While singers like Tamer Hosny and Moustafa Amar are crossing over from music to film, one lone salmon makes his way against the currents into the music industry. The end of last week marked film star Ahmed El-Fishawy’s debut rap concert at Sawy Culture Wheel. The move from acting to rapping is unprecedented in Egyptian entertainment history, but the result nevertheless was as lukewarm as Hosny and Amar’s abysmal cinematic efforts
After waiting a few minutes for the concert to start in the River Hall, a figure appeared on stage that could’ve easily been mistaken for Rocky Balboa had he been slightly shorter and less goofy. Ahmed El-Fishawy ascended the stage, dressed in a track suit and sporting a hat stolen from Stallone’s 70s wardrobe.
“Are you ready Cairo? shouted El-Fishawy on the microphone, but no amount of screaming could have prepared Cairo for what was to come.
The first song of the evening with a joint duet between DJ Fido and El-Fishawy “is called King of Sorrow, which is a sad song, as El-Fishawy put it. The song unevenly blended English and Arabic lyrics for no apparent reason.
The first conundrum that strikes you is why the majority of the set list continued to adhere to a formula that frankly didn’t seem to work. The saddest thing however was that DJ Fido couldn’t carry a tune; a feat he brazenly illustrated time and time again.
DJ Fido and El-Fishawy were just warming up, and soon, the pair were joined by the latter’s band, The Pharaohz. Together, the impact left by the bunch was akin to nuclear explosion; lethal and incurable.
The band obviously had a variety of objectives behind their arsenal of tunes, chief among them were to explore the world of relationships in addition to offering for the first time in the genre’s history an apology for profanity by including staggering lines such as “excuse my language. The vocals were over-amplified and, to add insult to the injury, members of the band decided to sing in unison, rendering their barely comprehensible slapdash blabbering akin to a random demonstration in an Egyptian local bakery.
Ayman El-Khayat of the band Deep Fish was yet another guest performer, though he would have saved face had he stuck to the sound of his band that night. Upon appearing on stage, El-Khayat said that he would “sing a song for the guys and a song for the girls. Enlightening explanations seemed to be the prevailing characteristic of the evening as El-Khayat further explained, “The next song I’m going to sing is about war, it’s called ‘War.’
The main problem with the gig was not so much that the performances were tasteless, chaotic and mostly pointless; it’s that the show had no continuity and no clear purpose alternating between the absurd and fortune-cookie wisdom about politics and Palestine.
El-Fishawy highlighted the interesting history of the band. It started when El-Fishawy was 13 and the name underwent a series of life-altering metamorphosis. It started out as E-Thugs, Ghetto Pharaohz before the band finally settled on The Pharaohz.
El-Fishawy explains that he started to rap in Arabic after overhearing the flows of Ayman El-Khayat.
It appears that El-Fishawy’s mindset hasn’t grown much since then. The songs retain the same spirit of juvenilia and are mostly about whiney superficial issues barely delving into anything original or profound and failing when attempting to do so.
In fact, the whole concert resembled a birthday party celebrated by close family members such as his “godfather Mahmoud Hemeida and mommy Somaya El Alfy whose presence we were made aware of repeatedly during the course of the gig.
But why shouldn’t it be an overgrown children’s party while the audience was waiting for an excuse to chant nonsense. They alternated between chanting “Fisho! Fisho, “Palestine! Palestine! and, my personal favorite, El-Fishawy screaming “the and the crowd responding “Pharaohz.
The sole saving grace of the show was Palestinian outfit DAM, the first rap band in the Middle East, who delivered an electrifying short repertoire. Their stage presence was energetic and their interaction with the audience upped the tempo of the concert. Their songs tackle various political and social issues on the mind of every Palestinian. The song “Meen Erhaby (Who’s the Terrorist) in particular brimmed with understandably sentimental rage fired like machinegun with every uttered word.
In a short poem, Tamer, a member of the band, intensified his attack, with lines such as “Israel is wasting their expensive bullets killing Palestinians when Fatah and Hamas were doing the same job for free.
Despite the small hope offered by DAM, all attempts were quickly doomed as El-Fishawy and his chums returned to the stage.
Towards the end of the show, as the crowds chanted “Fisho! Fisho! El-Fishawy attempted to look serious, calmed them down and said, “Forget about Fisho now, we’re talking politics. He went on to perform a song entitled “Lazem Tethada (You Must Rise to the Challenge); a laughably naïve critique of the brainwashing western media filled with every cliché in the book. Apparently, the song was meant to be inspirational.
El-Fishawy’s first major performance marked two of the longest hours of my life and while I probably ought to be grateful for having lived so long, I’m still unable to shake off the agonizing bitter aftertaste the concert left me with.