For those of us who have lived abroad, one of the wonderful sights to see was that of the street musicians performing with all kinds of instruments in the street. Whether it’s the brave drummer, fighting the cold by playing some beats near downtown Toronto's Union Subway, or the saxophone player spreading jazzy magic around the ice skaters of Nathan Philips Square, the feel of music diffusing into public space is indeed one of life’s little pleasures. But, Cairenes, be not upset!
In a truly innovative initiative (that is also for a good cause), Pick A Street will be bringing more than 30 Egyptian artists from all over the country to perform in different parts of Egyptian streets, all while raising awareness and collecting donations for those with hearing disabilities. Three artists will be performing in three places simultaneously each time. Determined to take some action against the hearing condition preventing people from indulging in one of the most important elements of human life - music - Pick A Street will be collecting donations for the cause through its street performances.
Pick A Street is the offspring of events company R Productions, which is partnering up with Waslet Kheir - a subsidiary of El Orman - that works with people affected with hearing problems in the aim of helping them regain their hearing.
Beginning March 24th and for four weeks, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, nine artists will be divided into three streets for those three days. The artists will include Osama El Hady, Shady Ahmed, Hany Mustafa, Malak el Husseiny and many others. During that time, people will have the chance to donate however much they want, contributing to a good cause affecting 16 percent of the local population. Pick A Street will be using donation cards (kart el kheir) to ensure the legality of the process and its smooth running. The card value begins at 5 LE and goes up to 100 LE, depending on how much you want to donate.
Hassan Ramzy, musician and founder of the Pick a Street initiative.
The feel-good fun does not end there, though. On the 16th of April, Pick A Street will be holding a huge concert at The GrEEK Campus, showcasing on-stage some of the best street-performing musicians. More than 20 artists will be rocking our world, including some city favourites such as Cairokee, Sharmoofers, and more, who will be making an appearance on stage.
Pick A Street organiser, musician and event manager Hassan Ramzy, tells me that the initiative emerges from his belief that there has been enough awareness about certain social phenomena in the country and that now it is time to take action. The musician sees that people constantly complain about the social problems in Egypt without necessarily having in mind solutions to counter them, and that now is the time to change that.
"Music has had a great impact on my life personally, as well as on the lives of others," Ramzy says. "This is why I am hoping to help make people hear the world again. This project is the starting step, which I am hoping would bring about great change." Ramzy says that it wasn’t difficult to get artists to participate and get in on the project. "The artists were very supportive and loved the idea of Pick A Street. They wanted to use music along with their talents in helping the people around them," he tells me.
"Music heals the soul," Ramzy adds. "It heals us human beings from anxiety and depression, and makes us feel happy. Music has existed in our lives since before we can remember, and even people living in forests used to make musical instruments out of what was around them in nature."
Osama El Hady, one of the artists participating in the Pick A Street initiative.
Of course, Ramzy does not expect Pick A Street to be everyone’s cup of tea. He expects there to be two kinds of reactions to the project, where some would be very receptive of the idea of the project and encourage it, while others would be skeptic about it. "I understand that some people might have a negative reaction to the project, especially if some people hold a mentality that resists change. On the other side, I am sure that art lovers and those who appreciate change are going to love Pick A Street," he says confidently.
Pick A Street is a project that Ramzy promises to expand outside of Egypt - around the Middle East, and then internationally - where artists would be performing internationally to raise donations for global issues, and introducing other forms of art such as dancing, arts, and freestyling. "All people want to do good," Ramzy believes, "so I wanted to bring the opportunity to people - passersby in the street, people smoking shisha in cafes - to do good and donate for a good cause."
Ramzy laments that the underground music scene in Egypt has not been given its fair chance, and hopes that Egyptians would make space for a great emerging underground music scene. He reminds us that the effect that an artist has on his or her society is closely related to the support that people give them.
There you go, busy Egyptians; an opportunity to do something good will be – literally - knocking on your door. So, take advantage of it and help make the lives of those around you better and more fulfilling.
You can check out their Facebook page here or follow them on Instagram @pickastreet.
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