Tonight I went to a pop concert which ended in a mass brawl – always my idea of a splendid night out, what with possessing English blood and all.
Sharshar has been raving about Arabic pop prince and heir to the throne Mohamed 3adeweyya ever since he saw him live last year, and bored us into going to tonight’s concert with incessant droning about his ba7a. (Hoarse. But in a good way.) While the concert was organised by al-Saqia, it wasn’t being held in al-Saqia’s (convenient centrally located) Zamalek base, but rather “somewhere on the Cairo-Ismailia Road.” Sharshar assured us that it wouldn’t take long to get to.
After spending an hour in static traffic during which Amour attempted to explain the wisdom of the Egyptian saying “ask someone with experience rather than a doctor” (what if the doctor is himself mogarrab??) we eventually broke free onto the highway. As we sped past anonymous buildings in the darkness, I enquired as to whether Sharshar in fact knew where the bloody place was. He replied confidently “if we find ourselves in Ismailia, we’ll know we’ve gone too far.”
Miracle of miracles however, we saw a dimly lit sign announcing al-Saqia on the other side of the road, and discovered that Mohamed 3adeweyya was in fact performing in a school, hired for the night by al-Saqia. This was one of those expensive-looking soulless language schools, with beautiful furniture but no books. I have always found schools devoid of the children which give them life somewhat eerie, but this one had a particularly creepy the Shining emptiness about it. After traversing its silent palatial halls and immaculate garden we were ushered into what was obviously the lunch hall, and which was adjacent to the assembly room where 3adeweyya and his ba7a were booming out of the speakers. The lunch hall itself was scattered with signs bearing words such as “tolerance,” “patience,” and “respect,” presumably for the miniature diners to ponder as they steal each other’s sandwiches. It is unfortunate that similar signs did not emblazon the stage on which 3adeweyya performed, given the subsequent turn of events.
3adeweyya himself really was wowzers blazers, possessing in addition to an excellent voice, that lovable, smiling geniality of the type exhibited by Nelson Mandela which – in addition to facilitating national reconciliation – can make an assembly hall full of people forget they are in a school and hang loose. His evergreen smile and liberally distributed thumbs up signs made me entirely forgive him for the fact that he was wearing an otherwise criminal brown corduroy ensemble which put me in mind of the contents of my cat’s litter tray, and pointed brown shoes of an indeterminate material.
3adeweyya also possesses the world’s most enormous band of musicians which is not actually an orchestra. I counted some twenty five people on stage, including a boy who was clearly someone’s brother, and whose only task as far as I could tell was to stand immobile behind 3adeweyya and dispense tissues as needed. I was particularly delighted by a Riqq (big tambourine) player who was spectacularly morose, and when not drumming would sit, cross-armed and frowning, with the expression of a man forced to spend many nights staring at a jolly man in a brown corduroy suit. He was rivalled only by the saxophone player, who could not disguise his disgust whenever the keyboardist usurped saxophone soundalike solos which were rightfully his.
3adeweyya cheerfully made his way through his songs, accompanied by fire effects, bubbles during slow songs, and lung disorder amounts of dry ice. At one point the effects engineer released a rocket-type fire effect of such ferocity and velocity that it shot upwards and caused a plastic ceiling tile to come crashing down, almost on the head of the morose Riqq player, which needless to say ensured that I got my money’s worth of entertainment.
After a rousing rendition of ‘zahma,’ the song made famous by his legendary father Ahmed, 3adeweyya announced a break during which the audience devised ways of smuggling food into the hall without teacher seeing. Some of the band eventually began filing back onto the stage, but the first sign that all was not well on the ranch came in the form of a bespectacled man who mumbled into the mic that “the concert is over.” The audience ignored what was clearly either a prankster or a lunatic, and carried on extracting packets of crisps from their underwear until 3adeweyya himself appeared and confirmed that “they have cancelled the show.” A cohort explained that this had occurred because “there are people in the audience kissing each other and generally not giving proper respect to the surroundings.” Being unable to give us detention, the school managers had thus cancelled the show, which understandably enraged the audience whose demographic was largely 18 – 20 year olds wishing to assert their existence by any means possible, but preferably a fight.
As we left the hall crisps were eaten and fags smoked in a defiant manner, and excitement mounted as the boys sensed that a ruckus was in the offing. Sure enough, once outside the angry crowd began milling around the ticket window swearing and posturing, Rebel Without a Cause style, while the poor bastard inside trembled. The crowd bayed for the blood of whichever despot it was who had denied them ‘bent el sultan’ and cheated them out of their money – they needed it to fill up the 4 x 4s waiting for them in the car park, poor things – until the bespectacled man who had announced the cancellation made the mistake of attempting to run to his car. The crowd selected him as the conduit for their fury, and immediately leapt on him. Things turned ugly as some 50 people surrounded the car before dragging him out from as he tried to explain to the bags of testosterone that he in fact had nothing to do with either the cancellation or their tickets. He was eventually let go, and was ushered back inside the school’s gates, faint and stunned, to wait for the police and figure out which member of the mob it was who relieved him of his car key. During this chaos, Amour observed the proceedings impassively, while smoking a cigarette, and observed that if he had had brought a couple of boys “men 3andina” [from his area] the bloodthirsty crowd would not have got near bespectacled man. Ignoring the youthful hyperbole, I expressed my pleasure at his desire to protect the man, to which he responded that the only reason they would have done so was so that they themselves could “sort him out” and find out where the money is.
Back at the gates the Armani-jeaned Proletarian masses continued protesting the injustice they had been subject to by vigorously shaking the gates and fighting both the security guards and, occasionally, each other. Who said Che was dead. They were eventually placated by a promise that they would get their money back if they were good boys and formed an orderly queue. Something resembling a queue did eventually form, though this being Egypt it mutated into a scrum at the window itself. Amour eventually emerged from this with the refunded money, muttering something about bringing his matwa [knife] next time, and we were all delighted to discover that we had been refunded ten pounds too much, which Amour promptly pocketed, for his trouble.
And so ended a charming evening which contained all of man’s most important primitive urges: dancing, fighting and seeking refunds. I cannot wait for February 14th when 3adeweyya will perform again, this time in a sporting club. I am hoping that the brawl will end up in a swimming pool – stay tuned.