Friday, September 18, 2009

Last evening, after an unspectacular meal at Zamalek's La Bodega (with which I had previously been quite impressed), I went with Phil, Marise, and Michelle to El-Sawy Culturewheel to see Wust el-Balad in concert. The venue is right along side the Nile and is small enough to be cozy but large enough to allow the acts to turn a profit. Now, I must preface my description by saying that I am one of those unfortunate souls who is generally unable to enjoy live music. I know my preference for polished, iPod-ready tunes makes me boorish and unsophisticated, alas. Anyway, the performance started out in true Egyptian fashion, that is to say, over an hour late. The people-watching and the company of my friends were enough to keep me occupied in the mean time. The crowd was mostly Egyptian, the young among them came primarily from that segment of society that loves knock-off Abercrombie and tees splattered with nonsensical English. Hijab-wearing girls sat next to unveiled friends sporting SpongeBob SquarePants paraphernalia. Wholesome-looking families were there too with plump children who enjoyed the music with greater vigor than most.
Before the band played, they were introduced by a man who, Marise tells me, suggested that the upcoming 'Eid holiday is not a time for air horns and firecrackers but for the appreciation of music. Parents were told that the idea of delighting in scaring adults with loud noises instilled in children a terrorist mentality. While I don't think firecrackers are at the root of terrorism, I do think the man should go on a lecture circuit touting the benefits of peace and quiet or at least of nicer noises than car horns and screaming.
Nicer noises like the (Middle) East-meets-West stylings of Wust el-Balad. To my untrained ears, about half the songs sounded like "Hotel California" as they started out except when they sounded vaguely Caribbean. The crowd favorite was "Antika", a song about how after a woman captures a man's heart, she keeps it on her shelf like a knick-knack or an antique leaving him beholden to her forever...or something like that. You'll have to find your own translator if want to truly sympathize with the lyrics of love and heartbreak. My personal translations were drowned out by off-tempo clapping and general enthusiasm together with the crackling of the sound system and the admittedly mellifluous voices of the band. Click below to hear "Antika".

All in all, the Nileside concert was a fun cultural experience. I hope to get back to Culturewheel again if my thesis-angst and swine flu don't do me in.

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