By Maha ElNabawi
The annual Cairo Jazz Festival is upon us, and its organizer Amro Salah promises that jazz will pervade the city for three consecutive days with a series of live concerts, educational workshops and jam sessions.
Marking its fourth annual year, the international Cairo Jazz Festival (CJF) will kick-off on Thursday, March 15, and will run through Saturday, March 17 at the Sawy Culture Center in Zamalek. It will feature a series of performances by 14 bands, hailing from eight countries, including the famed Dutch quartet Artvark Saxophone, Japanese high-energy group Kumi Adachi Club Pangea, the Egyptian-American Adam Miller Group and many more.
“The slogan for this year’s festival is ‘Egypt is Fine,’” Salah told Daily News Egypt.
“We want to send a message letting the world know that life is continuing to move forward here despite the current political climate. It is more important than ever to promote and develop culture and entrepreneurship.”
To emphasize the message, the festival’s inaugural performance will be by local band, Positive Energy, starting at 8 pm in the River Hall. Known for combining a modicum of genres including, acid jazz, disco, funk and R&B, Positive Energy has become one of the fastest growing jazz bands in Egypt since its inception in November 2010.
Lined up next is flamenco-jazz guitar virtuoso Eduardo Niebla, presenting songs from his new album, “My Gypsy Waltz,” together with a collection of his greatest hits from his acclaimed 30-year career. Niebla’s unique Gypsy-jazz, flamenco infused sounds will be accompanied with Carl Herring on guitar and Salvador Niebla on drums.
“The main aim for the festival is to expand the culture of jazz along the Nile,” Salah told DNE.
“This year, we are eagerly trying to expand the reach of jazz by doing a series of performances in various locations throughout Cairo, including El-Sakkia, the Kempinski Nile Hotel,and the Cairo Jazz Club.”
In addition to Egyptian jazz aficionados, he explained that this type of cultural event also attract tourists. “It’s a good image for the country. Egypt has always been a leading country in culture and arts, so it has to continue this way. We need to have more festivals, real events, not just PR stunts.”
This year, Salah has also added film screenings to the line-up. On Thursday, Zamalek’s Sufi Book Store will screen the acclaimed music documentary, “The Story of Jazz.” The film beautifully and simply chronicles the history of jazz music and its development over time. “It’s a must-see for jazz lovers,” Salah said.
Other participating films include Ahmad Abdalla’s Alexandria-based, musical docu-drama “Microphone” on Friday, and a documentary titled “Four on the Floor” on Saturday. The latter film pays tribute to the career of Han Bennink, the festival’s guest of honor and leader of free and improvised jazz in Europe. Both films will be screened in Sawy’s Word Hall.
Following the screening, Bennink will perform alongside Amro Salah’s Trio, combining oriental-infused jazz with Bennink’s improvised percussions and drum circle.
In addition to the music performances, CJF will offer jam sessions, workshops, master classes, and children’s programs.
“The most important element of this festival is the free educational service,” Salah said. “We are working on engaging people in different activities. Having jazz masters like Han Bennink is a great opportunity for locals to interact, learn and collaborate with industry pioneers.”
Taking place on Saturday, the Artvark Saxophone Quartet from Holland will be running a workshop targeting both music students and jazz lovers. The goal of the workshop is to engage eager students with established musicians from different cultural backgrounds to network, discuss ideas and further explore jazz.
“There is a shortage of saxophone players in Egypt, so it’s good for people to be exposed to other musicians that play sax,” Salah said. “Each year we try to add something that engages people in shows, jam sessions, workshops. We want the audience to take on a role, we want people to come and interact, yell, sweat and play.”
Established local band Eftekasat, led by front man Salah, will also participate. The band will celebrate its 10 year anniversary coinciding with the “10 Years Underground” ceremony.
“This ceremony isn’t necessarily about celebrating Eftekasat, but more so the growth and development of the underground music scene over the past decade,” Salah said. “We will celebrate the success stories of the underground scene through film screenings, a mega photo exhibition of underground bands, seminars, keynote speakers and music critics.
“Through this, we hope to encourage more bands to take the lead and mount on stage.”
He stressed on the importance of continuing to develop the underground music scene, stating that since the start of the Jan. 25 revolution, more people are interested in Egyptian music.
“We have the musicians, we have the content, but we are still in deep need of efficient music education, awareness, critiques and festivals in order to continue developing musically as a culture,” he said.
For more information, visit: www.cairojazzfest.com
Flamenco-jazz guitar virtuoso Eduardo Niebla is the headliner of the Cairo Jazz Fest.