12 Years & Counting: An Interview with Cairokee Ahead of the Band’s Huge Galleria40 Gig
It’s been an eventful month for Cairokee; Egypt’s biggest band have been celebrating their twelfth anniversary and one of their biggest gigs is set to take place on Friday 4th of December at Galleria40’s Winter Festival.
We caught up with Amir Eid and co at the group’s studios, as we looked back at what has been a remarkable 12 year career that has seen them go from ‘the boys that play under the bridge’ – more on that later – to one of the most prolific and popular music acts to emerge out of Egypt and the Middle East.
Congratulations! Your existence as a band for 12 years has outlasted most modern marriages – what’s been the key to Cairokee’s success?
We owe our success to our fans; they have always been supportive. But it’s also our chemistry as a band and that we always stay true to ourselves, which is why people can relate to our music.
Many point to January 25 Revolution as a real springboard for you – did you realise at the time that the band was about to blow-up like that?
We owe our success to the revolution. The revolution effected artists of all kinds – musicians, writers, graffiti artists, everyone.
Before the revolution, our following was really small and people called us ‘the boys who play under the bridge’; but we remained focused on what we wanted to do and achieve, because we had a goal and that was to change the music scene in Egypt.
Does that mean you consciously try to send a message with your music?
Yes, with every album we’ve released, we’ve had a specific idea in mind that we wanted to share, but every message has its own way of been communicated. Some songs tried to change societal issues or at least affect them, while others are more geared at shining a spotlight on something. Our four albums are built on personal life experiences and opinions that we want to share with our fans.
Have the popularity of Sout El Horreya and Ya El Midan shaped your post-revolution sound, or do you consider said sound a by-product of the period that has its time and place?
I don’t think it has. We’re proud to have been able to voice our opinions through our music, but if you look at our most successful album, Wana Ma'a Nafsy A'ed, which was released after the revolution, was far from political. What defines our music is what’s in our hearts and minds at any given time.
What do you know now about the Egyptian music industry that you wished someone had told you 12 years ago?
Well, what we learned most is that there is nothing called the ‘music industry’ as people seem to understand it – it’s all about business, which is why we’ve always taken control of our music from start to finish, which is why we started our own production company.
(To Amir and Sherif) Is there any chance of Black Star making a comeback anytime soon….?
We thought of making a comeback with original English songs, but the vision for it isn’t complete, because it’s a whole different ballgame – different audience with different expectations.
What do you think of the state of the local music scene?
It’s getting better, for sure. It’s full a lot of artists and a lot of diversity. It is not just about romantic songs anymore. The scene has definitely evolved and it’s only going to get better. It goes back to the revolution, partly; it opened a lot of doors and broke down a lot of barriers.
Was there ever any kind of backlash or criticism aimed at you once Cairokee started becoming more popular (appearing in commercials, on Bassem Youssef, etc)? If so, how did you deal with it? Did you even care?
Yes, some have criticised us and they have every right to; but all we ask is that these people pay closer attention to the kind of music we do in these commercials. We stick to our own sound and never betray what we’re about as a band.
What’s the plan for the next twelve years for Cairokee?
We plan to continue singing for as long as we can – like Rolling Stones and Aerosmith. We’ll continue singing, whether that means producing new songs or touring with old ones.
What can fans expect at this Friday’s Galleria40 gig?
Well, we’re planning on performing some old songs that we haven’t done – you’ll have to wait till Friday for the other surprises…