Exploring Darb 1718 for the first time in his life, Kurt Galalah gives us the run down on last weekend's epic two-day event ahead of this Friday's eclectic line up.
Last weekend, I attended the Mawaweel Festival and was fascinated with its diversity of acts. Entertainment wasn’t just hitting me from one direction but EVERY direction. I’d never been to Darb 1718 before, so I was like a lost puppy in the area. I kid you not, on my way there I asked people questions like “Howa feen Darb alf sob3omeya we tamantashar?” before I found it. When I finally reached Darb’s cute square with my English flatmate, I was captivated by the stage that was built under the Tumblr-y Darb skull. While my attention was focused to stage and the sound check, I heard commotion in the form of a drum circle and zamameer behind, that seemed to be getting closer and closer. But it was no drum circle or zamameer; it was a Tanoora guy, which my flatmate thought was some kind of LGBT dance because of all the rainbow colours. It was beautiful.
The Tanoora ended and almost simultaneously, and a short film was being projected just beside the stage set-up. Mad Solution’s screening of Potato Lady captivated us with a simple film with a clear message: most people are oblivious to reality, and barely recognise change even if it’s staring at them right in the face. At least that's what I gathered. Also, I’d love two of her batates sandwiches, law sama7t.
Next it was time for some music. Hawidro started up and the multi-disciplined musicians were talented, knew how to play their instruments, and the vocals were top notch. After discussions with my flatmate, I found out Hawidro is word with roots in Nubian dialect meaning return. It was chosen as a name to express the need to return to the roots in music, and they DID. The band featured Egyptian and Nubian musicians, performing original works, inspired by Nubian, Moroccan, Algerian, and West African music, made complete with fresh voice of Zizo (fun fact: he’s Mohamed Mounir's nephew).
Tunisian songstress, Ghalia Benali, rocked the stage next (so we meet again ya Ghalia!) and she took a full house audience back to the golden age of Arabic classical music as she performed songs by Egyptian diva Um Kulthoum. Mixed with a modern day vibe, that left us in awe. Her voice is a nuanced, passionate alto, capable of intricate inflections and earthy vigor. Her melodies reach back to the hearty simplicity of folk songs; she uses the modes of Arabic classical music, but at times her improvisations also hint at Reggae, Japanese and Tibetan music. I couldn’t be happier to see her again.
The second day of Mawaweel wasn’t as packed as the first and finished way earlier (I left at two in the morning on day one). The festival though, was still superb. Sheikh Ahmed El-Agamy wowed everyone with his enchanting Sufi voice. Tahteeb came next, and for those who are not familiar with the term, it’s those Upper Egyptian cane dance where people fight with sticks whilst still strutting their stuff. Think Star Wars meets Step Up.
Before the last act came on stage, I explored Darb some more and found a store that sells konafa bel manga which, believe it or not, I haven’t tried before, and what a better way for me and my flatmate to lose our konafa bel manga-ginity than at Darb. It was gamda akher talat 7agat.
After my konafa experience, it wasn’t just my mouth that experienced some goodiness, my ears did as well, Oriental goodiness, to be precise as Ashara Gharby took over the stage with their unique fusion of music that sounded Egyptian and Caribbean at the same time. It made people go crazy, there were mosh pits. Well, an Egyptian mosh pit at the very least.
This Friday they've got another great line up in store for a big finale. The night kicks off with a short film by local director Ali Mostafa, screened by Mad Solutions. Next, you'll get a chance to catch the stage adaptation of renowned Egyptian novel Taxi, performed by the Thousand Tongues, before another twirling Tanoora. Finally, two back-to-back sets by Meshwar Band and Soot Fel Zahma will have you clapping along all night.
As for me? You’ll find me at the konafa bel manga stall.
Find out more about Mawaweel on the official Facebook page here.