Once you meet Cairokee you instantly feel that they were your childhood friends from next door. They are outgoing, spontaneous, flamboyant, independent and importantly exceptionally talented. They are more than rock rebels and we are more than just fans, for we truly believe in them and their impact on the music scene in Egypt. They proudly stayed true to their sounds through years of tribulations and never surrendered until they became Egypt’s official voice of Freedom. We met with our favorite boys to talk music, society and women.
As Bob Dylan once said, “A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom”, that quote definitely applies to the band that strived to pass their messages through their beats. They are simply heroes because their music isn’t just about listening it’s also about chanting. We’ve seen revolutionaries holding up signs with their lyrics and artists spraying their lines on the walls. They create that kind of music that goes to bed with you, sticking to your ear, and they are that kind of musicians that you want to hear when life gets thrown in your face.
“I think the underground music scene in Egypt is overrated. In England there were The Beatles and a few others and it’s never about the quantity, it’s about the quality and the impact musicians leave on people”, Amir Eid, Lead Singer comments. Before the revolution, new singers emerged each and every day and you can easily fall short connecting the voices to the faces, “Before the revolution, there was a singer for every citizen and they all sang the same lyrics. When we have hundreds of musicians the quality disappears and the quantity dominates”, Adam El Alfy, Bass guitarist explains. “It’s still happening. A couple of weeks ago I was buying a new mobile line and they gave me a ‘Cocktail CD’ as a giveaway”, laughs Sherif Moustafa, Keyboarder.
The comeback of Aida El Ayoubi is truly the talk of town, and as young Egyptian musicians, Cairokee consider themselves very lucky to collaborate with her on the song ‘Al Midan’ that has nearly 250,000 views on Youtube. “We finished the song and we made her listen to it, and she welcomed the idea a lot”, Amir tells. “Aida has a reputable musical identity and everyone knows that if Aida El Ayoubi will sing, she really believes in what she is doing. Even people who were anti revolution were really happy. The synchronization between Amir and Aida was astonishing” Tamer Hashem, Drummer says.
Since the revolution many singers and musicians raced to jump on the bandwagon singing about different events revolving around Jan 25 telling us things like the Jan 25 martyrs died in January and other useful information. With Cairokee, it’s a whole different ball game. Revolting was always part of this band’s identity. Way before the revolution, since 2005, Cairokee has always had their share of revolting in their songs. Ironically, they released “Sakteen” six days for the revolution, “to jump on the bandwagon is measured by people’s intentions and I don’t think that anyone candecode other people’s intentions. I want to tell anyone who is saying that we are jumping on the bandwagon don’t listen to us, why are you bothering? I’m not jumping on you”, Amir says, “Accusing us of jumping on the revolution is worse than any insult. It means that we are hypocrites, liars, it’s the dirtiest thing ever said. God said that hypocrites would end up in hell. I think we are living in an insulting machine everyone is insulting everybody. Ask State Security who used to tell us what to sing about and whatnot. We were cuffed and we couldn’t perform freely before because of our revolutionary musical inspirations. Underground bands aren’t utopia, Tahrir Square isn’t utopia; everything has its pros and cons”. “Egyptians aren’t stupid. People could easily highlight what’s true and what’s fake. ‘Al Midan’ song triggered positive feelings to lots of people who listened to it so if we just did it to get famous the result is still a positive one which is of course a great thing to achieve”, Hawary adds. “We did ‘Sakteen’ before the revolution, then ‘Sot El Horreya’ followed by ‘Al Midan’ and the latest ‘Ethbat Makanak’, if we were jumping on the bandwagon; these songs wouldn’t turn out to be successful. Our messages are flowing across in a very fortunate way thank God. What’s really weird is that some TV stations refuse to show our songs and other foreign stations interview us and ask us to perform in their countries like Poland where we performed a few months ago”, Tamer tells.
One of the pitfalls of starting a band in Egypt is that it’s hard to make music for a living. Producers still aren’t aware of this kind of music and its wonderful impact on its fans, “they still want superstars and we still have that summer CD that everyone listens to. We live in a cesspool, not only in music in everything and that’s the last chance for this country to escape this cesspool”, Amir explains. “I didn’t see any producers who want to escalate bands to a whole new level, I just never met any, and they all don’t want to take the risk”, Adam says. The band detached from the mainstream music scene completely and they only rely on sponsors and gigs to make a living out of their art. From writing and composing, to marketing and PR, Cairokee is independently walking that extra mile. “I advise any artist not to be under the mercy of producers who don’t have a vision”, Amir says. “I was tired of being an ordinary employee who can’t practice his passion, but things took a new turn and it’s really great. My mother used to tell me that I can’t get what I need out of music, but now she is starting to be optimistic about it, I hear her talk to her friends about how proud she is”, Tamer tells.
Egypt is one of the most inspirational countries and many young Egyptians are in need of a safe haven to produce their art; however, The Ministry of Culture isn’t doing its homework quite well. “Omar El Sherif latest movie ‘Al Mosafer’ was produced with an enormous budget by the Ministry of Culture, if that budget was used to support hundreds of young filmmakers the outcome would have been different but the Ministry used to serve not support”, Amir explains. “If I were the Minister of Culture, I would kill the restrictions forced on artists. I would build lots of cultural venues like the Sakya Cultural Wheel and provide space for musicians like Road 9 in Maadi, for example, would have its musicians who will compete with one another. If I ask musicians for taxes, I would use it for the sake of musicians as it will be going for a greater good and will help artists. Budget transparency should be attained”, Hawary points out.
With new clubs cutting the ribbon every season, Egypt’s nightlife has opened its extravagant doors for a new scope of movers and shakers, DJ’s and a recognizable party scene is on the rise. After the huge success of Cairokee’s song ‘Sot El Horreya’, various DJs remixed it to suit their swaying crowd. “I don’t have a problem to remix the song, but they killed the message the minute they turned it to a House Music beat”, Sherif Moustafa says.
With Egypt witnessing so many turning points in the past phase, optimism is the umbrella everyone wants to fall under. But for young men like these guys, it’s still hard to envision the new Egypt they want to get married and build a family in. “Well, I’ll leave this answer to Hawary, he’s a womanizer”, Amir laughs. “No, you are the womanizer”, Hawary bounces back. “Ok, I think the new Egypt I want to start a family in should enjoy freedom, justice and dignity”, Amir says, “I don’t care about anything else because these three factors will result in security and employment which will produce projects and then profit. No bad media, no hypocrisy and no lies. An Egyptian shouldn’t ride in such means of transportation, shouldn’t walk in such hideous streets and shouldn’t be slapped on the face”. Adam continues that, “If there is poverty but we achieve justice, we will know that in the future there will be a solution, but if there is poverty without justice there won’t be a better future. I never felt that this country is in good hands. If I was the president and I walked through the streets of Egypt I would never be able to sleep. I see pollution, I see bribery, and I see someone living in a hole with his 15 kids. I definitely won’t be able to sleep. God be with who wants to change this country because he will be facing serious obstacles”. “It’s not about being intellectual it’s about how to talk to another citizen properly. Some people from poorer backgrounds want their kids to grow up and become police officers to have the upper hand in society. As a country, we have major potential, seriously major! It’s a treasure; if used properly everything will change. You know what it means to have the Nile? The Pyramids, Luxor, Sinai! Imagine all these treasures used properly, we would be in a totally new level. It’s all about education and everyone should be in the right place, officials aren’t doing their jobs and they’re old school”, Tamer says.
So let’s talk women! With many contradictions our society delves into each day, commitment for most men isn’t a walk in the park, and our guys here opened up and decided to share with us a piece of the typical male brain. “As Egyptians we have a major commitment issues. For me it’s not fear of commitment, it’s more a fear that my partner wouldn’t take my art into consideration. I worked so hard and it’s difficult to let someone in who would change all what I’ve been building. Also the parents’ issue isn’t an easy one. In a movie, if the hero is in love with someone, he confesses his love, proposes, marries and you have a happy ending! In Egypt she doesn’t have much of a decision, there is this process in which she has to ask her parents, then her parents begin to research him, then they get into the issue of money, house, ring, dowry and a certain room should be bigger than the other and so on”, Amir tells, “all these factors result in fear of commitment. I’m not afraid to get into a relationship but she should match my lifestyle, and I don’t think she exists”. “Well I think I already have fear of commitment. It’s like when you were young you would easily jump above 5 stairs but when you grow up, you think before doing it”, Hawary adds. “When it comes to women, some of them back out just a few steps from getting married as they look at negative pictures and stories around them. Women should focus on their relationship and don’t compare to other couples, comparison is a mistake. I’m a man, she’s a woman and if anything happens at the end she’ll rest in my arms even if she was an independent woman. Women shouldn’t make their men feel that they’re doing extremely great without ever needing them because that’s naturally not true”, Tamer says.
Do you know what women want?
Adam: I think they want to feel that they’re special and listened to. They also want to feel safe and secure. If you provide a woman with everything she needs all the time and you screw up just one time, she’ll forget everything and will focus on your mistake.
Amir: They want to feel that they are the most important thing in your world. It’s important what they want, but what we want is more important (laughs).
Sherif: I’m totally convinced that they want us to be good listeners as well as applying what we listened to, although they totally know what’s right for them.
Hawary: I think what women want is different from what they need. I think they want everything but what they need is very simple the problem is that people can’t do the right separation.
Unfortunately, Cairokee’s drummer Tamer Hashem couldn’t make it to the photo shoot, but we insisted on hunting him down for a separate interview.
Shot at Mo Cafe Maadi
Photo by Heba Begawi