The Jerash Festival

210926 Mohammad Rasoul Kailani
A general view shows the ancient Roman city of Jerash, a popular attraction 50km north of Amman, during a performance by Lebanese singer Najwa Karam as part of the annual Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts, late on September 23, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
One of Jordan and the Arab world’s primary cultural celebrations is underway. The Jerash Festival, inaugurated in 1981 by Her Majesty Queen Noor, is attended by hundreds of thousands in person and watched by millions on television. A diverse range of performers take the stage, ranging from Jordanian folk bands to Circassian dance troupes, but the main attraction this week will be the a-list of singers partaking in the event. The likes of Lebanon’s legendary Majida El-Roumi, Iraq’s chart-topping Saif Nabeel, and Syria’s timeless George Wassouf will be taking center stage. Along with the pan-Arab superstars, 17 Jordanian vocalists, many of whom are up and coming artists, will be making appearances. While these seem like a regular set of concerts, they mean a lot for the health and progress of Arab and Jordanian culture.اضافة اعلان

For starters, such a significant event taking place in Jordan can bring Jordan’s artists into the limelight. Although Jordan’s art is not inferior in any way, shape, or form, it does not garner much attention beyond the domestic scene in comparison to Egyptian, Lebanese, and more recently, Iraqi music. A key reason for this may be the number of record labels and managers working hard to catapult their country’s singers into stardom: Egypt’s Alam El Phan record label is responsible for some of the greatest works of modern Arabic music, while the Casablanca and Al Remas labels have made Iraqi music a regular fixture on Arab radio. No distribution company on this level operates out of Jordan.

What may balance out that factor is the hosting of this festival. It is televised to the entire Arab world, so it can put Jordanian art on the map. The range of musicians singing Jordanian folk songs can expose the authentic and traditional flavor of Jordan within the wider spectrum of Arab art. With just the government continuing to host events like these that support local artists, Jordanian art can become part of the mainstream repertoire, rather than something seen as local or niche. No other area of the globe is as interconnected as the Arab world. The promotion of Jordan’s art in a wider region that speaks the same language and consumes the same media presents a golden opportunity.

Thinking on a more immediate level, the hosting of this event and others provides important economic benefits. Such a large gathering requires a great number of employees, ranging from security to ticketers to concessions to backup bands. As youth unemployment in Jordan remains on the rise, it is time that we think outside of the box in order to get people into the workforce. As the traditional job market suffers, perhaps looking towards the arts might be a more accepted career choice. While the number of Jordanian singers was once scarce, the country’s artists come closer and closer to becoming household names.

Furthemore, Jerash, one of the world’s best preserved Greco-Roman cities, will attract more and more visitors from a variety of places. Even if one is not a music enthusiast, Jerash will gain the spotlight, which may convince a potential traveler to give it a visit. Although the city, known in ancient times as Gerasa, possesses spectacular ruins, and has had an uptick of visitors in recent years, it is often overlooked by outsiders in favor of Petra and the Dead Sea. Jordan simply isn’t a country associated with Greco-Roman heritage, which is a shame because of the specific brilliance of those sites within its borders. Increased tourism becomes increased revenue, and will bolster the long-term development of the country.

Hosting the Jerash Festival may bring great tidings to Jordan’s cultural scene and give a much needed boost to its economy. The state sponsorship of art is commendable, as we may see more and more Jordanians enter the light of stardom. Aside from the art itself, such events bring about a wide array of opportunities to Jordanians of all skill levels and backgrounds. Countries that fund their artists become mass exporters of culture and increase their reputation through a beautiful medium. The exposure of Jordan’s song, dance, visual art, and the many other aspects of our rich heritage can bring about improvement on the local and global stage, and it all begins with the center stage of Jerash’s ancient theater.

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