Monday, 17 August 2009
The last month has been full of music, I've bought new drums and played several concerts. This week was an amazing one for me, because I played four concerts each of completely different music: Wednesday night was Fathy Salama, Thursday night reggae at a bar, Friday night went and saw a great concert of sudanese singers, Saturday played a Sudanese wedding, and Sunday played roots Sudanese music. Never had anything like that before in my life! things are going really well, and I'm going to buy, and make more instruments too, with help from some friends of mine.
Sunday, 19 July 2009
Since coming back from Morocco I've been pretty busy. I met up with all my friends and have been hanging out as usual and played a couple gigs. The past two days have been great, as I went to the North Coast, west of Alexandria to play up there, then yesterday morning came back and went straight to a rehearsal with the sudanese group, then straight to a rehearsal with Fathy Salama, and finally got home at 2:30 AM. Today same thing. Got a concert tomorrow night in a great space called Makan, which has traditional music concerts twice a week, and then playing a sudanese wedding on wednesday. The two concerts with Fathy (Fat-he) with be next week, and he has wonderful musicians on his band. So this week is crazy with rehearsals and stuff, and hopefully the guys will still be out at the north coast and I can go back hang for a while. The white sea is amazing up there, fine sand and super clean water, and the weather could not have been nicer. I'm seriously thinking about moving to a cabin by the beach somewhere.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Morocco was craaaazy! I got to Casablanca on the early morning of June 23, and the flight was 3 hours late because the toilet was broken. I stayed with the family of my good friend of Miami, who told me to look them up when I was going. Unfortunately he wasn't there, but it was great to meet his folks. The first day I hung out in Casablanca, went to the beach, did a little shopping, and bought my bus ticket for the next day to Essaouira, a city about 6 hours south on the coast, where the festival was going to be. Every year this festival, called Gnawa and World Music, happens in this town. This was the 12th year, and every time it gets bigger and bigger. I heard that there were between 300 and 400 thousand tourists that came into town for just those four days. On the 24, I took the bus down to Essaouira, and within a second of getting off the bus was offered a room which I took at a little steep price cause I knew I would work something out for the other nights. The next day I started wandering around the medina, the old city. Essaouira used to be a sleepy fishing town which now has become a major tourist destination. I was approached by another dude to show me a room, in the home of a smiley berber lady, and I stayed there for the next 6 days. It was tough talking to her because of the moroccan accent, but we managed just fine. And then everyday I was out walking through the city, going to music shops, buying instruments, at the beach, jamming and seeing the concerts. Met lots of people who I would go around with which was cool. There's even a capoeira group in Essaouira and I played with them one day. The bummer is that I dont have one single picture from the festival! I left the battery to my camera in casablanca charging in the wall, and the disposable camera I bought broke. So I have but the memories in my head lol. I had bought a bus ticket to come back after the festival was over, was on the bus, had my bag under the bus and everything, and then decided about 5 minutes before the bus left to jump ship and stay a couple more days. And it was a good decision, cause I met even more musicians and got to play and hang out and felt satisfied. Met a kid there, 18 years, and plays Gnawa beautifully. If he sticks with it and gets a teacher, because he's completely self taught, he'll be one of the masters. every night there were people playing gnawa on the beach, or around the city, and I was amazed at how many people knew the songs and could play. Essaouira is THE Gnawa city and many masters have come from there. The concerts were terriffic: there was traditional, there was fusion, and there were also groups from other african countries and some from france I think. I saw several of the Gnawa masters, and some from up close which was what I was looking to do the whole time. a great group from Cote D'Ivoire, I saw Paco Sery play, and Karim Ziad, who's been one of my idols for a long time, played in a Gnawa big band. Jazz big band, with full horn section and everything, but with Qarakeb and Gumbri. totally original, and with one of the best masters singing and playing, Hamid El Qasri. Really great time and lots of good people. When I went back to Casa, I had a great time with my friend's family, ate lots of good mama's cooking (couscous, tangine chicken, all kinds of veggies) and went out a lot to hang around town. It went by so fast I could not believe I was back in Cairo last night. I can't wait to go back. I almost stayed.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
My friend Nouri, Sudanese, has been longtime friends with a wonderful oud and tambour player named Hassan, also Sudanese, who has lived in Holland for a long time. Hassan just came to Cairo recently, and is putting together a roots Sudanese band playing some of the most beautiful songs in the world. Oud, bass, guitar, and two percussion, and accordion. The melodies are wonderful, the rhythms are deep and the vibe couldn't be better. We practiced yesterday and today, and it sounds wonderful. The Sudanese music has a set of three bongos, and Issam plays them beautifully, then I'm playing douf and assorted big drums. It's my first time really playing all hand drums, and I love it. Yesterday and wonderful accordionist named Ibrahim played. We practiced in a place called Makan, which means "place" in Arabic, which every week hosts great traditional music concerts. All the drums used in those concerts are kept at the place, so when we go I can play all of them. I love one particular douf they have there, and I've started getting pretty good at it. It's got it's own set of techniques, just like the riq and tabla. The band sounds great. the songs go on for 20 verses or something; you sing a verse, jam for a while, sing another verse, jam for a while. Hassan explanied that all these songs are stories, so they take their time. All the guys in the band know where the stops are, which always come out of nowhere when you've been grooving for 15 minutes. I go to Morocco on June 22nd, and while I'm there hope to find some nice drums, a douf in particular. It's going to be a great time, I've dreamed of going there forever. Until then I want play with these guys every day.
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
It was so nice to go to sharm. I came back day before yesterday at night, after 5 great days on the beach. We had a nice bus hired for us, and got there last wednesday night. Each year, these two brothers that live out there throw a big birthday party at this private beach club, and had hired us to play for the party. The band was guitar, bass and drums, and another guitarist and saxophonist joined us there. We spent the day on the beach, did the soundcheck in the afternoon, and then went home to get ready to come back for the gig. The party was a lot of fun and the place was packed, and everybody seemed to enjoy it. The next day the other guys in the band went back, but me and my friend Hamada, who's Egyptian but raised in Minnesota (almost as random as being Spanish raised in Indiana), who had tagged along for the trip, stayed until sunday. Did a little snorkeling, swam, got sunburned, hung out more at the beach club, since we had sort of VIP status for playing there. I've stayed in contact with the owner, who had talked to another guy in the band about playing there again in a week, which would be great to get to go right back out there. As of now, that's not confirmed, but inshallah we'll be on beach again very soon.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
So in the last week I've gotten food poisoning and a car accident, been to a farming village in the nile delta and hung out with a grammy-winning record producer. I was in the village all day monday, and when I came back I called him up and he was at a concert featuring various African groups, so I went and met him up. I had been up since 6 that morning, and I went to sleep maybe 6 or 7 the next morning. niiiiice. We got into the car wreck on the way up to the village, but no one was hurt in the slightest alhamdullilah. Today I'm going to Sharm el Sheikh, which is a resort town on the red sea, to play a gig with a little reggae band here. We're going for 3 days and it'll be great to get to the beach after two months in cairo. this village, which I went to two years ago, was nice and quiet, and I will go back sometime. apparently the people in the village, who are all farmers, had been asking about me for the past two years too. Egyptians do not forget.