tell me everything you know about music in cairo...


Beast of Burden
i'm going to cairo in july and am looking for places to go and check out good music, i'd like to check out some serious classical stuff but would also be very into going somewhere where people dance to plasticky super-poppy shaabi - the kind if stuff hesham abbas and all those dudes do. I'd like to know about places to buy music, names to look out for and all sorts of stuff. basically i want edumacating a bit before i go there. also if anyone has info on places to eat, that would be very cool too.


seeing as it seems we missed mangalising so far...
my first evening in cairo when i last visited 18 months ago i headed straight for old hussein district where you can find famous khan-el-khalili bazaar, instead of going to the market we headed into the neighbourhood behind hussein mosque and soon found a small cafe with music, families were on one side, gentlemen on the other, getting seated in the confined dusty space involved major rearrangements of people and furniture balancing hot cups of tea, but there was a full band including an impressive sized synth. 1st singer was a guy if i recall, but the second was an old lady dressed in traditional haara clothes who belted out a selection of golden oldies such as abdel halim's zay al-hawa and um kalthum's amal hayati that i knew from when i lived in egypt. she had one hand withered but blinged and was accompanied by a young girl who danced energetically for a couple of numbers, the mc did regular big ups & elicited bakshish & requests, it was a really charmingly classic evening of culture shock & though i didnt have a shisha a kindly old codger gave us sweeties

the scene in cairo seems to be about dj nightclubs & big pop nights where the international stars such as nancy, haifa, rashid, hisham etc play at luxury hotels for gulf tourists so maybe if you're lucky you can catch one, i get the feeling they make multipetrodollars on these blingy shows as cd & mp3 piracy seems endemic?'abi

a couple of nights before i left i checked out the al-leil nightclub out on sharia feisal on the way giza to to get my photo taken with shaaban. you can ask any taxi driver and they will know this famous dive but will probably be quite shocked that a foreigner like you does, apparently shaaban is there most nights. his rep is wellknown; despite being utterly reviled by the middle classes & unhindered by expulsion from the musicians union & so without official distribution, shaaban the former ironer has become renowned internationally as a sort of unspeakable antisemitic egyptian rab c nesbitt figure...

so we arrive about 11 on a random night & are first in - there's a low stage surrounded by tables set for dinner, we go for a seat up on the balcony to avoid any possibility of getting involved in bellydancing or public mischief
the music soon starts up and a few people begin to arrive, we receive a large platter of elaborately arranged fruits (included in the door, which was about $100 each on a rolling tab) the playlist and schedule for the night is uncertain, shaaban is famously unreliable, i read about a journo from al-ahram attempting to track him down in al-leil waiting 1/2 the night & him not showing, there were rumours that rico or hasaan alasmar might play
for the next 2-3 hours there was a cabaret succession of about 1/2 dozen unassuming oldschool type ensembles of increasing size up to big band, each crew with matching outfits, horns, strings, bongos, tiny cymbals, one band had a dancer, another had a group of fellahin with walking sticks, some of the bands had a uniformed member specifically to collect the bank notes that were flung sporadically at the performers, shady looking young women got up and danced listlessly,
the punters are doing shishas and bottles of black label, it's not rammed, few women, some camp young gulf tourists and some mixed groups of rich looking misri and khaliji people, next table to ours is a khaliji couple in dishdasha & full abaya who shared their mixed nuts with us

some time later the first big act (ie someone i heard of) came on, this was saad al-sgheir who i recognised from his raucous shaabi lyric and the manic naughtiness of his videos. saad's entourage was about twenty people including belly dancer & midget, they delivered an intense & frenetic high energy set including all his current hits, acrobatics, comedy, bank notes flying like confetti & masses of shout-outs including abuse for the khawaja on the balkona.

parading wildly around the stage saad starts shouting somebody to come down from the balcony... it's son of adawia! mohamed adawia has done a couple of albums and is on tv occasionally, his dad of course was the movie star hero of the shaabi scene back in the 80s and there are lurid tales of his rise & fall as a sort of street lothario, singing sleazy mawal and cheap pop blockbusters, which young mohamed was induced to medley - basically he looked a bit embarassed...but ran thru elah-da, zahma, shikshakshok & others, personally adawia the father has long been a favorite so this was thrilling for me, i got my photo with mohamed doing a big thumbs up, saad then wraps with a storming zay al-hawa & we settle in to wait & see if shaabolla turns up
he did at about 4 and ran thru his standards in regular shouty style, including notorious bikra israel, to tumultous applause, flowers and cash were flung copiously (possibly cash getting recycled for effect at this stage?) numerous stage invasions and spontaneous group dabke from the crowd, loads of photo ops with shaaban...
i got my photo with him after, he said youre not arab? in a very grumpy way & went off to carouse with the adawia crew round the balcony,
stunning night out