recalls. Abbassi recalls the first time he went to the Cairo Conservatoire to audition and how excited he was to hear the echoes of different instruments coming from rooms of students practising. He immediately knew that this was where he belonged. “It was a feeling I’d never felt before. I knew right then and there, hearing all these magical sounds, that this was the place where I would fit in. It was the place for me,” says the maestro.

Once enrolled in the Conservatoire, Abbassi needed to specialise and learn an air instrument. He decided to learn to play the bassoon and focused all his energy on improving his instrumental skills and perfecting his craft. Soon after graduating, he joined the Geneva Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland as the main bassoon player, after which he moved on to the Opera House in Zurich for five years. This transition allowed him to do what he loved most, become a music composer while also playing his instrument.
While in Switzerland, Abbassi’s passion for composing led him to compete and win in a competition for music composition, after which he was asked to lead the composition of a major musical performance at the Opera House. Soon enough the Cairo Opera took notice of Abbassi’s success and in 2002, he was asked to become Maestro with the Cairo Opera Orchestra.Although his family has always been supportive and helped nourish his talent and passion for music growing up, at the start, his mother was a little hesitant when he decided to study music and make it his career. “She’s an Egyptian mother! Of course, she wanted me to be a doctor or something like that. There was always the question of, ‘how will you make a living?’ but I persisted and obviously managed to make my dream come true by focusing on what I love. It also helped that my father was 100% supportive and never doubted my passion,” he says.

After decades of working as a maestro and making a name for himself in Egypt and internationally, earlier this year, he was asked to orchestrate a once-in-a-lifetime celebration in his home country – the Golden Parade! The entire world tuned in to watch the iconic event and Abbassi played a huge part in its success. He gathered some of the most talented musicians in Egypt to orchestrate a breath-taking performance in front of tens of millions of viewers at home and abroad.

Preparing for an event as large as the Golden Parade was not easy, to say the least. Abbassi had to make sure everything was perfect and on time. Not only was he leading the orchestra and the singers but he was also virtually synchronizing the music with the dancers and all parade participants at Tahrir Square. “I wasn’t nervous when it was happening. As a maestro, I had to maintain my composure and not be nervous and not display any hesitance. Otherwise, everything would fall apart. I’m the leader and people look up to me to calm them and reassure them; that’s a big part of being a maestro,” he explains.

The event was a major success and Abbassi made headlines all over the world. The parade went viral on social media and his performance was a big part of it. Even viewers who were not big fans of opera and classical music were sending praise his way. It was a breath of fresh air seeing a performance go viral, that wasn’t something that audiences were quite used to. “It was such an honour to be asked to take part in the event. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the event is sure to go down in the history books. We rarely see something as big and as grand as this take place in Egypt. It was a lot of work but it’s a historic event and it made a lot of Egyptians very proud. I’m also very happy that I was given total creative control and was allowed to build as large an orchestra as I wanted. I really got to go all out. I’m very thankful for the support that I received. It was a monumental feeling and I got to create something really beautiful that people enjoyed. I honestly felt like there was some sort of blessing from our ancestors during that day!” he exclaims.

Moving forward, Abbassi is anxiously awaiting the opening of Egypt’s brand-new Opera House in the New Administrative Capital. The upcoming project is scheduled to be bigger and more up-to-date than Egypt’s current Cairo Opera house and is sure to be a huge step for Egypt. He has big hopes for this important new venture and thinks its a special opportunity to start fresh and be a part of its history forever.

In his words, “It’s a new beginning with so much potential. There is so much room for it to be one of the best in the world and I really hope my lifelong experience can be of benefit to the new Opera and that I can have an impact on its development. I would love to have an annual musical program there that would teach young people and adults about music. There is so much room for this industry and craft to grow and florish in Egypt. We have so many talented young people who are extremely passionate and would love an opportunity to learn and grow their talent. I really want to help these people reach their full potential. I’d like to draw people more towards music and really make them fall in love with it! Like me!”