Being a musician in Egypt is tricky. Because on the outside, everyone thinks we don't get tired enough, or put as much effort into work as, for example, a doctor or an engineer. Well, that's absolutely not true.
The difference between a musician, or an artist for that matter, and any other professional, is that being a musician doesn't necessarily require any sort of academic certification in the field. It's a profession that can be acquired by experience, if the talent is there to begin with. Add to that, passion, ability to express in an artistic form, dedication, and musicianship. We play music because we love music, because it's a passion that has to be pursued as a career, we love what we do, contrary to the saying "Love what you do until you do what you love", it's bullshit! We just do what we love anyway!
I was born into a family that appreciates music, both parents were singers back in the day, who then decided not to take it to a professional level to be able to "maintain a proper living", and by proper living I mean find a job that pays well, MONTHLY, to start a "family" and raise kids, and so on. Nevertheless, I thank my parents for feeding me with good music ever since I could remember; I grew up listening to my Mom and Dad's favorite artists: The Bee Gees, Abba, Fayrouz, Um Kalthoum, Abdelwahab, Abdelhalim, Adaweya, Mohamed Mounir, Ali El Haggar and other singers who were and will remain very influential to me.
At the age of 12, I was, as a lot of people my age were, very much into pop music, Michael Jackson, boy bands like Take That and Boyzone, George Michael and others; and thanks to MTV and Channel V, I was given a never ending source of video clips which were my most amusing source of entertainment and music education, before, of course, the rise of the "holy" YouTube. I used to watch the videos and captions of concerts and memorize all the songs, buy the artists' and bands' albums on cassette tapes and listen to them and then try and imitate what they do, how they sing and how they perform on stage.
Later on during my teen years, and because of peer influences, I became more and more interested in rock and metal, a natural development I suppose, bands like Metallica were my biggest influences and interests, watching them go on stage and deliver performances that would throw people off their feet, It was more interesting to me than porn! Remember Napster? It was like my refueling station, whenever I ran out of new music to listen to, I would wait for a whole day for one mp3 to download, and God did it feel exquisite!
I had dreamed of becoming a rock star, or a performer for that matter, it was always at the back of my head. OF course I had to enroll in one of the top majors, Engineering, to please the parents and maintain a "stable career" after graduation. I started taking my amateur interest in music to a professional level nevertheless. I met a lot of people who were young musicians back then, formed my first band in 2005 and then joined "Salalem" late 2005.
Now let me tell you how things go for most musicians in Egypt and how hard it is to maintain a stable musical career and make a proper living out of it here in Egypt.
There's one big project to every musician, the project that takes up most of his/her time and effort. To me that project is "Salalem". We spend years of hard work just to build a name and a proper audience base: rehearsals, brainstorming meetings, workshops, sessions to create music, finding the right lyrics that represent the band's identity as a whole and not as individual band members.
Every band has a different identity, and sound. It takes a lot of effort to get there, to the point where, if heard any where, people would recognize you. During which, the band is forced to compromise money along with the effort, frequently agree to perform for free just to be able to gain as much exposure as possible, agree to be interviewed by boring TV presenters and media channels who only look for bands to fill their quota of material, while bands look for exposure all the way.
Usually that one main project to every musician is an original music band, besides that, a few small projects can go on, for "na7t" purposes, "Na7t" literally means "sculpt" or "incise" referring to sculpting music to fit the market needs (mostly cover bands in all forms varying from rock to Latin and jazz). In other words, the side projects usually aim at collecting money to maintain a living, to balance things out between the "long term project" and maintaining a performing status in general.
Besides that, some music players who are very significant and are able to build a name for themselves individually start playing with international and national mainstream superstars, for the money of course. Because as you all know by now, we get paid by the performance, and the pay is never fixed. And some singers start their own solo projects, to sing the songs they are not able to do with their bands, to fulfill their musical needs, songs that they wrote for other purposes that are more personal, hence not for "the band".
On top of that, most musicians, myself included, start looking for fixed day jobs, just to make sure they have a fixed income if worse comes to worse and Morsi and his kissasses decide to give it to us Saudi style.
So imagine starting a project or a band, and spending 7-8 years trying to get that band to a competitive place in the market, while maintaining its identity, direction and independency, and when you get there, maintain the successful status for as much as you can, try to make money out of it, treat it like a business with a social and artistic cause, and then joining another band to make extra money to balance things out, not to mention rehearsals in both bands, at least twice a week, writing and/or collecting proper lyrics, composing, arranging music, band meetings, goal setting, marketing, PR, social media, TV interviews, magazines, online blogs and magazines, meeting with clients, finding a band manager, bookings, money transfers, getting paid, bank transactions, motivating each other when the going gets tough, going to other cities and/or countries for expansion and exposure, approaching new clientele, working with corporate companies on jingles and trying to meet the corporate needs, to collect good money to be able to spend money on your main project to record a top notch quality album and/or video clip.
And then endless hours at the studio recording the bands' material and learning in the process.
Moreover, imagine with both the long term project and the Na7t project, you start your own solo project, writing, composing, collecting material, hours of recording and all of the above all over again. And after you finish recording a song at 4 am in the morning, you go home to sleep, tired as hell, to wake up 4 hours later, to go to work as a normal employee, and then after work, the whole cycle starts all over again. And yet some of us musicians are not able to maintain a stable financial status.
Yep, that's what my life is basically like, but I love it and I wouldn't want to change anything about it!
you can find my music (solo) here
you can also find this article on February 2013's issue of Campus Magazine here