In the spirit of Egyptian resourcefulness, jamming studios have been popping up all over Cairo. About ten or fifteen years ago, there were only two decent studio options; one was called Stage on Ramses Street, and the other was Double Vision in Manial. Since then, one of them has gone out of business, and the other has burnt to a crisp.
However, those two nurtured the fledgling underground rock music scene back when listening to Metallica in Egypt was an offence punishable by law. In their stead, other more improved studios have appeared all over Cairo. Better equipment and the advent of digital recording have made it easier than ever to record sessions drenched in inspirado and worthy of disseminating via the internet or other digital media.
This is the Way It Works: you call in advance and reserve your studio time. Some studios are more popular than others because of a combination of superior equipment, affable staff and location. As with all music-related activities, the sound is important, and each studio will subconsciously influence the music created. Good studio etiquette means cleaning up after yourself (i.e. don’t leave your broken drumsticks on the floor) and taking proper care of the equipment that you’re using– repeat offenders will not be welcomed back. A good idea is to contact each studio to get their most recent prices, since the laws of demand and supply can dictate an unannounced rise in the rental fees. Some studios also have guitars and bass guitars for rental; but they may not be in the best condition. Your drummer will also be happy to know that while drumsticks are not provided with the room, they are available in your favourite flavours: Vic Firth and Zildjian.
Ganoub, Nasr City
Ganoub is arguably the most popular of all the jamming studios. In early 2010, they added separate soundproofed rooms to record live drum tracks, guitars and vocals; so your music sounds professional. If you fancy a live open-jam session; the main room has been meticulously arranged and soundproofed to provide the best and warmest sounding instruments. The drum set in particular is kept in tip-top shape. A word to the wise: no smoking is permitted in any of the rooms; only in the small lounge area. Call for recording prices and reservations.
Solo, Nasr City
Launched by the guitarist from local band the Cartoon Killers, this studio is very spacious, and complete with refreshments and a pool table, which help if you want to pretend that you’re a rock star for a day. There is only one room for recording and jamming, and it is nicely soundproofed; but the sound can come out a bit brassy and trebly, while the bass sounds are muted. If your drummer is overly enthusiastic, he may not hear anyone other than himself– which won’t bother him as much as you think.
Studio 32, Mohandiseen
This nicely decorated studio is owned by Fathy Salama, and as such; you can expect a high-quality sound and professional staff. The space is very popular among bands from the west side of Cairo. The sound is often described as crisp and well-equalised– just be sure not to abuse the equipment; or else you will be booted out unceremoniously.
Situated near the Baron’s Palace and guarded by a temperamental German Shepherd, Salvation is appreciated for its warm sound. Sadly, the single jamming room is oddly configured and more like a long and wide hallway, which is not very conducive for seeing all the band members while playing. However, the drummer sits elevated above everybody else and gets the best seat in the house. There are Mesa Boogie cabinets sitting proudly in the studio, but they are more for show than for actual use. Another minor caveat is that only one guitar can be hooked up to an amp; a second guitar player must another amp to get in on the fun.
Wave Music House, Dokki
A favourite of some of Cairo’s more established and oldest bands like Wyvern, Wave has a healthy Facebook presence, and frequently helps bands record and master their CDs. Inside, you’ll find an interior decorated in beiges and browns. the recording room has wooden floors, which reduces the bass levels, leading to trebly sound more suited for Arabic pop music. This is no surprise; since top Arabic pop recording artists have been known to use the facilities on occasion. If your band is good enough;, you may be get signed to their own in-house music label, too.