Monday, July 18, 2011

Musicans, morals and the makings of a better future..

Well... it's been an interesting week at work.

The first day of work I unfortunately had to call in sick. I can dance through many things... but a tummy bug is a bit too risky to attempt! (All better now!)

Then, the next night I was missing my dholla player. Seemingly his nephew had died so he’d had to travel up north to the funeral. He had been shot. I didn't get the whole story- or at least I didn't understand it, but I got that he was young. Unfortunately gun crime in Egypt does seem to have escalated since the revolution. I am guessing it’s still not level with that in most ‘developed’ countries, but still a lot more than was ever heard of in Egypt before. It is seemingly not illegal in Egypt to own a gun, even though they are supposed to be licensed... but then again- so are the cars!

The next day at work brought the fun and games. Whenever I have had a musician leave my band... there always has to be a drama around it. I can totally understand in these days with so little work for us all, that a tabla player, for example, might be able to get more work somewhere else and therefore chose to take the job that will cover his bills. If my work visa allowed me more freedom I would certainly be taking more work that the Pharaoh’s alone can offer just now. However, rather than come to me, his employer, and tell me that’s what has happened, obviously the better way of dealing with it in his mind was to make a big fuss about something very small and storm off in a huff. Huffing is a behaviour I have had to deal with more than I ever expected to in Egypt, especially since I don’t to work with children.

Saying that I did work with children last week... teaching salsa dance of all things to a group of Egyptian children on a summer camp program. I loved the way the younger girls, aged 5 and 6, already knew how to completely charm you, flirting their way through the class. The other girls, up to 13 years old were super conscious of their bodies, as all teenagers are... but when I tried to explain how to move the hips in salsa and pushed my hip out, it went out so much further than one of the girls expected that her eyes nearly popped out of her head in astonished admiration! She actually looked like she had got a fright!!! However- she then imitated beautifully!

Anyway... back to musicians... I have to say the working week finished with me being very impressed with my new tabla player, who although hasn’t quite understood the notion that he is supposed to follow me, rather than the other way around, is a super fast learner and managed to play my entrance piece without having even heard it before. My bereaved dholla player shouted out which rhythms to play and when. An on-stage class and rehearsal and performance all at once. They both did an amazingly good job. I enjoyed that show!

So to sum up, it’s worth putting up with the various problems and tantrums that get thrown in your way, if artistry is of such high quality when it appears. However, Egypt is full of talented artists and therefore musicians who respect their work and their employers and their audiences are the ones to look out for and hold onto! Not just musicians either, dancers too.

I have had many debates with my band over the years, because during lunch time sails they want to dress casually, often turning up to work unshaven and in less that their full ‘uniform’ of shirt and tie. I try to reason with them... but since the audiences are tourists on package trips from sharm or from cruise ships, the band seem to think that they wouldn’t know the difference between a good show and one just thrown together. This is what happens unfortunately sometimes when art becomes work... just do the bare minimum to get the pay. I still haven’t managed to get them to understand why they should respect these foreigners who come to their country and often are very interested in the culture and music. Eventually I have managed to get them into shape somewhat by showing them the clips that end up on YouTube. Who are the audience members who film everything and put it on the internet? The tourists. Who sees that- EVERYONE, including Egyptians, agents, other dancers etc etc. The message sank in a little, even if not for the right reasons.

Recently a friend of mine, and Egyptian, wrote on facebook that Egypt would do well if people would learn to stand in line..... I would argue- that if Children in Egypt were taught respect for others, no matter who they are, older, younger, Egyptian, non-Egyptian, rich or poor, then the vast majority of this societies negative issues would disappear. You don’t have to teach someone to stand in line if it makes ‘common sense’ that someone who was waiting before you for something should receive it first. You wouldn’t shoot a young man through difference of opinion, you’d reason with him. You wouldn’t huff like a child to distract from your own lack of loyalty. You wouldn’t judge a person’s art appreciation by their nationality. If people are all equal in your eyes, as is taught in most religions, including in Islam, then you would respect them all, and life would be so much better.  

Ah, sorry........’takes a deep breath’...... there I go again............ wearing my rose tinted glasses again to dream of a brighter future....... dare I dream?

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