Digla is quite a rarity in Cairo; a rock band that got it right. This outfit of four talented and dedicated musicians has an origin story that reads like most bands that come and go. What sets Digla apart from high-school cover bands is its members' admirable persistence. Truth is, to make it as a band in the post-millennial world is a very difficult struggle, but for Digla music is both the path and the destination. There is a sense of ease about Digla’s sound that can come only from a band content enough to focus on the harmonies.
Tarek El Borollossy, who goes by the nickname Boro, met Omar Raafat in school. The two bonded over their love of music and performing, and soon started playing cover songs together for the likes of Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, and Ben Harper. After raising the roof at their school’s talent show, they decided to form a band, and they called it Digla as a nod to their Maadi suburb.
With Boro taking the vocal and guitar duties and Raafat on the drum set, Digla began to outgrow their cover-band niche and they started writing songs of their own, all the while building this cult-like following in Cairo. By 2003, the band was playing to sold-out crowds on Sawy’s Cultural Centre stage.
The band’s love for early 90s rock titans such as Pearl Jam, Live and Nirvana is channelled through their sound. Digla is not stuck on a nineties sound; they also derive influence from contemporaries such as Coldplay and The Kaiser Chiefs, to name a few. They also put their own twist on their contemporary sound; where it’s more than just about infusing the Egyptian tabla and sagaat into their songs for the sake of distinction. Beneath the instruments is music that emotes an Egyptian tale of coming of age amidst a perilous culture.
Almost a decade since the band’s inception, while other bands may have called it a day and got lost in the abyss of 9 to 5; Digla has kept a steady momentum, despite the pressures of securing a future in a city like Cairo. Boro went on to study business in Montreal, and Raafat studied business in Boston; so the band members only had the summer to keep the band alive.
After shuffling through some members, the band met seasoned bassist Mohammed El Hakim in 2006. Hakim has previously performed with bands such as Forgotten Notes, the Tamariam Experience and Cairokee. A child of Maadi himself, Hakim felt right at home at Digla and is the third official member.
The last member to join the lines of Digla is guitarist Sary. Thus in
the classic rock tradition of a four-piece outfit, Digla has grown to become
the rock group it always aspired to be.
It’s hard for new artists to survive in an MP3 world. Rock bands are becoming the new starving artists, and that goes double for bands that exist far from the resources and audiences of North America and Europe. Digla is unfazed by this harsh reality. 'We just love playing music,' says Raafat, 'And no matter what; we’re going to keep doing it.'
The band’s commitment has paid off by accumulating a sizable following that fills all of their shows; and the MP3 world has worked to their advantage: their MySpace page has over twenty thousand followers from across the globe.
Now that school is over, all members are gearing up to fulfil Digla’s potential. Omar, Hakim and Sary are dividing their time equally between their work and the band, while Boro has dedicated his time to Digla and building his own music studio, which will help him cut down the costs of recording and jamming for the band’s future albums.
A few years ago, the band honed the best of their original material and recorded it for a small fortune at a studio. The idea was to record a demo that could speak for itself and not just promise potential. The outcome was far more impressive to be just a demo, so Digla went the extra mile and polished the songs to perfection. The album is now titled Free Your Mind.
2010 is going to be a busy year for Digla. Free Your Mind will be released in Egypt on May 28 and the band will perform at El Sawy to celebrate the album’s launch. They are writing more songs for the follow-up album, which will hopefully be recorded by the end of this year for an early 2011 release.
Digla is one of the few bands that give us the rock experience missing in oriental Cairo. Their tunes are earnest and clear, and attending one of their shows is always a memorable experience. Simply put; this is a band that rocks.