Jazz in Egypt, a human experience

The Cairo Jazz Festival
Ati Metwaly, Ahram online, 20 Mar 2013

The Cairo Jazz Festival, which will run between 21 and 23 March, was founded in 2009 by Amro Salah, a pianist and founder of Eftikasat, a prominent Egyptian jazz band.
In the festival’s first year, Salah was partnered by jazz vocalist Ahmed Harfoush and Eftikasat bass guitarist Samer George, but he now works alone with “friendly support” from his former colleagues.
Salah started AGWA Productions, which he uses as base for organising the festival, hosting a growing number of local and international artists at El Sawy Culturewheel. This year, however, the festival has moved to other locations in Cairo: mainly Darb 1718 and Al-Azhar Park.


To Salah, Cairo Jazz Festival is a cultural event aiming to bring jazz closer to audiences, improve perceptions about jazz and educate people about the genre.
“Jazz is still misunderstood by many,” Salah explains. “Contrary to what many people think, it’s not a difficult music. Jazz is a special kind of art; it was always a philosophy before being music. This is the essence of jazz.
Salah goes on to explain that jazz is a very “elastic” term. “Many people are afraid of jazz, but they do not realise that it has many styles. Jazz hides many sub-genres inside it and has many colours, which are expressed at this year’s line-up.”

In its fifth year, Cairo Jazz Festival is expanding, but the growth can be challenging. Foreign cultural organisations in Egypt have extended their support, but official Egyptian institutions have not.
“And when it comes to the corporations, they prefer to allocate their funds to activities where they can customise the event for their own benefit. Most corporations look for a specific niche and apparently the Jazz Festival is not their priority.”


Cairo Jazz Festival 2013

Eftekasat at Cairo Jazz Festival 2011


A human experience

Jazz has become a global phenomena and has affected humanity due to its being a human experience rather than a music genre. Cairo Jazz Festival aims to widespread the mission of Jazz to reach more people. Amro Salah, Director, CJF



Eftekasat Band – Mouled Sidi El-Latini

Eftekasat, Bansko Jazz Festival 2010

Eftekasat is an Egyptian term that means to make something up. In a positive context, it inspires notions of innovation, but in a negative context it means to do something in a clumsy, ham-fisted way. The dichotomy of the word perfectly exemplifies this band’s disposition.
Eftekasat is a six-member band at the forefront of the thriving local music scene. Led by Amro Salah, the band plays a blend of oriental jazz melodies infused with progressive rock to pitch-perfect precision. Eftekasat made their international debut in 2004 at the 4th Bansko International Jazz Festival in Bansko, Bulgaria.

Bridging a gap between cultures
Egypt Independent, 16/03/2010

Amr Salah, sitting perfectly still with eyes closed, concentrating before the performance, told Al-Masry Al-Youm the story of his band.
“I started playing the piano at the age of six, under the close scrutiny and constant supervision of my mother, who is a piano teacher,” Salah said. The sensitive pianist was immersed in music his whole life but really only started playing full time the day he joined pharmaceutical school.
“It’s no wonder that I chose to study a subject close to chemistry, because I always loved mixing things together and observing the result,” said Salah. His passion for fusion and daring musical blends are clear in his composition, as if he is trying to bridging a gap between cultures through the sensibility of a harmony.




Ibrahim Maalouf
Will Soon Be A Woman

Ibrahim Maalouf is a trumpeter who is also a composer and arranger for trumpet. He also teaches trumpet. He was born on December 5, 1980 in Beirut, Lebanon, but now lives in France.
His family fled Lebanon in the midst of a civil war and Ibrahim grew up in the Paris suburbs with both parents and his sister Layla.
He began to study the trumpet at age 7 with his father Nassim Maalouf, a former student of Maurice André at the National Conservatory in Paris. His father taught him the classical technique, early music, modern, contemporary and also classical Arabic music and the Arab art of improvisation.

Ibrahim Maalouf: Will Soon Be A Woman

Inspired by Arab artists Oum Kalsoum and Fairuz, composers Mahler and Mozart and classic jazz musicians Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, he released his first studio album, Diasporas, through his own Mi’ster label in 2007, and followed it up with Diachronism in 2009, and Diagnostic in 2011.
Maalouf was also the subject of Christophe Trahand’s film, Souffle! (Blow), which documented his relationship with his homeland.

Complete openness

The genius of his musical approach is its complete openness. It can start with an aggressive rock sound to end in trippy vibes, veer from vintage bop to arabic melodies, it even steers towards afro-cuban at times via Beyrouth.
In a nutshell, it’s the kind that breaks down the walls and picks the best from each influence to rebuild something unique.

Beyond the music itself, what made this concert exceptional is Ibrahim Maalouf’s humanity and humility. His way of retelling the context of his composition ‘Beyrouth’, the childish smile on his face when the audience sings the melody to ‘Will Soon Be a Woman’, the jubilation when he joins his acolyte Youenn Lecam (flute, trumpet and bagpipes) behind the horn stand when Frank Woeste takes a Fender solo or François Delporte wails on guitar…
The band should be commended. (Review: Ibrahim Maalouf Concert)




Baby It’s Cold Outside
Muslim Brotherhood & Jazz
US Today, Religion News Service

Is the jazz standard Baby It’s Cold Outside a heart-warming ode to winter romance or the worst example of American hedonism?
After hearing the song at a Colorado church dance in the 1940s, Egyptian exchange student Sayyid Qutb viewed the song as a moral indictment of the West — views that some say could now shape the future of Egypt. After returning to Egypt, Qutb emerged as the intellectual godfather of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.


Dean Martin: Baby it’s cold outside

Cee Lo Green: Baby It’s Cold Outside

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