Jazzfest Berlin – Cairo
Maurice Louca’s Elephantine – Nancy Mounir – Philip Rizk & Nadah El Shazly: “Terrible Sounds¨
How does one, from the isolation of the pandemic, seek out the core of a scene that officially does not have any venues in the city it is identified with? One option is to follow its protagonists. Given the current political climate in Cairo, these can often be traced abroad and – not infrequently via Berlin – to transnational communities of digitally connected musicians.
Maurice Louca, who has been moving freely between cities and genres for quite some time, has generously given the festival team key insights into his substantial network of artists from the Egyptian capital and has helped to devise the programme of Jazzfest Berlin – Cairo as its co-curator.
In numerous conversations about and, above all, with representatives of the local experimental music scene, it has repeatedly proven true that self-determined musical practice always contains a subversive dimension – irrespective of whether the focus is on the microtonal subtlety of Egyptian vocalists in Cairo around 1930, the anarchist spirit of Egyptian-German free jazz sessions in the 1970s or digital and improvisatory approaches in cross-city co-operations during the era of the pandemic.
In addition to a live concert by Maurice Louca’s Elephantine, Jazzfest Berlin – Cairo features two artistic video works and a digital guide engaging with Cairo's contemporary creative music scene as well as Egypt‘s post-colonial (musical) history, pointing towards the possibility of an alternative canon of Egyptian music on the horizon of past and present hegemonies.
“At first, the proposition to feature musicians from Cairo in the programme of Jazzfest Berlin might seem a bit daunting – because even enthusiasts for the Egyptian music scene would find it hard to claim that Cairo has a flourishing jazz scene. The reason why jazz, at least in the strict sense of a genre, never really took off there has been the subject of many debates.
However, if we were to break away from the assumptions that confine jazz as a genre, and consider more the core of what jazz has been and could be, we might find many similarities with several different lineages of Arabic music. When we think of jazz as being deeply rooted in tradition, with improvisation at its core, an emphasis on explorations in form, inviting individual expression – such as in Tarab or when channeling – within a collective spirit, then it becomes clear that presenting a focus on the thriving Cairo music scene in this year’s Jazzfest Berlin is a valid and exciting proposition.”
Maurice Louca (Cairo)