There was a moment during last Thursday Cairokee’s gig at Student Central when more than a hundreds fists were held high and shaken in unison. Eyes glistened and voices sang along with the lyrics of a five-year old Egyptian song. When Amir Eid intoned the words of “Sout El Horreya” the audience followed, bringing goose-bumps that stayed until the end of the tune. This was an anthem of Tahrir Square and the Egyptian Revolution- proof, if any was needed, of the unbroken urgency of that song and the unresolved Egyptian question.
Cairokee’s show, part of MARSM’s Music From Egypt & Sudan, was arguably one of the highlights and most emotional performances of the music series. The Cairo based band, besides being at the forefront of the North African music scene, is also one of its most conscious and significant exponents. It embodied and still gives voice to a square, a city and a social and political movement. As a matter of fact, the imagery of what happened five years ago in the central square of their city, is today revived by the musicians on stage. They call together their Egyptian and non-Egyptian fans to perform songs that were intoned by protesters at the time, mixing them with their old and more recent hits.
Throughout the two-hour show the five-piece ensemble, supported by MC and old-time friend Zap Tharwat, retraced its recent history. The musicians fulfilled their band name’s aim (Cairo + karaoke) singing delicate tunes like “Kol Haga Beta’ady“, rhythmic ones like “El Seka Shemal” and a rough version of “Ethbat Makanak” alongside their fans. Rock, pop, rap and Egyptian traditional references were blended together to exhibit how the Arabic country sounds today, demonstrating that music can easily overcome the language barrier. The energy emanated on stage infected the packed Student Central hall. More than five-hundred students, North African and Middle Eastern music enthusiasts -and the curious- experienced first-hand Cairokee’s impetus and social momentum, which has been extending since 2011.
If the names Cairokee and Zap Tharwat don’t ring any bells it’s probably because you’re a) not Egyptian b) don’t have Egyptians friends c) are not interested in Egyptian music or d) are not up-to-date with the North African country’s current events. Those artists personify and the last five years…