Saturday, March 11, 2006


Saiidi Concert: The Messengers in Upper Egypt

We just got back from an amazing trip to Minia otherwise know as ‘The Jewel of the South’ ! Minia is a pleasant three hour train ride from Cairo, one of the first cities in ‘Upper Egypt”.

For some, reason, the government is freaked out by having foreigners in Minia. When we arrived, all the transit workers were saying stuff like “six Americans have arrived” into their walky talkies– we were the buzz of the station.

A van was waiting for us as well as a car of armed guards who followed behind for our protection. They took us straight to the Jesuit Compound, a walled compound heavily guarded.

The compound was wonderful. They gave us cozy rooms with beautiful balconies right above the theater where we were supposed to perform and fed us amazing meals in the restaurant downstairs.

After dinner we wanted to go for a little stroll on the Cornish. The gates were locked so we told the security guards we wanted to go for a little walk. Wow! What an ordeal!

Everyone got on their walkie talkies and it took a half hour to organize everyone until they let us walk outside. With us were two plain clothed security guards leading us, a couple armed guards behind us and a truck full of soldiers crawling beside us! Everything that we did, they reported into the walky talkies – stuff like, “ok, now they’re crossing the street. Now they stopped to pet a cat. Now they’re looking for a place to have shisha”. When we stopped for tea we also ordered drinks for the eight people guarding us. By the end of the walk, we were quite friendly with all the guards – they were very nice guys.

Whenever we asked them why they needed to guard us so heavily they just shrugged and explained that they are being very careful because not many foreigners come to Minia and they just want to make sure nobody kidnaps us or anything.

The next morning they took us out on a boat on the Nile. It was a old boat and it was a windy day, so in the middle of the boat trip the sail broke and the boat almost overturned! We all rolled around the boat frantically clutching our drums!

But we had nothing to worry about because the speed boat of security guards that was following us came right to the rescue and pushed us to shore. You see, there are advantages on being guarded wherever you go!

Rami, Raquy, our host Joseph and Security Guards on the Nile!

The concert was the best one yet. The place was packed with people, and what an audience!!! They were clapping, yelling and singing along for the whole show!

I saved the new song , “Do Saidi” for last and called up one of the guards, “Akram”, who’s also a great drummer, to play with us. The energy was amazing!

Now we’re back in Cairo – it’s nice to be able to walk around freely! But I’ll never forget the special concert in Minia, and I have a feeling I’ll be back there next year!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Show at Sawy!

Yesterday was our show at Sawy! There was a medium sized crowd that was very excited and enthusiastic. Some of the crowd was there because they had seen us on Good Morning Egypt!

I started with my unaccompanied solo, then Rami and I did some duets, then we did some pieces with the girls, and as a finale I called up Henkish to play a drum solo with us. We ended the show with everyone playing together and the whole audience singing along to Salamat, Reni Li Shwoye Shwoye, and as an encore, Ana Fintizara! There were some television stations that came to film the show and interview us afterwards.

Smoke Machine!

Dueling with Henkish

Raquy, Henkish and the Messengers!

El B’nat – Amy, Fatima, Natalia, Christian, Maria, Raquy, Andrea, Bashira!

Happy Baby!

This morning we gave a lecture/ demonstration on Middle Eastern drumming at the American University in Cairo.

This evening I had a rababa lesson and my teacher said, “if you’re going to Minia, you have to play this piece – they’re gonna flip out” and he taught me a great Saiidi song that I’ll play in the concert in Minia!

Tomorrow night is our show at the American University! Stay tuned!

Monday, March 06, 2006


Good Morning Egypt!

Yesterday the girls arrived! Natalia got nice introduction to Egypt. Shortly after her arrival, our Boab knocked on our door and told us that he was having a party in his apartment and that they would love us to play for them. So we went upstairs to a small room on the roof with about fifteen people stuffed inside and played a few songs. On the Egyptian songs they all sang along – it was very sweet.

Then we had to go to the old market area to approve the new Raquy and the Cavemen galabias! They are gorgeous! “Raquy and the Cavemen” and a picture of a tabla are stitched into the back in gold thread!

Afterwards we saw the huge crowds of people in the market and thought to ourselves, “this would be a good place to promote our show” so we took out the drums and started playing Nubian. while Rami’s cousin Karime handed out fliers for the show. About half way into the song the police had to come to disperse the crowd of people that had gathered around to see us play!

The next morning we had to wake up very early to go play on Sabah al Khir, Ya Missr! (Good Morning, Egypt). It was a little nervewracking to be filmed, knowing that it was being screened LIVE both on channel 1 Egypt and on satellite TV!

Morning Talk Show, Good Morning Egypt (Sabah al Khiir, Ya Missr)!

But it went very well. We started out playing the Nubian, then we were interviewed, then we played Farid Al Atrash then Dust. We had the whole camera crew dancing! There was a simultaneous interpreter available throughout the interview, but I actually spoke in Arabic the whole time!

When we arrived back to our neighborhood, our friends were very excited that they had just seen us on TV!

For the rest of the day were entertaining people in our apartment. It’s amazing in this country how we can have people coming over all day without actually inviting anyone! Among the people over were:

Tonight we have a rehearsal on a falooka for our concert at Sawy which is tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Saiidi Street Wedding!

Ok –now this night was something I’ll never forget. My Rababa teacher’s cousin was marrying one of his other cousins and he invited us to the wedding. It was in a neighborhood called “Ataba” which is a lot different from “Garden City”,the ritzy neighborhood we live in.

We got out of the cab and Fikry was there, decked out in his traditional Saiidi outfit, complete with cane and all. It was great to see him in his “hood”. He is like the king there. As we walked towards the wedding he proudly pointed out all the things he loved about his neighborhood – his house, his neighbors and the beautiful sook (market) that we walked through.

The wedding party was outdoors on an unpaved street with a stage. There were lights everywhere, a sound system, and everything on the stage was simultaneously showed on tv screens farther from the stage. As we approached, we heard on the loud speaker “welcome fikry wl ganawy and his friends from America” and we saw ourselves on tv.

We were seated at a table with the ‘creme de la creme’ of the wedding. Most of the guests were musicians, and all the celebrities who arrived were ushered straight to our table. They kept bringing out these plates of kababs and on the trays were coals covered in meat fat so that it would make lots of meaty smoke. And these guys were partying! I don’t think I’ve been hanging out with people getting so wasted since I was in college.

Periodically groups of curious kids would gather around to shake our hands only to be shooed away by the adults. The kids had a game of sneaking up and stealing kababs from the adult’s table. When this happened the adults pretended to be outraged, but as soon as the kids disappeared they would laugh.

The band was amazing, especially the percussion section – two dafs (frame drums) a muzzhar, and a few tablas – extremely coordinated and tight. Certain of the celebrity guests were invited up to sing. There were also two AMAZING belly dancers on stage.

The women were all in a different section than the men and at one point Fikry brought me over to dance with the bride. That was really fun! Those girls were getting down!

Later on, he brought me to the stage and announced that I would play one drum solo and one song on the rababa! They handed me horrible out of tune tabla and set me up with a mic. I looked at the other drummers and said, ”Yimsik Asess” (hold me the rhythm) and they did an amazing job of accompanying me on my drum solo. They got all my cues – it was as if we had rehearsed!

The funnest part was playing “Wahiishni Rod Aleya” on the rababa! The full band accompanied me and everyone in the crowd was singing along! What a thrill! Fikry just stood there and beamed the whole time. He didn’t want to play along because he wanted everyone to hear that I could play it by myself.

That may just have been the best party I’ve ever attended!

The other news is that we’re going to be on a TV show called “Sabah Al Khiir, Missr” (Good Morning, Egypt) a day before our concert at Sawy in order to advertise it!

Poster is Cairo! They white-ed out my belly from the picture!

Also we found a huge four bedroom luxury apartment on the Nile for the girls (Andrea, Maria, Bashira, Amy, Marjory and Natalia), who are all arriving in the upcoming days.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?