Sunday, March 22, 2009


Third Week of Egypt!

Good Morning Egypt

We just got back from being on Good Morning Egypt. For me it was my fifth time on that show! We needed to be at the TV station at 7:45 which was not easy considering we usually go do bed at around 6!

I get a little silly when I’m overtired, and everything was striking me as funny when we were being interviewed, but I was doing alright until the moment when Rami was talking and there was a close up on his face and the biggest fly I’ve ever seen chose that moment to land right in the middle of his head. If it wasn’t for my ugai breathing techniques I would have been rolling on the floor convulsing with laughter and I was just praying that the camera would stay away from me, and thank god they didn’t show me until I regained some of my cool.

But anyway the show was great! All of us got to be in the show -- Rami, Nataia, Adama and Lara. We played Debke and Newbian and I played “Ana Fintizara” on the rababa.

Now we are back home. Everyone else has gone back to bed but I’m all hyper, so I’m working on my blog.

Ewart Hall Concert

When I was in Sinai last year I met this hot guy Ahmed who plays oud in one of the most famous bands here called “Woostel Baled”. So I was sitting with him at “Horeia” café and he offered to learn one of my songs to play with me in my big show!

So he came over that night at around 4am and we stayed up till morning playing very very very soft. It was pretty magical. Anyway he learned the “Sexy Chiftetelli” and he also played on “Ana Fintizara” and the blend between the oud and kemenche was gorgeous and we had amazing chemistry together on stage.

Said El Artist came to my show! I invited him and he said “ein sha’lla” so I didn’t really expect him, but there he was in the first row all dressed up in a suit! I was so touched! I made a little speech honoring him and he stood up and took a bow and everyone clapped. It was really touching. Then I said in English “Now I’m nervous!”

Marjory moved to Egypt just in time for my show! It was great to see her! She’s the editor of the middle eastern desk of the AP! She’ll be living in Cairo for 2 – 3 years.

Surprise for Nubians

The Nubian boyfriends complained that the song we call Newbian is not Nubian at all so to surprise them we researched Nubian rhythms and did an introduction to the piece that was really Nubian and Adama and I did this Nubian clapping pattern. You should have seen the boyfriends! They flipped out!

Alex Show

We got to spend a lovely couple of days in beautiful Alexandria. This time they put our show in a smaller theater that was the perfect size. I had a nice workshop before the show and we had a great turn out. All our Nubian boyfriends came all the way from Cairo to see the show and Jehan and Hana brought a bus full of very fashionable people from Cairo (designers and models and stuff). There are amazing cafes and restaurants and markets in Alex, so we had a great time walking all around. There is also my favorite pub in Alex – all these Egyptian men sit around and drink Stella beers and eat thermis beans and this oud player Said goes from table to tables singing Om Kolthum songs.


Nile TV came to my apartment to interview me! It was a very cute interview and we all got to play a couple songs. The interview included the angry neighbors banging on the door cause we were making so much noise!

1am shisha business meeting on Mohamed Ali street

We had a meeting at the drum shop on Mohamed Ally street at 1 am over a shisha. They are making Raquy Riqs that are actually made in Syria! They are really good ones and I’m psyched about them!

Spice Store

The girls and I went absolutely crazy in this spice store! Now we have gifts for everyone!

We have one week left in Egypt and tonight we are off to chill and practice in one of my favorite places on the planet – the Sinai Dessert! I promise to take pictures!

Friday, March 13, 2009


First week in Egypt 2009

The first week in Egypt has flown by!

This was my first time in Egypt without Rami, and I was a bit apprehensive what it would be like. But it turned out just fine!

First of all its been great for my Arabic, because when I’m with Rami, everyone addresses him because he is an Egyptian looking man. So this time I got to do all the talking, so it’s been great practice!

I found a great apartment in the same building as last year on the market street! It’s the best building – on the second floor are the Sudanese princesses where we do amazing henna parties and on the first floor is the Nubian men's club where we can play pingpong, pool and bang on our drums as loud as we want until the wee hours of the moring! Also on the corner of the street is the best juice in Cairo – the carrot juice tastes like cream!

Rami arrived after a week and its so nice to be with the big baby in Egypt again!

Our wonderful Nubian Boyfriends

We have wonderful Nubian boyfriends and they are beautiful! Conveniently there are four of them and four of us girls. They take us anywhere we want! They take us on falukas on the Nile and to ahawas to smoke shisha and drink tea. They don’t let us pay for anything (not like cheap ass American guys) and when they play pingpong and pool they don’t really try to beat us (although they always end up beating us anyway cause we suck). They have the nicest smiles and the cutest dimples and they love to drum and sing and hang out with us until 6am every night!

Jehan and Hanna

Jehan and Hana are here! They are so much fun – we've been hanging out with them and they’re planning to come to our show in Alex!

Pita incident

We were sitting in an ahawa and we ordered some food. When it came the pile of pitas fell onto the mud street and the guy just picked them up and put them on our table! I actually ate the pita anyway cause it looked like clean mud, but the girls won’t stop making fun of me for doing that.

Lara’s Toe Massage

Lara is here! She got a grant to come to Istanbul and Egypt and she will play with us in our concerts in Egypt!

I must mention that I have a certain spot on my big toe that is soooo intense and I offered Lara 20 Egyptian pounds (about four dollars) to give me a foot massage, and nobody has ever got my spot so well as Lara. At one point she got both big toe spots at the same time! I had multiple toe-gasms!

Hanging w Said El Artist

Even though it won’t work out to do a concert together, we’ve been hanging out a lot with Said. He is so sweet and as charming as ever and it’s really fun at his place – there are tons of drums and fun people. He lets us rehearse in his practice space and take over his whole place as usual. We are planning on making an album and a video together next year called “Erda and Magnun” (Monkey and Crazy) - I’m Erda (he calls me monkey cause I like to repeat back whatever he plays) and he is Magnun cause he’s nuts so he thinks that would be a catchy name for an album.

Natalia in Training

Nataia just got invited back to Columbia to play professional basketball next month so she needs to get some exercise. The problem is – where do you do that in Cairo? There is no chance of running in the streets and she’s having a hell of a time finding a basket ball court – so guess what she does? She runs up and down the stairs of our building for a half hour non stop! The neighbors are all wondering about her.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Last Two Weeks in Istanbul

My Fabulous Teacher Bunyamin

About six years ago I got an album by a group called Harem which is a Turkish percussion ensemble. I remember being blown away by this music, and I got a lot of new inspiration and ideas for my own compositions. I had a fantasy that I would go to Turkey and find those guys and play with them.

After a week of studying with Binyamin, he was showing me some of his videos, and guess what? That is his band! My fantasy came true!

I’ve been practicing with Bunyamin day and night! I’m learning a whole new style!
If somebody had asked me before I came here “Is your style more Egyptian or Turkish” I would have said “half and half”. But now that I’m studying the Turkish style from the real deal, I realize that my technique was 90% Egyptian with a tiny hint of Turkish. The Turkish style takes A LOT of practice! These guys practice between five and ten hours a day! The speed is incredible. I feel like I’m starting to get it, but I need much more practice. Bunyamin says that in one year I’ll have it if I practice five hours a day. Ein Sh’alla.

Our practicing has several elements. We spend a lot of time on technique, we do some listening to Indian music (many Turkish drummsers get inspiration from Indian music) and we make recordings together since his practice studio is also a recording studio! Listening back to your own playing is a great way to see what needs to improve!

Also, Bunyamins studio seems to be the hang out for all the most amazing drummers! Hamdi Aketai, Suat, and many others hang there and I get to jam with all of them! I love the jams because I can take the new moves I’m learning and put them in context!

By the way, those of you who have heard any Tarkan albums, that’s Bunyamin playing dumbek! He has toured with Tarkan all over the world!


I was just thinking that I would love to find a real sufi trance ceremony with whilring dervishes, and I was getting a carrot juice, and I met violinist Aydin who told me that tonight he’s playing in a ceremony and that he will give me a ride! It was a magical ceremony, and the violinist was out of this world. Since then I’m giving him yoga lessons in exchange for makam lessons (Turkish modes).


Omar Farouk Tekbilek played a free concert in the Topkopi Palace! It was the most beautiful place for a show I’ve ever seen! We got to hang out with him after the show!

David Kucherman in Istanbul!

David Kucherman the incredible riq player from Germany came to Istanbul for our last week there. He’s thinking of moving there so he came to check out the scene. It was wonderful to have him there. He also took a lesson from Bunyamin and some Turkish clarinet lessons.

Mehmet Akatay

David told me there’s this guy in Istanbul who is perhaps the greatest riq player in the world. What he didn’t tell me was that he was sooooo cute! The guy came to our house to give David a lesson when I happened to be home and it was love at first sight! We spent the whole day together and may end up eloping and forming a riq and dumbek duet!

Off to Cairo

So we put away the Turkish dictionaries, got out our Arabic dictionaries, packed our bags and now we are in the airport waiting to fly to Egypt. We were only here a month but we made so many incredible connections! I can’t count how many times I heard “Ben Seni Seviyorum” (I love you) today from our new Turkish friends! This month in Istanbul exceeded all of my expectations (which were high to begin with). I’m so inspired!

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