Like Jelly: A generation finding their voice

Heba El-Sherif
5 Min Read

Like Jelly’s performance last week at the Sawy Culture Wheel is a reflection of a generation finally finding their own voice: An expression of oppression and a hopeful aspiration to end it; a celebration of the joys of music and the art of performance; a celebration of a love for the country and a dire need for change.

Members of Like Jelly entertained an enthusiastic audience with a playful performance that mirrored their perception of present Egypt, its policies, politics, cities and people.

Through a combination of English and Arabic originals as well as covers, the talented four-member band left the audience mesmerized and uplifted.

The band kept part of their audience on the edge of their seats while the majority was jumping up and down, singing along to the top of their lungs throughout the two-hour performance.

The fluidity of the song list, the wit behind every tune, their naturally strong presence on stage and the dozens of fans that screamed the choruses along left this reviewer enamored with not just the music, but the bittersweet realities of Egypt, with every sense of the adjective.

Each original song tells a story about an experience, an emotion, an observation or an era. Whether you have spent most of your life in Egypt or just arrived recently, you’ll most definitely relate to the lyrics of Like Jelly.

“Stars of Aggression, “The Blessed Family and “Mesh ‘Ader (I Can’t Stand It) all brim with the overwhelming realities Egyptians face. While “The Blessed Family is a clever pun on key playmakers in the Egyptian government,

“Stars of Aggression is a call for “revolution and an outcry to “stand up to the stars of aggression. Arguably one of their most powerful songs, “Stars of Aggression is lyrically stark but piercing in its message.

“Peace in the Bay, “Cairo Baby and “Bedouin Sun are more on the love-songs end of the spectrum. The songs capture everything we love about Egypt, the “streets of crowded dreams and the beauty of Sinai’s “glorious nights ; they’re sing-along types, the ones that stick in your head hours after the end of the performance.

Both “Peace and “Sun are one of early songs composed by the band. Their lyrics were inspired by visits to the coasts of Nuweiba on the Sinai Peninsula, and the songs took shape during the band’s frequent stays at the hut-based camps.

Their first Arabic song, “Sheeh ya Homar, is a parody of the Egyptian daily realities. The song centers on the daily journey of a donkey through the streets of Cairo and the maddening, unquestionable details most Egyptians have succumbed to.

There’s a tale behind each song, and a talented percussionist weaving these tales into mellow, heartfelt beats. Juggling between a pair of Congas, a Djembe and the traditional tabla, Like Jelly’s percussionist – the most recent addition to the four-year-old band – has quickly established a fan club.

Like Jelly’s music is often hard to classify; it is a combination of classic rock and indie music, a stirring fusion of subgenres. However, Like Jelly classifies their sound primarily as acoustic – music that is primarily instrumental, without any electronic aids.

Although their music is quite untraditional in its genre, members of Like Jelly share common musical inspirations, such as Bob Dylan, the world’s favorite the Beatles, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson and Dispatch.

Besides performing at the local music hub Culture Wheel, Like Jelly is known for its charitable performances for non-governmental organizations such as CISV, an independent non-political organization that promotes peace education and cross-cultural friendship, and AFS, one of the world’s largest community-based volunteer organizations.

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