Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Sudanese Treasures Next Door
There are four beautiful women from
It all started when one of them knocked on my door at 2am to apologize for missing one of my shows and she saw that I was in the middle of giving myself a henna design. The next day I went over to their place and got the full henna treatment, Sudanese style!
First we drank tea in the salon and chatted. When I finished my tea they took me into one of the back bedrooms and smeared henna all over the bottoms of my feet! It felt so good! They also gave me a clump to just grab with my hand!
It takes a few hours to dry and during that time I get the royal treatment, propped up with pillows on the bed. These ladies love smoking shisha, and so while they are keeping me company, there is a constant shisha going. They also burn amazing incense, and keep bringing in coffee and tea and treats. And we have girl talk! You know, girls are really all the same, no matter where, so the conversations always end up on that universal subject – BOYS! They have some amazing henna over there – extremely dark! Oh, and they also keep bringing me presents! I’ve already gotten a bag of Sudanese henna to take home, some Sudanese perfume and a scarf from
My Three Concerts
Ewart Hall –
Ewart Hall is a thousand seat concert hall in downtown
It was one of the best shows I ever had. The band was so tight! And the audience was incredible - I kept on hearing stuff like “Raquy, we love you” and “Raquy Forever” coming from different parts of the audience. I had a wonderful Canun player, ustaz walel mahalawi as a special guest for my samai! He played it so beautifully! I also did something with the bones and something with spinning glow poi in the show!
We got a standing ovation at the end and then my neighbor, eight year old Mustafa came up and gave me flowers!
My friend and collegue Dr. Dave made a fine recording of the show, and I’m planning on releasing it to the public as either a cd or a dvd!
The best thing about the Alex show was getting to spend the weekend in Alex! Alex is so nice! We got a hotel right on the corniche and spent hours walking around exploring the markets and ally ways!
The carrot juice in Alex is so sweet I could have sworn that they put sugar inside, but they didn’t! I also broke my veganism for a day and tried some fish – sooooooo delicious! My body was very happy!
We had a group of our friends follow us from
The show at the bibliotheque was nice but not as special as the other shows – it’s hard when your’e playing in a 1700 seat concert hall – even if a couple hundred people show up it sees sad!
Sawy on the
Last night was our show at Sawy and nice outdoor stage on the
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Signs that I’ve been in Egypt for Quite a While
Instead of using an alarm clock I just rely on the noon call to prayer to wake me up in time for my class
I call people at 3am for no good reason.
I’m losing my "P” – even in English I’m saying things like “we can’t find a barking spot” or “I hope a lot of beoble come to my show”
I can’t walk down my street without all the vegetable vendors in the market yelling to me about artichokes (by now they all know that is my favorite vegetable)
Because I’m so covered up in public I can go for weeks without shaving or brushing my hair! I’m really starting to look like a cavewoman!
On a street that is racing with speeding traffic, I calmly strut across, knowing that Allah will divert the cars from my path.
Finally Some Fame!By the end of last year I couldn’t walk down the street without somebody recognizing me from Television. At my favorite restaurant, The Blue Nile, I got celebrity treatment because the servers had seen me on TV. People were asking for my autograph and to have pictures taken with me wherever I went.
When I arrived this year, I was suddenly just another person! Nobody seemed to recognize me. When I walked into the Blue Nile expecting my celebrity treatment, I found that there was a group of new servers who hadn’t the foggiest idea who I was! In fact we almost got thrown out because what we ordered didn’t meet a certain minimum!
Finally last week I made some appearances on TV. I was on Good Morning Egypt for the third year in a row and immediately after we left the studio people recognized us, and ever since at least two people stop me on my walk to school to tell me that they saw me on TV. Wait till we go to the Blue Nile now!
Escape to Desert Paradise
I can’t be in Cairo for more than a month without a little vacation in the Sinai Desert.This year we decided to check out the scene at Ras Ha Satan which is a remote resort on the red sea where many great musicians from Israel and from Egypt hang out and play music together.
I got a group together including one of my students from school, Hassan, Baraka who came to visit from Greece, and two Swedish guys – Fred who is studying drumming here and Johannas who is studying Arabic.The bus picked us up at our house and took us straight to Ras Ha Satan. We arrived just in time for sunrise over the mountains of Saudi Arabia! Stunning!
The place is run by an interesting couple – Ayash who is beduin and Segal, an Israeli woman. They have two adorable little boys. The young one is named Samai!
The accommodations are simple but quite comfortable. Each person gets a bungalow. Our bungalow had an indoor room with a nice hard bed, and two outdoor areas with carpets – one like a porch right in front and one like a garage on the side. And all this is RIGHT on the beach – about ten footsteps away from the Red Sea!
There is one big communal bathroom that is impressively clean all the time with hot water. There is hardly any electricity in the entire place, but at night they light bonfires and candles all around.
There were so many good musicians there! I met oud players, guitar players, other drummers, Beduin singers one amazing woman who sang Finnish folk songs and more.
The days were spend jamming, swimming, napping eating and talking to people. Every night we jammed around the big fire. My glow poi were a big hit – I got a lot of practice in!
And the food was excellent. There is one dish that I highly recommend to vegetarians called Vegetable Matluba which is rice, tomatoes, peas, corgettes and eggplant all baked together and served in this huge pile with salad and tehina. But careful – it may take five hours from when you order it until when it arrives, so you have to plan in advance!
We had to hurry back to Cairo for another television appearance – this time on the Nile Variety Show. I thought that we would all get to play but it turns out they didn’t have enough room on the set for everyone, so it was just me and Rami. But what an appearance we made – we came straight from the beach and a seven hour bus ride. My hair looked like birds may be living inside it, we were covered in sand and smelly (but I guess smell doesn’t matter for TV). I asked to go to the makeup department but there was no time. I’m afraid to see what I looked like.
Tonight I have a meeting with Gwaret El Fan the company that makes my drums. They have this new design they want me to check out with copper on the bottom.
Tomorrow is the last official rehearsal before the dress rehearsal!
Saturday, March 01, 2008
Reunion with Said
Tonight we hung out with Said El Artist for the first time this year. He looked great and it was wonderful to see him. We brought him as a gift a Remo ocean drum and I think he really liked it. Within 5 minutes he figured out every possible sound you could get out of that thing!
We both talked enthusiastically about doing a big show again next year, ein shalla. We listened to his latest album which is great and then he took out a stack of incredible professional pictures taken of the rehearsals and the concert last year! My favorite was of me, Said and Osama blowing out the candles of a cake. I wish I had copies!
Midnight Poi Contest on the Streets of Cairo
We were walking around Cairo last night looking for a place where I could practice spinning my glow balls, and we turn down this ally and what do I see---- another fire spinner! I was like “what? I didn’t know that this was popular in Egypt” but when I took a closer look I saw that it was the boy from the ahawa (shisha café), spinning the coals for the nargilas! It looks just like fire spinning! So I took out my poi and we stood face to face showing each other our moves.
Mom VisitMy mom came to visit! But she arrived with horrible flu and was in bed for a week! She had to extend her trip from five days to eleven days because she was so sick to travel! So we stayed home most of the time. I tried to bring Egypt to her while she was on the couch by having many people over such as my student for the free class, my Egyptian drumming troupe for rehearsals, my rababa teacher Ustaz Fikry el Ganawy who wanted to marry her and some of our dear Nubain friends who sat around the couch teaching her the Nubian language. El humdelila towards the end of her trip she recovered and had a few nice days of being healthy in Cairo.
Concert DatesI just found out I’m playing at the Alexandria Library on March 22nd!
And the two big Cairo show dates are set! One is March 19th in Ewart Hall which was already booked last year. Then one week later on March 25th we are playing at the Sawy Cultural Center! I decided to have the Egyptian Messengers (my class) perform as an opening act and they are all excited to be playing in a real venue, not just at school.Last week I went over to Sawy and was very pleased to be able to read and fill out the contract all in Arabic!!
Rehearsal UpdateThe second rehearsal was challenging. I decided to have this rehearsal at my house since my mom was still on the couch, feverous and semi- delirious. One of the guys was late and one had to leave early, so we were very rushed. And when everyone finally arrived for the rehearsal we realized that there was another funeral going on downstairs at the Nubian men’s club (there’s a funeral there like every other day) so we couldn’t play!
One of the guys had an idea to call Makan, a gorgeous performance space around the corner that kind of looks like my living room – a beautiful room that’s empty except for carpets, pillows and drums. And the vibe there is so fine from all the Zaar trance ceremonies that happen there! This venue which usually has concerts booked every night happened to be totally free for our rehearsal! Yay!
So we bundled up my mother and caravanned over to Makan where she lay down on some pillows while we rehearsed. This rehearsal was tough because I was showing them a new piece called Maracatu which is based on Brazillian style beats and there’s some tricky stuff. We worked on this one small section for like 45 minutes. So I was feeling frustrated at the end of the rehearsal.
But then I worked with some of the guys individually, so the third rehearsal was great! We ran Maksum Madness, Maracatu and Newbian all through straight without stopping! And those are the three toughest pieces! I have Mustafa Abbas playing a bass drum with his foot, a simbati on his lap and a crash cymbal, kind of like what Fishky does!