A singer and songwriter, Shady Ahmed is Egypt’s very own home-grown indie artist with a guitar in hand and endless aspiring dreams. His new album ‘Life is Hard for Those Who Dream’, not only captures the audience during electrifying, full-of-energy live performances, but is an album meant to be listened to in the car on an open road with windows down, and wind blowing through your hair. Shady Ahmed takes us through the journey of the trials and tribulations of making the album and his dreams yet to be accomplished.
Growing up listening to John Mayer, Shady Ahmed was highly influenced with that style of acoustic blues even before Mayer ever recorded a hit album about 10 years ago. The acoustic melody and soft yet emotionally complex lyrics is what can setout Shady Ahmed from the rest in the English-singing music scene in Egypt. Before John Mayer, Ahmed used to write a lot of music, but it didn’t see the light of day until Ahmed saw John Mayer on TV, when it clicked for him that “I want to do that, play the guitar and sing with a band”, he says. The self-taught guitarist, song writer, and singer started infusing his lyrics into tunes of a guitar adopting the slogan, “act now, think later,” not knowing if any of this would get him somewhere, but he did it simply because he wanted to.
In 2009, Shady Ahmed was one of the first to start playing live music in cafes, bookstores, and the streets, “if I wanted to play music, I either had to book weeks in advance at a venue or the Sawy Cultural Wheel, but I wanted to be more accessible”, he tells us. Before his new album, he shared his music with the world through playing live mostly in streets, bookstores, and MySpace. It wasn’t until end of 2010 when he won a regional competition on Triplew.me to record his first official album in Dubai after being rejected on ‘Arabs Got Talent’ few weeks earlier. “I knew I didn’t really belong to Arabs Got Talent because I play English music”, he explains.
The name of the album, Life is Hard for Those Who Dream, was not merely a coincidence. “After being on ‘Arabs got Talent’, they told me ‘don’t do music, it is not for you, do something else.’ Then I was in the airport going back, and saw a guy walking by with a t-shirt that says ‘life is …” but I couldn’t see the rest, so I went to my gate and totally forgot about it. Then the guy passed by again and I saw what the t-shirt said, ‘life is hard for those who dream,’ and it just stuck with me”, Ahmed tells us. Shady Ahmed was not even writing an album at the time, but when he was notified that he won an album-recording competition, it was destined to become the name of his first record deal.
Letting Loose the Eggplant Juice
After recording four songs of the ‘Life is Hard For Those Who Dream’ album in Dubai, Shady Ahmed returned on 21st of January 2011, the eve of the Egyptian revolution to record the remaining two songs. He wrote a lot of music during the uprising “to the point that I had written another album altogether like Mr. Unwanted and Both Edges of the Sword”, he says.
Not much has changed for Ahmed after the revolution other than life keeps taking him by good and bad surprises. In April of 2012, he wrote this song called ‘Eggplant Juice’ when he was at a low point in his life. “I had just left a job to go to another job, and few days before I began, they sent me saying that they lost a very big account and couldn’t hire me anymore. So I played music, Eggplant juice”, he tells us.
For the only few English-singing artists in Egypt, life is indeed hard for those who dream, and Ahmed is a dreamer with big hopes and inspiring music. It is even harder for him since he has a day job and hoping to pursue a music career internationally, but still starting from scratch. “I dream to make music and live of it. I work in advertisement, I love my job, but I wish I wasn’t depended on it. Music here [Egypt], it can’t make me money. I wish I could go international. If I was singing in Arabic, my international chances would decrease, but because I sing in English I have to go international to make it, I wish that wasn’t the case, but it is. The universe doesn’t know I exist, it has to know that I exist and that I play music, and then it has to know that I have a dream, I am not even at the beginning stage”, Shady Ahmed elaborates on his very own eggplant juice called life.
Aspire to Inspire
There are no limits as to what inspires Shady Ahmed. “Music is my main source of inspiration, but anything inspires me to make music. Music is about the current mood, if one is driving a car, I think about what would be the prefect song for the moment”, he explains. For Ahmed, “life is a lot different when you are in the passenger seat not the driver seat. You look at things a lot differently; you get to see things from a different perspective. It is very interesting to put yourself in another place and not have any control, and just be watching that’s what I need to do more.” As to who inspires Ahmed, it is “anybody and everybody”, he tells us.
Music is a form of expression for the rising artist, it is not just a form of entertainment like most people treat music, but just like some may embrace art as form of expression, Ahmed believes that “music should be treated the same, as art and form of expression, not just entertainment”, he says.