Mediterranean Music – Egypt
Borders are both more and less well defined on the final leg of the journey. We began in Europe, had a shortish trip in Asia and now Africa. Now we enter the third continent.
Arriving from Gaza
The Rafah Border Crossing would be our most convenient gateway to Egypt. If it is open. It may well not be. Using it keeps us in the spirit of a trip around the Med. Otherwise we go back through Israel to the only crossing point with Egypt at the Taba Border Crossing. To do that we travel all the way south to The Gulf of Aqaba (or Gulf of Eilat) on the Red Sea. This 550km diversion will take seven hours. In our imaginary journey it is frustrating. In reality it is significantly more. I remember a few years ago waiting in Belfast City Airport for a guest travelling from Gaza via London. He set off three days early and still didn’t get out of Gaza.
Want to travel further?
Exploring the music of the Mediterranean (introduction) –
Gibraltar – Andalusia (or Andalucía) – Murcia – Valencia – Catalonia – France – Monaco – Italy’s North West – Western Italy – Italy – Toe to heel – Slovenia – Croatia – Bosnia and Herzegovina – Montenegro – Albania – Greece – Turkey – Syria – Lebanon – Israel – Palestine – Egypt – Libya – Tunisia – Algeria – Morocco
Alexandria (الإسكندريةw) an ancient port and modern resort on Egypt’s coast may well be our destination, but we have to stop off in Cairo. It is an astonishing city. I once woke up there, the first morning after Ramadan, to all day celebrations breaking the fast. The pyramids are minutes from the city centre – or would be of it were not for the persistent traffic jam starting early in the morning and continuing until the early hours of the next morning.
Alexandria, beautiful on the Mediterranean coast. Both cities are high on my return visit list.
To the music
The music on this playlist has been a real pleasure to compile. It is full of surprises; traditional, experimental, avant garde, even. I don’t plan to list every artist here, but let me highlight a few.
with two others is responsible for one of my favourite albums encountered on this journey.
“A major creative force and a powerful voice for her generation, Egyptian singer and songwriter Maryam Saleh composes and performs music that is personal, political and philosophical; intense, intelligent Egyptian music with Arabic language and influences of Trip Hop and Psych Rock. In the past year few years, Maryam has played widely across Egypt, the Arab World, and Europe, after releasing her debut album Mesh Baghanny (eka3 2012), after which she joined forced with Lebanese electro-pop pioneer Zeid Hamdan in releasing Halawella (Mostakell 2015).”
The album on the list is Lekhfa with Maurice Louca and Tamer Abu Ghazaleh
Next is Slumber by Dina el Wedidi
She draws deep into her musical roots of performing Egyptian folkloric music with the Warsha Theater Troupe and Habaybena band, filtering this through her talent and love for experimentation, to produce music that is familiar and relatable for Egyptians, but at the same time presents her own understanding of it. Her participation in these projects inevitably led her to write her own music, and in 2011, she took the fundamental next step in her career and formed her own band; from here her success has soared, not only gaining her stardom in Egypt, but a fan base internationally.
Youssra El Hawary
Three very talented women start the playlist, the third being accordionist Youssra El Hawary. (If you have been following this trip, you will know I have recently realised the accordion is a serious contemporary musical instrument).
Youssra El Hawary is an accordionist, composer, songwriter, singer and actress from Cairo, Egypt.She has been composing her own songs, a satirical mix of social and political commentary, since 2010. In the early stages of her career, she would take to the stage only with her accordion, Her lively presence and unique musical style soon had her garnering a loyal following.
In a very short time, Youssra became one of the strongest, most popular female voices on Egypt’s independent music scene, but the real turning point was her 2012 single “El Soor” (The Wall), a bold, biting statement about the political situation in Egypt.
The video is here
Ali Hassan Kuban
I don’t know where I got the idea of Egyptian music being exactly the sound made by Ali Hassan Kuban (1929 – 2001). Probably, I guess, from old movies watched in black and white on TV when I was growing up, but here to me is the sound of 1950s and 1960s Egypt.
I leave the rest to your listening. Some traditional drumming which you really should listen to, and even some belly dancing music – although I have no idea if it is authentic.
Libya next as we make our way to Restaurant Plage Oued Lmarsa in Morocco – our final destination. Around 4,000 kms to go. Which means in distance and only four countries left, only two-thirds of the road has been covered.