Tag Archives: Egyptian music

Jazz and Egyptian Intersections

Quadro Nuevo & Cairo Steps – Flying Carpet

Quadro Nuevo & Cairo Steps – Flying Carpet (Fine Music/Justin Time, 2017)

Flying Carpet is a project that brings together two German ensembles, Quadro Nuevo and Cairo Steps that intersect world music and jazz. On Flying Carpet the two ensembles are joined by an additional set of Middle Eastern musicians.

On Flying Carpet you’ll find a remarkable mix of lively world fusion, cinematic passages, Sufi chants, classical elements, jazz and lounge as well, where western classical music instruments interact with Middle Eastern instruments such as oud, ney, frame drums and darbuka.

Quadro Nuevo is a German acoustic world jazz quartet that was founded in 1996. Personnel: Mulo Francel on woodwinds; Dietmar Lowka on bass and percussion; Andreas Hinterseher on accordion; and Evelyn Huber on harp.

Cairo Steps includes German and Egyptian instrumentalists that combine Egyptian traditions with jazz and classical music, using western, Armenian and Middle Eastern instruments. Personnel: Basem Darwisch on oud; Rageed William on nay and duduk; Wolfgang Witteman on soprano and alto saxophones; Sebastian Müller-Schrobsdorff on grand piano; Matthias Frey on piano; Max Klass on percussion; Stefan Hergenröder on bass; Ragy Kamal on kanun; Hani Alsawaf on percussion; Shereen Azmy on violin; Emad Azmy on violin; Amir Akhnoukh on violin; Ahmed Tarek on violin; and Jan Boshra on cello.

Guests on Flying Carpet include Ali El Helwabi on vocals; Sheikh Ehab Younis on vocals; Dr. Ines Abdeldaiem on flute; and Ahmed Kawala on kawala.


Artist Profiles: Hakim


Recognized worldwide as a leader of the movement to popularize jeel, Hakim is an innovator who has revolutionized the genre of sha’bi. His music adds modern rhythms to a foundation of traditional sha’bi melodies, resulting in entirely new sounds. It is the music of the masses, evident by his ever-growing fan base throughout Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

Lauded as a musical “trail blazer,” Hakim has sold an estimated six and a half million units throughout his career. Just as sha’bi is defined as the music of the people, Hakim is someone his audience can relate to, through songs that fuse traditional melodies with urban dance beats, and lyrics .that chronicle daily life through the rhythm of street slang.

A major figure in the international music scene, Hakim has played to sell-out crows in Europe, the Middle East, Australia, North America, and Africa. He has received numerous accolades including the award for Best North African Singer 2000 at Africa’s prestigious Kora Awards, and he was chosen to represent Egypt at 1994’s Festival des Allumees in Nantes, France.

In 1999, his rising popularity prompted France’s Blue Silver label to release “The Best of the Big Egyptian Star,” an album of hits that was met with acclaim from crowds of new European fans.

Hakim was born in Maghagha, in the province of Minya, Egypt. A devotee of sha’bi from the very beginning, he began singing at the age of eight. At fourteen he formed a band and started performing at local parties and school functions with the accompaniment of a tabla, a daf, and an accordion. The band played covers of classic sha’bi hits by Ahmed Adaweya, Mohamed El Ezabi, and Abdel Ghani Al Sayed. Soon they expanded, bringing in keyboards and drums and performing all over the Minya province.

Under academic pressure from his father, who, as the mayor of Maghagha, wanted his son to secure a professional future rather than follow his artistic proclivities, Hakim moved to Cairo to attend the prestigious University of El Azhar. Meanwhile he was meeting with other musicians at the cafes on Mohammed Ali Street (a centuries-old gathering spot for artists of all sorts) and his interest in renewing the sha’bi genre was cemented.

It was there on the bustling streets of Cairo that he received his musical training for the music of the streets. One of Hakim’s teachers was the famed street accordionist Ibrahim El Fayoumi, who helped him convey in his music the unadulterated spirit of the street.

Having completed his B.A. in Communications in 1983, Hakim returned to Maghagha with the intent to pursue music. He formed his own orchestra consisting of a blend of oriental instruments (tabla, daf, dohola, accordion, kawala, quarter-tone trumpets) and western instruments (drum set, bass guitar, keyboards). They set about performing all over Minya, and Hakim soon became the province’s most popular singer. Yet he still longed for the artistic atmosphere of the metropolis of Arabic music. So, following his passion and defying his father, Hakim moved to Cairo to devote himself fully to his music.

In 1989 Hakim met the highly-acclaimed producer Hamid El Shaeri and a great partnership was formed. Soon after, Hakim signed a contract with the record company Sonar Ltd / Slam Records and began recording his first album, with El Shaeri as his producer.

Response to the electronic-sha’bi mix of Nazra, released in 1991, was phenomenal, as the album hit the charts immediately and the first pressing of the cassette was sold out within a month. Hundreds of phone calls came in requesting Hakim to perform. Determined to get the word out about the album, he went to DJs and gave them copies of his tape – the first time any Egyptian artist handled his own publicity in this way.

In 1994, after the release of his second album, Nar, Hakim was chosen to represent Egypt at the Festival des Allumees in Nantes, France. Hakim, shrewdly viewing this as an opportunity to bring jeel music to a wider audience, popularized sha’bi as no other musician had, and became known as the “king of jeel”.

1996 saw Hakim receive a nomination for the esteemed Kora Award in the category of Best North African Singer. In the same year he released the album Efred, the first of many collaborative efforts between himself, lyricist Amal El Taer, and composer Essam Tawfik.

Although Hakim stopped doing covers in favor of performing original songs, he has only written a small portion of his songs. In the collaborative process, he offers general concepts, which are then developed further by El Taer and Tawfik.

With 1998’s Hakim Remix, he turned eight of his previously-released hits over to Britain’s Transglobal Underground, who then put their own spin on things. It was a daring move, as Hakim had to maintain the right balance between tradition and innovation. ”I don’t mind pushing towards the evolution but I do not want to lose the identity in the process,” he noted. Also released in 1998 was the album Hayel, a selection of traditional sha’bi and return to his musical roots.

Hakim’s experimental search for the perfect fusion of tradition with innovation is presented in his album, Yaho, which was released by Mondo Melodia / Ark 21 Records on December 5, 2000. Its original version is already a huge success in the Middle East, having sold over 1 million copies.

The U.S. version features four remixes by the acclaimed British group Transglobal Underground and two brand new songs including Yemin We Shemal by French producer Sodi and El Bi Hebeni El. It is a testament to Hakim’s sha’bi roots as well as a musical journey on an international level. In traditional sha’bi style, classical Middle Eastern instruments such as the oud and nay mingle with Hakim’s rich tenor vocals during the mawwal. Also keeping with sha’bi custom, Hakim’s lyrics, which are mostly about everyday life, are never syrupy or heavy, rather they are coy, light-hearted, and witty.

His most significant live album was recorded in the heart of Brooklyn New York, The Lion Roars, Live in America (Mondo Melodia/Ark 21, 2001), produced by Dawn Elder. Singing to audiences who typically didn’t understand a word of Arabic, he captivated them with his voice, and the traditional roots of his sha’bi music.
This release was also followed by the most significant tour in Hakim’s International career. Originally scheduled to start his first major American tour in September of 2001, along with fellow Algerian Artist Khaled, Hakim was shocked as the entire world watched on TV the devastation of the 911 events in the United States. He stood at the airport watching the news with his Egyptian orchestra all set to board a plane to New York on the eve of 911.

The tour was of canceled, but remarkably rescheduled a few months later. Hakim along with his entire Egyptian Orchestra believed it was vital to the healing of communities of all ethnic backgrounds in the United States to proceed with his tour of North America.

In 2004 and 2005 Hakim released two more albums Talakik (Ark21) and Kolo Yorkoss. Talakik featured two hit singles and won several Latin music awards. The first, Ajielbi, a duet with Olga Tañón, that topped the Latin and Arab music charts, followed by a second hit “ Salam” featured in the movie Vanity Fair , starring Reece Witherspoon.

Lela (2006) featured collaborations with James Brown and Stevie Wonder. In 2007 Hakim released “Tigi Tigi.” This was followed by “Ya Mazago” in 2011 that included the song “Kolena Wahed” which called for a unity of the peoples of the Arab world.

In 2014, Hakim was invited to write the lead song for the movie Halawet Rooh, starring the Middle East’s most popular actress Haifa Webhe. The movie was a success and the music video of the song reached millions of viewers:


Nazra (Sonar Ltd / Slam Records, 1991)
Nar (1994)
Efred (1997)
remix (1998)
Hayel (1998)
Yaho (Mondo Melodia / Ark 21 Records, 2000)
The Lion Roars – Live in America (Mondo Melodia 850 043, 2001)
Talakik (Mondo Melodia, 2002)
Taminy Alek (2004)
El Youm Dol (2004)
Kolo Yoross (2005)
Lela (I.R.S. World, 2006)
Tigy Tigy (2007)
Ya Mazago (2011)


Artist Profiles: Fatma Zidan

Fatma Zidan
Fatma Zidan

Denmark-based Egyptian singer Fatma Zidan was the winner of the Danish World Awards in 2008 and 2010. Although she trained as a classical harp player, she changed her career to become a vocalist.

Fatma Zidan was educated at the Giza Conservatory and the Zamalek school of Music. She has released two albums under her own name produced by some of the most famous musicians and composers from Egypt and the Gulf area. Her most recent album is Hawel – Try.


Aya haeman (Passionate Love)
Ella Elzaal (Accept Sadness)
Hawel – Try (2010)

website: www.fatmazidan.com


Rock the Tabla Dream Comes True

Hossam Ramzy – Rock the Tabla

Hossam Ramzy and Various Artists

Rock The Tabla (ARC Music, 2011)

So rarely in life we are given exactly what we want. For musicians those dream collaborations are just that – dreams. Well, Hossam Ramzy , Egypt’s Ambassador of Rhythm, got a whole CD worth of those dream collaborations for his Rock The Tabla CD out on the ARC Music label. And, we’re taking collaborations with the likes of A.R. Rahman, Billy Cobham, Manu Katche, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Jimmy Waldo, Chaz Khoshi, Phil Thornton, John Themis and Joji Hirota. That’s a whole lot a dreams come true. If the collaborations are anything to go by Mr. Ramzy must have a fairy godmother in his closet or something.

Starting out his early career as part of England’s 70s jazz scene with performances with Andy Sheppard and Geoff Williams, Hossam Ramzy began to explore his own Egyptian drumming roots and a flavored Middle Eastern repertoire with Peter Gabriel on the recordings of Passion and Us. Working with the likes of Joan Armatrading, Mari Wilson, Cheb Khaled, Rachid Taha and Faudel, as well as teaming up with Arabic musicians for Robert Plant and Jimmy Page on the reunion recording No Quarter – Unledded, Mr. Ramzy has kicked the music world square in the rhythm section.

His film music credits are just as impressive with work on such movies as Stargate, The Saint, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Stealing Beauty and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. He also has a 2007 concert with Chick Corea, Isaac Hayes and Mark Isham to his credit and has worked on Shakira’s She Wolf as an arranger and musician.

Rich and lushly worked, Rock The Tablaa opens with a combo of styles incorporating flamenco, Arabian and Greek influences with a dash of Cairo street music thrown in for good measure on “Arabantana” before swinging into the slick and sassy “Cairo to India” with A.R. Rahman at the keyboards. Arabic flash with jazzy overtones “Six Teens” hits the spot with Billy Cobham on drums, Mr. Ramzy on Egyptian and world percussion, Ossama El Hendy on keyboards, sequencers and bass, Phil Thornton on e.bow guitars and Mohammed Ali on electric violin and oud.

Other goodies include the sizzling “Ancient Love Affairs” with Elhamy Ezzat on vocals, Jimmy Waldo on keyboards, sequencers and bass, Tim Pierce on guitar, the Hassm Ramzy String Ensemble as well as Mr. Ramzy himself, the kick ass percussion track “Shukran Arigato” with Mr. Ramzy and Joji Hirota and the West African inspired “Bluesy Flusey” with Mohammed Ali on electric violin and Sayed Al Hosseiny adding that special something on mizmar. “Sawagy” is truly inspired with vocals by Houda El Sombaty and some flash provided by Abdalla Helmy on nay. “Dom & Doumbia” is just as spectacular with Nahini Doumbia on bjimbe, djundjun and African conga against Mr. Ramzy’s Egyptian percussion on this rhythm saturated stunner. Dipped in swirling colors of keyboards, Egyptian percussion, some incendiary guitar lick and Omar Faruk Tekbilek on mizmar, title track “Rock the Tabla” … well, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

Rock The Tabla is crazy good.

Buy the album or MP3 downloads:


Hossam Ramzy Discusses the Sensational Rock The Tabla

Hossam Ramzy & A.R. Rahman

My music is very much part of what is happening in Egypt today” – Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy

Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy realizes a 10-year dream with his latest album ‘Rock The Tabla’ – to be released later this month, on August 30. For this album, Hossam decided to invite some of his friends and the musicians he most respects and admires to join in: and these include legends A. R. Rahman, Billy Cobham, Manu Katché and Omar Faruk Tekbilek!

From Led Zeppelin to Shakira, Hossam has worked with some of the biggest stars and most talented musicians in the world. Ramzy first heard Billy Cobham playing on the Mahavishnu Orchestra album ‘Birds of Fire.’ A.R. Rahman contacted Ramzy in 2002 to play on the soundtrack of the film ‘Meenaxi: A Tale of 3 Cities.’ Ramzy had previously worked with Manu Katché on Peter Gabriel’s albums, and Omar Faruk Tekbilek on a tour of Australia.

Hossam Ramzy – Egypt Unveiled

Ramzy left Egypt for England in the mid-1970s to explore a career as a jazz drummer, and later blended ethnic Egyptian percussion with a range of Western styles and musicians. Earlier this year he released the album “Egypt Unveiled.” Ramzy dedicated the music of this album “to every Egyptian man, woman, child and elder who stood up to the suppression and who are creating the future of history to come.”

Hossam Ramzy joins us for an exclusive interview to discuss his new album, the musical forms and collaborations, and future work.

Q: Tell us how you got inspired to do the piece “Billy Dancing” in your album!

I got inspired to create this song while I was thinking of writing a piece that will incorporate the amazing world drummer Mr. Billy Cobham. He and I jammed together on many occasions and this rhythm in 9s is one of our favorites. Then I thought how about incorporating a true southern Egyptian Saidi Rhythm that we love to dance to!!! And it worked very well as a question and answer platform between the two of us. And as the Egyptian style of dance is known worldwide as “Belly Dancing”, I thought to myself… How appropriate to call it “Billy Dancing”! He loved the idea too.

Q: How would you compare the Indian tabla with Egyptian tabla?

The are so many similarities and so many differences. The main difference is that the Egyptian tabla is a one drum instrument, while the Indian tabla is in two parts: dayan & bayan. Another important point is the Indian tabla can be tuned to various notes. The Egyptian tabla has two basic sounds from the same drum: a dom and a tack.

The Indian tabla can be played as a solo instrument and as accompaniment to the rest of the group. The Egyptian tabla is played as part of an ensemble of percussion instruments such as the duff (frame drum), req (fish skin Tambourine), doholla (bass Egyptian tabla), mazhar (large frame drum with cymbals) and also the sagat (finger cymbals).

The Egyptian tabla keeps the rhythm and decorates musical phrases, same as the Indian tabla. We work in cycles of rhythm, same as in the Indian tabla. We do not usually cross pollinate rhythms and cycles as we play within a unit frame of cycles — unlike an Indian tabla player who would be given the freedom to cycle around in different counts while keeping the main frame of the rhythmic cycle apparent to the listener and the rest of the orchestra.

There is so much to say… but these are main and most basic points I can think of!

Q. How has your experience been in collaborating with A.R. Rahman?

It was a magical experience. AR is such an incredible artist who is one of the most generous people I have ever met in my experience within the music industry. A truly knowledgeable composer and musician who understands music from every corner of the planet.

He invited me to his home and studios in Chennai where I was given a brotherly welcome. He was very busy with all the interviews by almost all the press, radio and TV stations in the continent after winning the Oscars for the film “Slumdog Millionaire”. Still, AR made the time especially for me, took the time to arrange the song “From Cairo To India” and supervised every step of the recording. This included percussion, strings and vocals too.

I was so pleased with my visit there, I am looking forward to going back to work with him again and again!

Q. What future albums/videos do you have in mind?

Hossam Ramzy – Sabla Tolo

Right now, I have a few projects that I am working on. One of them is a video clip for the song with AR, which we will film in both Egypt and India. I am working on an instructional Belly Dance DVD for dancing to drum solos from my Trilogy “Sabla Tolo I, II & III”. This should take the best part of what is left of 2011 and some of 2012.

I am also producing work for a few artists for the mainstream world of music: one is Miss Sebnem Bamsey from Turkey and the other is Miss Cora from the US.

Q:. How would you place your music today in the context of the changes happening in Egypt?

This is a very interesting question. My music is very much part of what is happening in Egypt today. I believe in coincidences and I believe in synchronicity. I released an album earlier this year, and it happened to be on the day it all started in Tahreer Square in Cairo! The 25th of January 2011. This date was decided in advance by the director of ARC Music Productions, not me. And guess what was the name of the album, which was chosen 10 months before the release date: “Egypt Unveiled!”


Hamza El Din Dies in Berkeley

Hamza El Din

According to San Francisco radio producer Dore Stein, Egyptian musician Hamza El Din passed away yesterday, May 22nd. He died from complications after brain surgery at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley, California.

Hamza El Din was responsible for the re-introduction of the ‘ud or oud (an ancient Arab instrument that some think is the precursor of the European lute) and other melodic instruments to the music of Nubia, a land that until recently had changed little since the time of the Pharaohs.

He was well known for several recordings, including Escalay: The Water Wheel and Eclipse, which was produced by Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart.

He appeared regularly with the Kronos Quartet, which commissioned him to arrange Escalay: The Water Wheel for its chart-topping Pieces of Africa album (Elektra/Nonesuch).