Friday, August 08, 2003

Jazz is not something that people immediately associate with Egypt. In fact, most people have never heard Egyptian music and it is an acquired taste somewhat. Traditional Egyptian music is written on a different musical scale from Western music and is usually based on poetry in Arabic. Once you get your ear tuned into the music, it fits the landscape well.

Last night a Dutch friend of mine who's also been living in Egypt for about 20 years and I went to a downtown restaurant/club with our daughters, one of my son's Egyptian friends, a visiting American, and one of my Sudanese nieces. The music was live and performed by a group of young Egyptian men on base, guitar, drums (local variety of bongo called tabla) and voice. Some of the songs were based on old traditional poetry...I didn't recognise it but the kids did. It was unlike anything that I've heard before (I'm an old jazz fan) but very beautiful. Sometimes the vocal was a call across the desert and in other numbers, it was a laugh among friends. Many of the rhythmns were those of the Middle East and people dancing to the music blended western dancing with the traditional dancing that most visitors only see in a belly dancing performance. Watching girls in jeans and tshirts shimmy and twist to the drum beat was quite something.

When I first moved to Egypt there was a group of women who got together for belly dancing twice a week. The lessons were at my place for about a year or so because I had a villa with an oversized living room that was perfect for this. The fun part of dancing is that different parts of the body dance to different instruments, like the hips dance to the tabla, the hands to the flute, the shoulders to the violins or guitars. Not so easy to learn but so much fun to do. And I appreciate good dancing even more for understanding a bit about it.

Next week the outside theatre at the Cairo Opera House has a performance of another of Egypt's jazz musicians, Fathy Salama. Fathy became friends with my late husband when he was playing with his group in Sharm el Sheikh years ago, and I've been to a number of his performances. I don't want to miss this one as he has a band now that is made up of Egyptian, Senagalese, Brazilian and even a European. Should be fun.

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