Aside: Has anyone noticed how much Tawfiq Abdel Hamid resembles Beeker from the Muppet Show during scenes where Abdel Hamid is perplexed/distraught/anxious? I have been unable to procure an image of him in one of these emotional states in order to fully support my case, but take it from me, he looks like the picture below, and I for one have never seen Beeker and Tawfiq Abdel Hamid in the same place at the same time:
I went to see the fantastic Black Theama tonight, at my 2nd home the Sawy Cultural Wheel. With customary bad luck I arrived at the ticket window just as a woman had requested THIRTY-FIVE tickets. Which is fine obviously, because we are in the age of computerised instant ticketing, aren’t we. Except that Sawy and his bloody wheel are not, and not only did the cashier have to count out and rip the tickets from one of those ticket books, he then had to write ‘15’ on each and every one of the sodding things. I don’t know why. Perhaps I am unreasonably impatient, but as I stood there, my hair turning grey, it took all my powers of self-restraint not to remind them that I only have roughly 50 years left to live and have yet to find a husband.
I discovered that the 35 tickets were for a school party, or at least a group of children who seemed to have just consumed 87 gallons of coca cola, or done lines of coke, what do I know about modern day kids. I ending up sitting in the middle of them of course, and felt like that plastic bag blowing in the wind in American Beauty when the weirdo with the secret gay dad is going on about there being so much beauty in the world. Not much however on a Sunday night in the Sawy Wheel when its Wisdom Hall is entirely populated by screeching infants.
After a speech by lovely paternal Mohamed el Sawy and his Hamas-style beard about how three years ago today Black Theama performed for the very first time on this very stage, the band materialised behind the curtain. Now I have seen Black Theama perform twice before, and they are a band which adhere to a strict policy of NEVER beginning on time, and employ their own version of the Formula, which means that the audience must sit through interminable sound checks and inexplicable delays while various members of the band just bugger off. The best demonstration of this policy was a couple of months ago in the gardens of the Mohamed Mokhtar Museum when they started playing and then stopped suddenly on the pretext of ‘fixing the sound.’ They then sat down and had a fag and a laugh with their friends/audience for half an hour.
So when the curtain went back and they were seated at their instruments and actually playing, I was seized by the sudden feeling that surely the world is about to explode, and that we have entered into some mythical last-hour universal order before the Day of Judgement. I was reassured to see that in fact the band were missing a singer: he materialised during the second song, smiling sheepishly and shaking hands with the other singers and then apologised for being late. I at least was glad to see that he abiding by the ancient and immutable laws of Egyptian time-keeping and that the world would not end while I was being buffeted by children. He was also forgiven because he was well fit and wearing a pair of particularly well-cut trousers.
The concert really was excellent mainly because Black Theama have a hardcore fan base who turn up at all their concerts, know all the words and most importantly have memorised the complicated hand clap sequences which accompany all the songs. The songs are a mixture (note that no one mentioned the word ‘fusion’) of jazz and funk and reggae and Nubian rhythms, which admittedly sounds awful but isn’t. In theory I shouldn’t really like them, because their songs are happy and bouncy and have titles like ‘kon sa3eed’ (be happy) – all stuff which brings me out in a rash, usually. However I have realised that I can tolerate songs in the major key where excellent drumming occurs. There is also the fact that the three singers are great: one of them has a voice like velvet, such is its sonority and smoothness.
The audience loved it, a row of children swayed energetically side to side in front of me, and I have never seen the Wisdom Hall so packed. Large crowds did their synchronised dancing and clapping thing, and one man even danced while he precariously held a small child aloft with one hand, which is an imaginative variation on the handbag as dance accessory.