|Banning, Mariam, Sayed Rikaby of Jaafra|
Meanwhile, we have got some local coverage in the form of an article about Afropop in the English edition of Al Ahram.
|Sayed Rikaby at Makan|
We met with the veteran composer and bandleader Fathy Salama, the Egyptian arranger behind Youssou N'Dour's 2004, Grammy-winning CD, Egypt. Fathy is a wise veteran these days, a skeptical analyst of Egypt's political and cultural revolutions. We have had deep discussions about the latter. In a nutshell, veterans like Fathy tend to be a bit dour in their prognosis for the future, feeling that Egypt is suffering from decades of poor arts education that has sapped talent from the market, and dumbed down audiences. Happily, there are far more optimistic voices coming from younger observers, like Karim Rush of the hip hop act Arabian Knightz, who believes that the openness of young Egyptians will allow them to work together and bring together the mainstream and the marginalized to create truly new and exciting music in the years to come. It just might be that Egypt's Youssou N'Dour will emerge from the Sufi/sha'bi wedding singers of Cairo's ghetto neighborhoods. Observers as diverse as Fathy and Karim have pointed here when asked for the most exciting new music in Egypt. This ghetto music, full of techno artistry and over-the-top vocals is truly a revelation to us, and, again, the subject of much future writing and radio.
I must say a word about one especially rich field trip. Our key Hip Deep advisor, longtime Cairo resident Kristina Nelson, drove us to Port Said, the northern reach of the Suez Canal for an evening of Delta folk music with El Tanbura and Rango. Both of these groups are within the Mastaba stable of artists, overseen by veteran activist and folklorist Zakaria Ibrahim. We met Zakaria at WOMEX in 2006, and he was one of the people who put Egypt in our heads as a prime destination. All that paid off bigtime when we caught a double bill of these two remarkable bands on August 3 (the day all of Egypt was riveted by the televised trial of Hosny Mubarak).
El Tanbura are champions of Delta music, reviving and developing instruments that go back to Pharoanic times. We saw 4000-year-old simsimiyya and tanbura harps in the Egyptian museum, and it was a treat to hear them played along with rowdy songs sung by hearty men of the sea, and accompanied by most excellent and joyful dancing. Tanbura had just returned from headlining the "Night in Tahrir Square" concert at London's Barbican Center, and were in fine form, despite a lite, Ramadan audience. The venue, by the way, was across the Suez in Port Fouad. When we took the free ferry across to the gig, we technically (geographically) crossed from Africa to Asia, a provocative thought. But that gig, by the Mediterranean, was decidedly African in its spirit and ambiance.
|Crossing to Port Fouad|
As part of this show, we also had a set from the Sudanese-rooted band Rango, named for the ancient xylophone once used in healing zar rituals. This instrument was all but lost until recovered by Zakaria and Hassan Bergoman, leader of Rango. Deep stuff!
So much more to come. Afropop's Egyptian revelations are just beginning!