Since its inception in 1982, la Fête de la Musique has been building cultural pathways between France and 120 different countries, uniting French artists with local artists, and bringing the latter back to France for residencies. Lucky for us, Egypt is one of those countries, and the French Institute of Egypt has been organizing the Cairo side of the festival for thirty years, giving exposure locally and internationally to talented artists that otherwise lack the support.
If you remember the Mounirat El Fan competition that the French Institute hosted in collaboration with Paris venue FGO Barbara a few months back, now you will see that it was a springboard to bring some new artists to the Fête de la Musique stage. The winners of the Mounirat El Fan competition were Ali Baghdady and Shereen Abdo, who will perform here on the 22nd at Al-Azhar park, and following their residency in Paris, they will perform at FGO Barbara in October.
Mounirat El Fan has given the winners a brilliant chance to fast forward their music careers. "I feel privileged and grateful, given that I hadn't really launched my musical project yet, so to have the opportunity to upgrade my performance as well as being exposed to much larger audiences, both locally and internationally feels like a gift," says Baghdady. Furthermore, it fills a gap in Cairo, "because these kinds of competitions are not usually held in Cairo for underground music, and if so it's usually held online and isn't fair. I felt it was very fair in Mounirat El Fan," says Shereen Abdo.
Ali Baghdady mixes oud with effects, electronic beats, and gruff vocals for an experimental take on Egyptian composition. Shereen Abdo is a singer/songwriter with a robust but suave voice. Recently, they did a workshop with legendary Cairo musician Fathy Salama. When asked what he took away from the experience, Baghdady noted that Salama gave him valuable piano pointers, and tips for arranging harmonies. Abdo is no stranger to the musical intuition of Salama, as he has been a mentor of hers for eight years. That said, she says that every time they meet, he adds something new to her music. "It has been very enlightening, Fathy is a genius. He is a really big thing, you know."
For Abdo and Baghdady, this show at Al-Azhar park will likely be a turning point. When asked how he's feeling about it, Baghdady replies "I have never played before in front of such a large audience, let alone an audience that doesn't yet know my music. I'm having a bit of an adrenaline rush." Abdo is a bit anxious, but "I'm doing my best along with the band to make the most of it because it will be huge exposure, because we don't get to play at many big events. It's once or twice a season."
Joining them at Azhar park will be local stars Hawas, French oriental rock band Al-Qasar, and French electronic duo Acid Arab.
We are looking forward to the chance to get together and enjoy this amazing lineup of local and international talent, and simply celebrate music. "This can have a positive effect on the collective psyche," says Baghdady.
Don't miss the event, Friday June 22nd, at Al-Azhar park.
Find out more about the event here.
Follow the French Institute on Facebook.
Follow Ali Baghdady on SoundCloud.
Follow Shereen Abdo on SoundCloud.