Hundreds of jazz music fans gathered to attend three nights of high-noted performances by a mixture of Arab and foreign jazz singers for the 8th edition of the Cairo Jazz Festival. In the heart of Cairo’s grEEK campus, the festival created an atmosphere full of energy that was given life with bright music, providing a taste of modernism taste to one of Egypt’s most timeworn neighbourhoods.
In its 8th edition, the festival gathered more than 15 jazz singers and bands from all over the world to perform a mixture of music pieces for fans who spent a year waiting for the annual event to return. The festival hosted artists from Japan (Saori Yano Trio), Germany (Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra), Holland (Hermine Duerloo & Rembrandt Frerichs Trio), Czech Republic (Tara Fuki), Denmark (Karmen Roivassepp Quartet), Poland (Atom String Quarte), Hungary (Jazzical Trio), and for the first time in Egypt the band Ala Ghawas & Likwid (Bahrain).
Young famous artists like Tania Saleh, Hamza Namira, Noha Fekry, and Amro Salah were shining stars at their concerts while performing their most popular songs as well as some of the old traditional songs.
While this is not the jazz festival’s first edition, it opened the door into questioning the diversity of jazz music in Egypt, compared to other genres and mainstreams. This turn towards music education comes after several editions of the festival and a noticeable increase in the size of the audience in Egypt’s independent music scene.
Despite the considerably large base of fans Noha Fekry has in Egypt, she still believes that the jazz scene in Egypt is limited to a certain type of people. “The Jazz scene in Egypt is still not very big and people who are working in it are limited.”
“I’ve been in the music scene since 2009, and jazz has been my main genre ever since,” said Fekry. “However, my first album was only released in 2015 in which I performed old Egyptian music in a new jazz genre. That’s usually my type of music: a mixture of old songs in a new jazz remix.”
“I know that the music genre I provide is far away from the mainstream in Egypt; however, I think there is people that still seek and deserve to listen to different music types and genres, and we purely sense that in our concerts,” Fekry added.
She further explained that she performs several concerts at various art spaces in Egypt and most audience members are young and are looking for good quality music, not only something that shakes them.
In her concert, Fekry, along with Amro Salah, performed some of Egypt’s most prominent classics of the 1950s as well as two of the American jazz standards, including “All the things you are”. This is with the help of base artist Ahmed Ragab and drummer Ramy Samir. The music was remixed into a “jazzy” style.
Artists find that the Cairo Jazz Festival acts as an outlet to distribute independent music in Egypt.
“The ‘indie music’ scene is getting wider in Egypt and across the world. Yes, the mainstream is still more popular and controlling, but the need for ‘different music’ is also taking a satisfying place in the market and it’s still getting bigger,” Fekry added.
On the other hand, Salah finds that jazz music is still not widely understood by the audience, stating that there’s a misconception about the genre of jazz in Egypt. “If you ask most of the people about it, they would state that they don’t like it before even listening to it despite the fact that it’s extremely diversified.”
“Most of the people like certain music pieces without even knowing that it is jazz, they just need to be given the chance to explore it without a previous misconception,” he added.
“People should give themselves the chance to explore all types of music, including Jazz, and they can decide afterwards. At the same time, the jazz community in Egypt should work harder on delivering that genre to as many people as possible,” he concluded.