Last January, Cloud 9 brought us a combination that seems too good to be true: a promising line-up of some of our best local musicians, set against the perfect serenity of a Nuweiba beach camp. This September, Cloud 9 is back and it's even better...
It seems as though, all of a sudden, the culturally refined and musically inclined of Cairo’s esoteric bohemians woke up to the fact that, just a drive away, we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, that can host (and in the future maybe rival) the kinds of arts and music festivals fervently gawked at in the West. It’s not just about those who can tell their deep chakras from their Deepak Chopra or Post-Rock from Post-Punk; more and more people are looking for a different way to spend summer rather than the same faces, places and parties that blight our nightlife scene. We have the talent, the interest and the infrastructure to make it happen, but it just has to start somewhere.
In 1986, Larry Harvey met with a couple of friends on a beach in San Francisco. They listened to some tunes and burned a wooden effigy as an act of “radical self-expression.” That little get-together became Burning Man, the infamous festival renowned today as a utopia for free thinkers, boasting an astonishing array of alternative concerts, DJ sets, rituals, sculptures and performance art that gathered nearly 70,000 people from all over the world last year.
A couple of years ago a few friends got together in Sinai for a holiday. Amongst them was an eclectic array of musicians who jammed away until the wee hours, surrounded by the stunning natural landscape and feel-good vibes. From this came the birth of the Cloud 9 Festival, launched in January of this year. Conceptualised by Mostafa Mansour and Mahmoud Sedky, it is one of the first festivals of its kind in Egypt where 150 people were cosied up on the serene shores of Nuweiba and, for three days and three nights, savoured an unprecedented line-up of Egypt’s best underground musicians, art workshops, yoga and more.
The second edition of Cloud 9 will take place from September 4th-6th at Maagana Beach Camp in Nuweiba. Of course we're yet to see whether one day it will reach the massive popularity of a Burning Man, but from the accounts of events last time around it seems it’s off to a good start. “The music never stopped,” Yahia El Saady tells us, who attended the festival last year and has become part of the organisational team this time around. “The festival introduced people to music they’re not used to hearing in the mainstream, and even when the concerts were finished everyone brought instruments and there was jamming 24/7. The atmosphere was amazing… you could just sit down with anyone there and be happy in their company.”
This year around the line-up of performing artists is even bigger and better. “From the last festival we mainly learned that we need to keep the focus on the music,” Lameece Gasser, another member of the organisational team, tells us. “We are here to provide aspiring underground bands with the space to show their true genius to an audience who is genuinely interested in this kind of music.”
22 artists have been announced with a focus on Cairo’s burgeoning Post-Rock, Indie and Ambient scenes and then a spattering of Egypt's Electronic music stars. Panstarrs and Living Too Late, both fresh off two fantastic album releases this year, will be on hand to have you thoroughly gazing at your shebsheb in a sea of melancholia, as well as a debut from Sue’s Last Ride and Object Obscure, who created the score to this year's popular independent film Villa 69.
Indie Folk artist, and one of Rolling Stone Middle East’s artists to watch out for, Adam Awad will be on the Cloud 9 stage, and Ahmed Safi, formerly of High on Body Fat fame, will be performing his Funk and Rock Arabic solo material.
The eccentric Japanese/Canadian/Bermudian Taylor Rankin will blow you away with his trusty side-kick Leroy the violin and a set flowing from Reggae to Soul to Fusion. Egypt's own smokey Blues Tom Waits cover band Raindogs will be on show, as well as Experimental/Indie-Rock outfit Portrait Avenue from Alexandria, infused with Belal Mohammed Ali’s flittering falsetto.
Expect a first live performance from Mustapha Ayman AKA Deciphering Stars, who can’t wait to get the show on the road. “I’m really looking forward to being over there. The surroundings are altogether majestic and spectacular, and given that this project has an element of shoe-gaze to it, I guess it should go perfectly with the atmosphere there.”
When you’re done shoe-gazing, lay back and do some star-gazing with a sonic trip through the universe, courtesy of Stagnant Nebula, and the wondrous ambient tunes of Mohamed El-Samad, AKA Somemud, who also performed at the first Cloud 9 festival.
“It was an eye-opening and inspirational experience, getting to meet similar underground musicians with similar mentalities and approaches and taking a step forward into performing our work live. It was definitely a gateway into widening the range of connections, opening new circles of friends and a trip I for one was honoured to be part of,” El-Samad tells us.
The Chicken Came First, bringing a wall of alternative noise and Post-Rock lushness. Plus, there’ll be a new round of artists to perform which will be announced soon.
“There is so much potential in the current post-rock, indie-rock and ambient music scene in Egypt,” Lameece Gasser explains. “This is why we want to give them the opportunity to evolve as a genre.”
Cairo's KIK collective will also be invading with their full troop of Electronic innovators $$$TAG$$$, N/A\A, Hussein Sherbini, Ismail Hosny, Bosaina and Zuli whose sounds range from Techno, to Post-Dub to Hip-Hop and everything in between.
With the lack of independent venues in Cairo to host Pthe huge array of emerging musicians looking for a stage, it is festivals like these that create a tidal wave surrounding a sound that epitomises the zeitgeist of a subculture. It’s a sentiment echoed by Gasser; “The underground music scene has been growing, especially lately, but only a few bands and artists have the opportunity to present their work to a diverse audience.”
"Festivals like Cloud 9 make the underground music scene more accessible to the public, but also make it more challenging and rewarding. It also provides artists with an exclusive opportunity of building a real connection with their audience, getting to know their taste, and understanding what they like about their music and what else they would like to see by the artist.”
Aside from the music, Cloud 9 will also play host to a workshops going on throughout the festival, from capoeira and yoga to arts and crafts.
Tickets are for 920 EGP, which include access to all shows and workshops, accommodation for three nights in a beach hut, and three breakfasts and dinners with food coupons. If you want to include transportation to and from the festival, the price will be 1000 EGP.
300 people are expect to descend on the stunning Maagana Beach Camp, one of the first camps that were settled on the coast between Nuweiba and Taba in the early nineties. “[It's] a place of beautiful nature and true serenity,” according to Gasser. “There is no other place that fits the music atmosphere better than Nuweiba. Everything about it makes sense, the beach, the mountains, the sunsets... It’s beauty all around.”
Wristband tickets for Cloud 9 are now available for sale at www.ExperienceCloud9.com/GetYourTickets. Once reserved check your e-mail for a confirmation with details about how to pick up your ticket and make the payment, and then activate your wrist band at www.ExperienceCloud9.com/Activation.
For more on Cloud 9 visit their fanpage here.