CAIRO: In the midst of the current sad state the local music scene seems to be mired in, due to new, unskilled singers and composers – there are few that can be labeled as true artists. Wagih Aziz, a 44-year-old singer and musician, is one of those few who prioritize music over fame.
Aziz, whose outspoken views concerning historic and current figures within the music industry have stirred controversy, started his obsession with music at the age of 10 in his native town of Beni Sueif. “I started learning how to play oud when I was 10 years old at home [with] a private tutor. My family thought that I was just a kid so they encouraged me, but when they realized it would be my career they objected it and they are still objecting it, says Aziz.
Aziz, however, persisted, and it ultimately paid off; his name is now continuously associated with other leading figures within the entertainment industry. Whether it is composing songs for Mohamed Mounir, making a soundtrack for internationally acclaimed director Yousry Nasrallah or writing music for quality plays, Aziz has done it all.
After graduating from the faculty of commerce, Aziz moved to Cairo in 1986 and had his first hit “El Shams Kanet Hamya (The Sun Was Hot). Aziz then composed the music for many plays, starting in 1988 with Karawan El Fan (The Art’s Nightingale) – the play was based on the poetry of the late Fouad Haddad, the writer of Aziz’s latest play El Fan Sas (Art Ruled -2005).
Aziz has also dabbled in the cinema industry, having composed the music for Ahmed Zaki’s Hysteria and Nasrallah’s El Madina (The City).
On the much criticized musical front, Aziz is also working with greats. He is credited for composing a number of Mounir’s hits: “Momken (I Can), “Men Awel Lamsa (First ouch) and most lately “Edaya Fi Giouby (My Hands in my Pocket).
As a singer, Aziz is better known among the more avid music fan, rather than the pop fan. Currently, he is preparing his third album – he had previously released Bellil (At Night) and Za’lan Showaya (A Bit Sad).
Written by poet Ali Salama, the upcoming album Na’es Hetta (Missing a Part) is expected to hit the stands in a few months.
Aziz is famous for the amount of diversity apparent in his lyrics, as opposed to simply focusing on mundane love songs, as most singers do. “Making art from the different human emotions is a joy, so I am trying to enjoy every single emotion, not just being in love, he says.
As his career suggests, fame is not high on his agenda, as Aziz only welcomes it if it does not impose restrictions on his art. “Who hates money and fame? he explains. “We all like them but they are not my ambition. If a producer offers me money to make good art, why should I refuse? The problem is producers have their own calculations which are not always in the best interest of art.
“When you see a singer alone with a producer you should expect an accident. The singer wants to sing and the producer needs money. So, they arrange the songs of the album before they even make them, a song for young people, a song for wedding parties…
For Aziz, major production companies have replaced kingdoms. He explains that in the past, singers were obliged to sing for their king in order to save themselves from inferiority imposed upon them by society – the choice was between the royal palace and prison.
“But now singers are stars, so why should they be slaves for the producers? I have seen singers singing for the giant producing company Rotana. Isn’t this the same as singing for the king? he asks? “Don’t expect art from humiliated people.
Aziz isn’t only critical of the current music scene; in fact, his views about historic musical figures have spurred controversy. “I think Abdel Wahab was the reason for many musical steals. When anybody steals a melody from any musical piece he has a good excuse: The genius Abdel Wahab did it before.
For Aziz, the “real genius musicians were Sayyed Darwish and Balegh Hamdy in Egypt and the Al Rahbani brothers in Lebanon.
It is now, however, all criticism; he sees many talented players in the field – his favorites are Mohamed Refaie and Sherine.
To maintain their talents, Aziz advises artists to keep a number of professionals close. “First, a good writer who shares his thoughts and experiments with the singer; also an art producer who doesn’t look for 10-fold profit from the album (the song costs not less then LE 60,000 so the album needs at least LE 500,000, thus the producer is necessary). At last, there should be a prominent journalist to support them and to evaluate their work.