The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt


Eftekasat: Soaked in Diversity

Eftekasat: Soaked in Diversity
    written by
    Haisam Abu-Samra

    Stand anywhere in Cairo and look around you. It’s a hodgepodge
    of old and new, East and West, dirt and gloss; everything about Cairo is in complete
    discord. However, for those entrenched in the city, out of chaos comes order. Eftekasat
    are all about capturing that order in their music.

    Formed in 2001, Eftekasat’s real start came in early
    2002 when they played at the Cairo Jazz Club to an impressed audience. After
    that, the ball kept on rolling. The band continued to play concerts in Egypt and
    abroad, released two albums, and today they are a household name in the local
    music scene.

    Although their sound is billed as oriental jazz, the term
    doesn’t quite capture the band’s essence. Many artists have tried to create a
    haven where jazz melds with oriental maqamat, but their efforts produced mixed
    results at best. For Eftekasat, the fusion comes organically. It’s unfair to
    reduce their sound to a sonic Frankenstein experiment– it’s evolution.

    Band-founder Amro Salah and bassist Samer George first
    formed a traditional jazz band together, but the more they immersed themselves
    into oriental music; the more they felt the need for something different. So
    the duo teamed up with other oriental musicians and formed Eftekasat.

    Given the cosy nature of the music scene in Cairo, many seasoned musicians
    have contributed to, worked with, or even became members of Eftekasat– Mohamed
    Lotfy (Ousso), organiser of the SOS music festivals, used to be the guitarist
    until his other commitments took him away from the band. For now the outfit
    consists of six members: Amro Salah on piano, synthesizers and keyboard; Samer
    George on bass; Ahmad Hesham on drums; Mohamad Medhat on violin; Mohamad Farag
    on nay; Sherif Watson on guitar and Hany Bedair on percussion.

    In 2006, Eftekasat recorded their debut album Mouled Sidi El Latini (The Latin
    Dervish) via an artist grant. It was an amalgamation of years of songwriting. The
    album’s tracks seemed like an open exchange with the myriad of influences that
    have shaped the band’s identity. The songs were varied and vibrant with musical
    curiosity, and their ideas were interesting enough to garner world renowned
    oud-player Naseer Shamma in a guest appearance on the album.

    Eftekasat are not tied exclusively to the local scene;
    they have performed in Bulgaria,
    the Carthage Jazz Festival in Tunis, and the
    San Jose Jazz Festival in the USA.
    The band aspires to be a musical ambassador for Egypt, and they are taking
    solid steps towards fulfilling their dream.

    Despite all the commotion, the band has not lost track
    of their message. Eftekasat is pretty adamant about the purity of their music
    and they still search for order amidst the all chaos.

    ’I am fascinated by our
    social, cultural, and intellectual makeup,’ says Salah. ’I try to synthesize it
    through our music by utilising the different music styles we listen to.’ And in
    doing so, their music subtly ornaments the Egyptian experience with jazz and
    progressive rock. The outcome is pure Egyptian.  

    Recently, Eftekasat released their second album, Dandasha, which was produced with a
    grant from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture. Recording started in late 2009
    at the Soundesign studio, with Amr Yehia producing the record. Still
    experimenting with musical ornamentation, the album fuses even more influences
    into its exuberant sound: reggae, jam, and some flirtatious Mediterranean
    hints; ’Dandasha means adding stuff to something to make it more beautiful,’ explains

    The band played to a sold out crowd at Sakia last
    month to coincide with the album’s release. In true jazz sprit, the band
    constructs songs that inspire improvisation; and you’ll probably rediscover the
    value of each musical instrument during their concert. Their set is always
    delivered with energy and sincerity; and the band feeds on the audience’s
    energy as a jam band would. It’s probably the reason why Eftekasat has
    cultivated loyal fans during their years of performing.

    ’I am happy,’ replies Salah when asked about the
    future. ‘We’re performing, we’re getting by, and that’s enough.’ Eftekasat are performing
    a number of concerts during the summer to promote their new album, as their
    fans grow by the day. These jazz musicians are doing an admirable job in taking
    our local music scene off life support and dragging it out into the open so that
    the rest of the world can take note.