Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I have long been far from the everyday happenings of Cairo, as I am no longer a resident of the frantic city, and now, when I go, I am obliged to spend most of my time involved in the rites of family reunions. But as I have gotten more entrenched in the New York Arabic music scene, one name kept coming up in conversation between me and other music tourists interested in Egypt–Nas Makan. I was at first puzzled by the name, which translates into People Place, with "People" retaining its place as noun rather than as an adjective modifying the second noun. I heard that it was a wonderful place to hear Arabic music with a Nubian flavor, but others were skeptical as to what this place in Downtown Cairo offered the musical traveler.
And because reading alone can never quite communicate the flavor of a place, here's a performance by singer Umm Sameh last September captured there. The performance features what looks like a kawala, as well as riqqs and frame drums, all traditional instruments of Arabic music–as well as other musicians playing the saxophone, electric guitar, and drum set. These instruments are foreign to the traditional but that lend this performance a jubilant energy and enthusiasm, making them a welcome, non-intrusive addition. This video's capturer refers to this performance as "Egyptian reggae" and while I'm pretty sure that's not technically correct, I'm retaining the title for awesomeness. This will have to hold you over until we can get there ourselves!
Nas Makan; egyptian reggae from Muhammed Hamdy on Vimeo.