Egyptian Rock-Art Unveiled
By Arnvid Aakre
Most of the expertise agrees that the Egyptian Rock-Age started around 1967 AD - and ended nearly 25 years ago. That was until a late evening of Friday, the 22nd of June 2001 - in a club called Dharma, Merryland in Cairo. This evening - in a non-announced event, notabilities from film stars to a Nobel laureate gathered around to see and hear Egyptian Rock-Art Unveiled.
Those who know the Egyptian music scene of today will hardly be able to find a group of musicians performing as a "band". Here its mostly singers with musicians playing for them - but it was not like this during the Egyptian Rock-Age. Lots of bands were around, as "The Stars" and "The Cats", but the biggest rival to "Les Petits Chats" were "The Black Coats" with Ismaiel El Hakeem (son of the famous Egyptian writer Tawfik El Hakeem).
Last Friday, in black clothes - seven persons came on stage at Dharma. Instantly a part of the Egyptian Rock-Age - unknown by archaeologists, is unveiled. The songs performed are western hits from the sixties and seventies - from "Unchain My Heart" to Otis Redding's "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay". All performed with hot Egyptian flavor.
Behind the drums sits Omar Khayrat, today the most renowned composer in the Middle East for the last ten years. On the left side of the stage is Hany Meimary on keyboard - also an influential person in the music business. At the keyboard on the right side of the stage are Ezzat Abo Aof, today an actor and one of the superstars of Egyptian film and "Master of Ceremonies" in television. On his side is Freddy Rizk on guitar, who has been living in Montreal, Canada since his time in "Les Petits Chats" - as a musician and teacher in both music & mathematics.
In the middle of the stage, with strong musical backup from Omar, Hany, Ezzat and Freddy are the three singers. Wagdi Frances who still performs regularly as a well- known singer in Cairo - apart from his work as a commercial advisor at the American Embassy. Sadel Galline, who was asked to come and sing with "New Seekers", and who stopped singing after Les Petits Chats. Currently, he owns and run a very special hotel for divers south of Quseir. Sobhi Bedeer has never stopped to sing, and is today a renowned Opera singer and Professor in Song / Voice.
Whatever each one has become today, and whoever each and everyone of the star-packed audience are, sitting at table, around their excellent gourmet dinners - these seven guys don't play for the history - not even mainly for the audience, they play first of all for the joy of playing together. This is the secret difference between a "band", and a singer who "employs" a bunch of musicians for backup. But the audience feels it - that's why they are all here. The Legends of Egyptian Rock are back again, and their performance tells the electrical story about a group who now stays at a stage in the same room where it all once started.
If Egyptian musicians of today can understand what is happening here, maybe "Les Petits Chats" this night are paving the way for a new dynasty of Rock-Art. One thing is for sure; the guys on the stage are light years away from rock-mummification in any form...
A natural question is of course, how was this reunion made possible?
Tour Egypt asks Garir Mansour of "The New Generation - Merryland", as this event was initiated through him. Garir tells us that as Executive Assistant General Manager for Merryland in Roxy (Heliopolis, Cairo) they defined the target group for their new Pub and Restaurant Dharma to guests mostly over 35 years and then especially those who are interested in quality music. The best way he knew to make something special for this group, was to turn the time machine back to the sixties, and in that time the best and most famous group in Egypt was "Les Petits Chats". Only problem with "Les Petits Chats" was that they had not played together for 25 years, and all band members are stars in their own way today.
The "secrets" that made this reunion possible for Garir, was first that the word "impossible" was a non-existing word in his vocabulary...
Second part was that Garir Mansour was a star himself in the same period as "Les Petits Chats". He was the champion in swimming for Africa and the Middle East from 1965 until 1972, and a leading swimmer in European competitions. Being in the Egyptian spotlight together made them friends - so it was a friend who started to talk with his friends. He explained to Tour Egypt that he had been talking separately to the Les Petits Chats members for 40 to 45 hours each. It did not take more than two months "from dream to reality". Still he stressed that this would not have been possible if they not all had been on the "same spiritual level".
A week before the actual concert, Tour Egypt was invited to a special late night meeting at Dharma - and this was the first time the members of "Les Petits Chats" had been together in nearly 25 years. From there on, the rehearsals started, and on the last rehearsal on 21st of June, Tour Egypt asked Sadel Galline - who had not been on stage since he left the group - how he felt now? He answers "Good - with sadness".
The next evening the non-announced concert is there. Spotlight in Sadel's whitened ponytailed hair, and with a mike once again in his big hand, he sings with a new understanding; "Unchain my Heart".
You don't need to be a Nobel laureate to understand that Egyptian Rock was reborn in this fully packed club.
For me, as a European in an enthusiastic crowd, I suddenly remembered Brian Auger's Trinity with Julie Driscoll who back in 1968 released a hit called "The Road to Cairo". I knew they finally had arrived as well, but could not stop wondering what would be the next on this re-opened road to Cairo?
An important postscript note:
Just before this article had its publishing deadline, important news came in. Les Petits Chats have decided to continue with concerts at Dharma Club, they are working on finalizing a date schedule for this - and all will first be announced on The New Generation - Merryland's website -http://www.merrylandpark.com/- under "Events". Dharma Club have also promised Tour Egypts readers living outside Egypt, that they will try to announce the coming concerts a long time in advance so that one can include this in travel plans to Egypt as well
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Last Updated: June 5th, 2011
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