In the last round before the semi-finals, let's just say that with all the musical geniuses we've witnessed in the past weeks, and the ones who will be killing it this weekend, this is the first time we've ever dreaded a battle nearing its end.
We can't believe this is already the last stage before the semifinals stage of Battle of the Bands. Luckily, it was through it that we were assured that this country is still infused and brimming with music, arts and all that makes life beautiful. So, before the semi-finals kick in, please remember, remember, the 2nd of September! This is when the last round will be taking place, featuring Egypt's craziest band, Sharmoofers, at El Horreya Gardens, Zamalek. Now we're losing count of the reasons of why we'd want to go – but, we have three more for you:
Guys in their twenties usually opt for the option of being in rock bands for fame and groupies – but not Code Masr who infuse lively music that speaks about their condition and reflects their identity-driven name. They met each other through Egypt's underground blossoming season for all that's musical and revolutionary artsy in 2011. Since they've met and formed, there were some changes in members, but also changes and developments in their musical style, as well as seeking to meet the right people who can help them professionally. Undoubtedly, they told us that "Participating in Battle of the Bands, was part of our professional growth – seeking dedicated and passionate people who want to organise and sponsor young musicians and provide them with exposure and outreach to more audience." At the end, they say that with all this technical stuff that comes with being in a band, making music is what makes them feel happy, because it is the greatest form of self-expression.
We thought it was hard to find a charming rock band until we met these guys. Without having to speak to them, the interaction between the members – lead vocalist Mohammed Emam,32, guitarists Youssef Wasef,22, and Mohammed Bahaa,21, drummer Karim Emad,21, and bassist Mohammed Gaber,21, – instantly reflected their passion for making music. The oldest member, 32-year-old Emam, showed up in a Guns N' Roses t-shirt, which told us a lot about the type of music he loves, but with the rest of the band being in the early twenties their music vary. According to Gaber, the youngest member "All of us have different musical influences, and we bring that into our band, and it's reflected in our music."
The emerging rockers met at different stages – no pun intended. First, Emad tells us, "I met Youssef by coincidence, and we would jam together. Then, we just went from there." Then, they laughed when they were asked about how they decided to apply for the Battle of the Bands. That fateful day, Emad had an emergency at home, so they went to the Freedom Van with no drummer – a bit disastrous for a rock band, no? They used a drumming machine, played awfully, and they knew they had failed. But, Bahaa, the critically acclaimed saviour of the band, went on a secret mission and sent a video of a performance they had recorded not too long ago. They actually got a callback, and were chosen among the 40 finalists!
They concluded by telling us, "In the beginning, being part of the Battle is about having fun while playing your music," which of course is a significant aspect, however, they added, "Then, it became clear that there are actual audience that would like to listen to your music and appreciate it." We're glad they're balancing between the professional and personal because that's undoubtedly the best formula for making any sort of original and groundbreaking art.
With a name like Irtjal (meaning improvisation, or freestyle), you know that Mohamed 'Mamo' Ashraf, 23, Noureldeen, 22, Ali Khattab, 23, and Hashem Raafat, 24, must be a heck of an articulate group of guys. The four musicians met at an international student organisation called ISLC, and later, two of the members started jamming and making music together. When they decided to up their game and go to a studio, they improvised their way through a jam session giving birth to Irtjal. Not only is it the name of the band, but also the title of the first song that they improvised during their first concert. The reason they chose to participate in Battle of the Bands is quite simple, actually: a sponsored ad caught their eye, and they signed up. But, they didn't let us go with a story that basic. So, here's the gossip: apparently, "Noureldeen was just on his bike, and he called us and to tell us that his life is falling apart and that the only thing that would keep it together is having music as an integral part of his life," says Khattab – so, we're guessing they signed up to save their buddy from misery.
They filmed a video in their studio session as part of their application, and admittedly, it was really bad – so, they didn't expect to hear back. When they heard that the studio truck was coming to Rehab City, they followed it around like stalkers they hope to have one day after their success, but with a car packed with instruments. Of course, that plan only succeeds in Hollywood, and since we're in Cairo, they just gave up. But, they called them! And though they thought it was a prank at first, they actually were given the good news of making it to the top 40.
Irtjal believes that Egypt's music scene doesn't generate new artists as much as it should, considering the political and social changes we're living day in and day out. They compare the phenomena of emerging talents with Lebanon, Jordan, and Morocco, "There are bands such as Jadal and Mashrou' Leila, who sing songs full of expression, straight from the heart – and that's where you find the essence of culture. But in Egypt, there are evident forms of repression when it comes to manifesting emotions and feelings, and no way of channelling that energy out. And that's when Battle of the Bands comes in." They call the competition "a glorious opportunity for emerging bands and artists," and an even greater chance for discovering talents and shedding light on their artistry, instead of sinking into the background, and becoming just another corporate slave. That is one dark thought, but, we get the point. As for their stardom, they say their life hasn't changed – we say that's good news - and that they still have koshari, which is the meal they have when they are spewing a master plan on how to win Battle of the Bands.
You can find out more about the event here.
Photography by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.