Monday, February 27, 2006
Escape to Sinai – Feb 23 - 26!
WOW! Where to I start? First of all, because of the terrorism scare, this place that is usually teeming with Israeli vacationers was EMPTY! Bad for the local workers but nice for us! We went to the Nikhil Inn on the end of the strip and got an upstairs room with a balcony right over the beach. This place has a staff that is gracious and hard working by day and at night they turn into incredible dancers and drummers. As a matter of fact all along the beach in the shops we found wonderful tabla players that we jammed with!
After a day or two of being there, we didn’t feel anymore that we were on vacation. Word spread fast about who we were (and half of the people recognized us from TV) and we could not walk down the strip with out the store people begging us to drum or for me to play “reni li shwoye shwoye” and other Egyptian favorites on the kemenche.
Typical Scene on our way to lunch:
We are walking down the beach on our way to have lunch at our favorite restaurant.
Carpet Guys: Hey where were you last night? You promised you would come to the shop and play and we invited all our friends and you didn’t show up! Everyone was waiting for you!!!!
Us: Sorry – the guys at our hotel made us play all night – the chef Mohammed is a drummer and wanted to jam with us – we couldn’t leave!
Carpet Guys- Ok – so play now.
Us: We’re on our way to lunch – we’ll stop by later.
Carpet Guys – When?
Us – We don’t know exactly – we’re supposed to be on vacation.
Carpet Guys – Alright then, at 9
Us – We’ll try
Carpet Guys- You promise?
Us – Ein Sh’alla.
At one time we actually triple booked! We told our hotel staff, the carpet guys and they Beduin bracelet girls that we would come by and play, all on the same night! It got to be uncomfortable towards the third day – we had to sneak down the beach in the dark wearing disguises, hoping to make it to our room without being asked to perform!
But it was really one of the closes places to paradise that I can imagine. And the great news is:
SPRING DUMBEK RETREAT 2007 IN SINAI!
I’ve arranged everything with the hotel to have a week long retreat at the Nikhil Inn, Tarabine, Sinai! It will be in March or April – stay tuned for more details. With special guest Fikry (my rababa teacher).
The bus ride back to Cairo was hellish. Rami and I were so bored that we started imitating everyone we know and the other person has to guess who it is. If you’re reading this blog, chances are that we imitated you.
Now we’re back in our Cairo flat, and tomorrow morning will start the next task – getting people to come to our upcoming shows!
Cavemen in Tel Aviv! Feb 16 - 23
Tel Aviv is one of my favorite places. We spent a wonderful week visiting friends, eating hummus, sitting in café’s, walking on the beach and shopping on Shenkin Street. It’s so clean and easy to walk around compared to Cairo!
Cavemen in Tel Aviv!
One of the college radio stations did a whole program on Raquy and the Cavemen and we played live on the air and were interviewed. Rami actually spoke in Hebrew on Israeli radio!
It seemed like everyone was in Tel Aviv– Daphna, Raquy and Basya!
We were a little nervous about the show because it happened to be scheduled on the same evening that this TV talent show had the finals, and, believe it or not, several people said they couldn’t make it to the show because of this stupid TV show!
Sound Check at “Cultura”, Tel Aviv
But it turned out to be a wonderful show. We had a great crowd (half of which was the Buchbut family) and they loved the show. We had everyone dancing and whooping and begging for more when we finished – we could not have asked for a nicer audience. And since Mr. Yo couldn’t make is because of his visa, Fishky’s brother Ofer played the bass line on a baritone sax! It was amazing!
Friday, February 17, 2006
Women’s Zaar Ceremony!
Today since we had our concerts all organized, we took it easy, and it as actually our funnest day so far! We had lessons – Rami with Ashraf on the Riq and me with Fikry on the Rababa. The lessons were schedules 2.5 hours apart, but one came late and the other early, so they ended up getting here at around the same time (that always seems to happen!) But it was ok – I got to chat with Fikry while Rami was having his lesson. It’s nice because this year my Arabic is so much better so I can really communicate with Fikry. He explained to me that when he was a kid, people only played the rababa as a drone for singing and that he was one of the first people to play actual songs on the rababa! He is AMAZING! In this lesson we worked on Taksim (improvisation based on the maqams). I learned SO MUCH! He wants me to play with him at a family wedding – one of his cousins is marrying another one of his cousins. I think it will be a blast and he said I could bring the girls as well!
After the lessons we went to meet with Henkish. I decided that rather than have a joint concert like I did with Saiid, I’d rather do my own concert and then have him as a special guest for a song or two at the end. So he’s fine with that, and we’re all excited about the show. We’ll rehearse a few times after I return from Tel Aviv.
On our way back from Henkish we had a nice surprise! Right next to the Kings Tomb on our street, we saw, on the sidewalk, about 4 dumbek and 4 frame drums made of skin, being heated up next to a burner. There was a guy there so we asked him what’s going on and it turns out there was a womans zaar ceremony just starting! We went in and saw the whole thing. It was AMAZING! The Zar is a healing ritual performed mailnly by women for women. It is an ancient purification rite that aims to pacify numerous spirits. The participants are meant to reach an altered state of consciousness. The ritual is lead by a woman called Kudeyit, who usually possesses a remarkably strong character. The Kudeyit in the ceremony we saw was like out of a dream – Rami and I both felt that we knew her before.
This ritual is one of the few acceptable ways for women to release pent up emotions and frustrations while consciously seeking healing powers.
This ceremony was very powerful and interesting. I don’t know if I reached an altered state of consciousness (or maybe I’m just always in an altered state of consciousness). Anyway, if anyone every has the opportunity to see such a thing I highly recommend it!
Now I’m back home and I have about 4 hours until my bus leaves to Tel Aviv! My next blog entry will be from there!
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Egypt Adventures #4
Egypt Concert Tour is all Planned!
I’m very pleased! We have our Egypt Concert Tour all planned out! Four Concerts and two workshops!
March 4th - 9:00pm
El Sawy Cultural Center
Nile Stage (Outdoors)
End of 26th of July street (at Aboul Feda Street)
Tickets are 15 pounds
March 6th - 11:00am - master class at the AUC
Music Studio, room 539
AUC, New Falaki Street
March 7th - 8:00pm - PVA Howard Cafe at the AUC
Ground Floor, Main Campus access via Mohamad Mahmoud Street
March 9th, 8:00
Raquy and the Rhythm Messengers in Minia!
Thursday March 9th, 8:00pm
1 mustashfa el homiad street
March 13th – Raquy and the Messengers at the Cairo Jazz Club
time to be announced
Yay! We just signed the contract for the show at Sawy (all in Arabic) ! They misunderstood my e-mail and gave us the wrong weekend, so Bashira will have to get off the plane and come straight to the concert! Yikes! The great Khamis Henkish will be our special guest – it’s an honor to have him in our show!
Today it was another day of running our asses off around Cairo. We got our bus tickets to Tel Aviv, met with Zakareiah Ibrahim, the leader of the Tambura Ensemble in Port Said, met Fati Salama, and set up almost all of our shows.
I need a vacation.
Last night we went to the old market and a bunch more people recognized me from TV. We’re looking into making Raquy and the Cavemen galabias to sell in the States!
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Cairo February 12
Today we made some good headway organizing a show outside of Cairo.
For those of you who don’t know, I got a grant from the American Embassy in Egypt to do a concert, but it can’t be in Cairo, Alex or any tourist place.
Today we went to the American Embassy in Cairo and met with the people in the Cultural Affairs Department who offered me the grant. They explained to me the nature of this grant. I’m an American who plays an instrument that is beloved to the Egyptian people. Therefore it would behoove American popularity if I were to go outside of Cairo into the heart of Egypt to perform for the country folk. The difficult thing is that the people from the Embassy won’t help AT ALL with organizing the event. I have to do everything myself.
At the actual meeting, they were a bit more helpful in spite of themselves. I explained the difficulty in finding a venue outside of Cairo and they brainstormed a little and came up with some names and phone numbers that could be useful.
The best lead so far is a new performance venue in a southern city called Minia. We talked to the guy today and he seems very interested. If it works out we’ll take the girls down there on the train and do a concert. It should be an adventure!
We also talked to this guy Fati Salama who is a well-known musician here. He’s putting together a show the day after tomorrow with like 8 different bands, and Rami and I might play in it. We’ll probably hang out with him tonight.
Yesterday I had a reunion with Fikry, my rababa teacher. We had a wonderful lesson – he taught me five new songs, all of which I like a lot!
We also looked into flights to Tel Aviv. They are pretty expensive ($320!) so then we checked buses. For $85 you get a bus ticket direct from Cairo to Tel Aviv and back. It’s a 10 hour ride, but if you think about getting to the airport 2 hours early and getting to and from the airports in both cities, flying wouldn’t save us that much time, and there’s something I like about the idea of going from Cairo to Tel Aviv over land. Like the Exodus, but 10 hours instead of 40 years! We’ll see.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Feb 10th—Hafla in the Streets of Cairo!
our new apartment that we slept until 3pm! The place is very
comfortable and I felt at home right away.
We went to breakfast at one of our favorite places where we sat up on a
roof next to a minarette and surrounded by trees, and ate our breakfast
while the sun set.
It’s Friday today so the Moazims really jam out! They sing on and on
and at any given time you hear about 4 different ones coming from
different places all at once – pretty haunting stuff!
Then we walked over to the street with the drum stores and I went in to
talk to Gwaret El Fan. It looks like it will actually work out! I
told him that if he would take care of the shipping, I would take them
all, and he agreed! Then he insisted that I try each one to make sure
they are all to my liking, so I proceeded to try out 25 drums! I got an
audience outside the store – people actually pulled up chairs and took
shisha and tea and sat outside the store listening and clapping!
The drums are GORGEOUS and sound fantastic – I’m very pleased. There
were two that we couldn’t get in tune so he promised to fix them and
let me try them again. I took the one I liked best for myself.
So it looks like I’ll be in the drum selling business when I return.
If anyone wants to reserve one, let me know (first come first served).
Another nice discovery at the Gwaret El Fan store was a rababa made out
of a metal drum. It’s great for the States, because, as those of you
who saw the last Messengers show at the Lafayette Grill witnessed, the
skin ones don’t stay in tune. Rababa girls, if you want one, let me
know and I’ll order some.
So while we were in the Gwaret El Fan store, the finals of the African
Cup were on TV (the TV stand was a dumbek). Everyone in Egypt was
either watching this game or listening on the radio. It was really
exciting because the game was really close, but right at the end Egypt
won. You should have heard and seen what happened in the streets of
Cairo when Egypt won. The whole city was one big hafla. People were
drumming and dancing and lighting gas on fire in the streets!
All the guys in the drum stores want pictures of me and the only ones I
have are the post cards of the naked ones! So I keep apologizing to
everyone and saying, “Here this is ‘haram’ (not allowed) but in my
country it’s ok”. They all look at it disapprovingly but so far only
one guy has given it back. Hassan Amegid, the famous drum maker was
especially disapproving (although he put it up on his shelf) and said
“Do me a favor – before your next photo shoot, please put on some jeans
and a tee shirt!”
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Cairo Day One—Surprises Galore
Hello from Cairo!
Our first day in Cairo was very productive. We arrived in the middle
of the night and went straight to the Canadian Hostel where we have a
reservation. It’s very nice and clean with private rooms, gracious
people, a funky lounge and internet. Not bad for $6.50 per person per
This morning we walked out the door into a hamsin –a sand storm from
the desert which covers everything in dust. Nevertheless we went to
our favorite neighborhood, “Garden City” to look for a flat. I had
three guava mango juices and an apple shisha, and we were on our way.
Because of the soccer game finals it was not easy at all to find a
place. We trudged around all day just to hear “oh – there was an empty
apartment here, but somebody just came and took it” over and over.
Finally at the end of the day we found something gorgeous. It
overlooks some king’s tomb (they explained to me that he lives there
but he’s dead). It very luxurious and clean and beautiful. If it were
up to me I’d get rid of all the furniture, but it will have to do for
the month. Ein Sh’alla we can move in tomorrow.
So now that I had an apartment the next thing was to get a drum. I
never bring a drum to Egypt. I made an appointment to meet with
Henkish, a great Egypian tabla player who has a store on the strip of
music stores on Mohammed Ally street. On the way to Henkish I stopped
by my friends at the Gwaret El Fan store where I received some shocking
Surprise # 1 – 25 Raquy Dumbeks
First some background. Mid East Manufacturing wants to make a “Raquy” dumbek and asked me about having them made in Egypt. They told me they wanted to start with just 25 of them and see how they sell. So I called Gwaret El Fan, the company who made me a few Raquy dumbeks
last year, and asked them how much it would be do make 25 of them and
how soon they could make them. They told me a price and a time, and then
I told them that the agent from Mid East Manufacturing would get in
touch with them. Then I gave Mid East Manufacturing the phone number
of Gwaret El Fan and left it up to the to agree on something between
themselves without me in the middle. A few days later I heard from Mid
East Manufacturing that they contacted Gwaret El Fan, but that price
for those drums was too high for them, so they wanted to try to
manufacture the Raquy Dumbeks in the US instead.
Anyway today on my way to meet Henkish, I went in to the store to say
hi to Gwaret El Fan. The guy greeted me warmly.
Gwaret Guy - Your 25 drums with your custom design and your name
written on all of them are ready.
Raquy - But I never ordered the drums!
Gwaret Guy – Yes, you did - you called and told me to make 25 of them
Raquy – No – I just asked you the price – the guys from Mid East
manufacturing called you after and told you it was too expensive
Gwaret Guy – No nobody called. Only you.
Raquy – But they weren’t for me – I can’t take 25 drums – they were for
Mid East Manufacturing, but they don’t want them.
Gwaret – Well, I thought you wanted them so I made them and their
waiting for you in storage.
etc etc etc
So, now I have to figure out what to do. There are 25 custom designed
Raquy Dumbeks here waiting for me. Shit.
Then we met wth Henkish who was very sweet. He’s anxious to do a
concert together, so I hope we’ll work something out. I found an ugly
small drum that sounds amazing and bought it.
Henkish in his Store
Now for Surprise # 2 – We’re Famous!
About five different people today said they saw us on Egyptian
television on the Samir Sabry show recently! The best was when some guy at the kosheri restaurant recognized Rami and me and everyone in the restaurant stood in line for me to sign my autograph. It was so much fun, I wrote out each person’s full name in Arabic (it took a while).
Signing Autographs at the Kosheri Restaurant
So tomorrow, ein shalla, we will move into our apartment, pick up
Rami’s grandfathers old car, and start organizing our concerts.