Backstage Productions brings artists front and center

Deena Douara
5 Min Read

Art and media marketing and production house Kawalis revamps Egypt s music scene

If you asked Egyptian youth 10 years ago about the music scene in Egypt, they likely would have mentioned Amr Diab, alongside cover bands emulating Metallica and Pink Floyd. If you asked them 5 years ago, they may have replied Amr Diab or Nawal El-Zhoghby. Just a few years later though, after new venues such as El- Sawy Culture Center and Al-Azhar Park started attracting larger audiences, more underground Egyptian artists emerge alongside the traditional pop icons of video clips and Pepsi and Coca-Cola ads.

Kawalis, or Backstage Productions is a multi-purpose art and media marketing and production house organizing what was once considered ack, (chaotic or messy). The company was developed by ambitious Fahd El-Gammal, 22, and Ahmed Selim, 23, to support and widen the base for this burgeoning arts culture, getting the art to the masses.

According to Selim, arts have long been misunderstood in Egypt as being only for cultured people, which is not the case. At the same time, he feels that artists are not respected as they should be and that they are perceived as people who can t find work.

The problem is not with the artists, it s that people don t know what it means.

Kawalis have several ways of broadening artists exposures. In the works is a CD-magazine combination that will promote 5 different Egyptian musicians each month, and will include a graphically designed magazine for the bands expressions.

The first production of Kawalis-Misr, set to be released in November, will feature favorites Wust El-Balad, Flamenca, Step by Step, Ayamna El-Helwa, and Eskenderella. Later the company plans to also release a more Western-inspired CD.

For fans of Grammy-winning Egyptian Fathy Salama, the team s greatest accomplishment will be if they are able to win the rights to release Salama s music in Egypt, an undertaking they are currently competing for.

Selim holds high respect for individuals and treats each project on an individual needs basis. Not every communication path works for each band. Selim uses the term communication to describe the relationship between an artist and audience. He claims that different bands need different performance frequencies, different venues, etc. It is their job to look for the best fit for each band.

The production house has also successfully worked with The Visionaries Adam and Micho on 2 films. Organizers were so impressed with the film that they chose it for the opening night of El-Sawy Film Festival. Again, a combination of street-savvy and human relationships allowed them to produce the short for just LE 75. In the creative process, the most important thing is the person, not machines.

With regards to how the two find the artists they work with, Selim says they just stumble upon them. Kawalis will give anyone a chance but they do have standards.

While they don t necessarily have to like what they hear (in terms of musicians), they do look for originality, quality of music, synchronization, and identity. Even if the band has problems, Selim says they try to work with the artists and give support until they can reach a certain level.

Far from being a purely business venture, Media Director and co-founder Ahmed Selim considers himself a businessman who understands what an artist feels like. Perhaps this is because both founders were themselves musicians.

All of this has been accomplished in an impressively short amount of time: The company, after 4 years of dreaming and experience-building, only became official months ago, and just hired their staff beginning 3 weeks ago.

So what happens when Kawalis popularizes underground artists?

That s not a problem. . . There will always be underground artists replacing the old underground artists say Selim. And hopefully, Kawalis will keep making sure we find out about them.

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