Interviewing Hisham Gabr….The man with the magical Baton

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Carrying the responsibility of classical music on his shoulders, Hisham Gabr took the world by storm when he founded the “Cairo Ensemble” orchestra in May 2006. Hoping to educate people about classical music and rekindle the passion that once was there; Gabr is still yet to test his message through the first “Cairo Ensemble” CD in stores soon and a second immense concert for his orchestra.

Hisham Gabr the renowned music writer, sharing his honest opinions about children songs and sorrow for the decreasing interest in classical music especially among the youth, all in the coming questions…


L: As a kid, who was the first to discover your potentials?

H: My father… At the age of 4, I used to climb on chairs as if on stage and sing my heart out. Seeing this, my father took me to join the chorus under the supervision of Dr. Ratiba Hefny then at the age of 5 or 6 I joined the conservatoire and here I am…


L: What attracts you to music writing as a profession?

H: The accomplishment… That feeling when you’ve created something that wasn’t there before and because of you it’s there and people hear it.


L: What’re your inspiration rituals?

H: I don’t have any! As a person, I happen to be very practical which may sound disappointing for some people as it changes the way they perceive musicians who light up a candle and get inspired. It goes like any other job where I come to the office, struggle to work and create.


L: Is it hard, creating music?

H: For some people it comes naturally, for others it may never come.  I’m a struggler I have to work and try several times for my music to come out the way I want it.


L: You’ve composed many movie themes including the recently released “Stolen Kisses” and currently working on the theme for “Adrenaline” starring Khaled el-Sawy and Ghada Abdel Razek; how are movie themes created so as to exactly match their tones?

H: I’m always fascinated by Micheal Angello’s answer when he was asked; how do you create a sculpture? He replied that each rock has its own sculpture inside, one just has to peal the scraps off so people can see it. Same thing, if you listened carefully, you’ll get to hear the music of the movie between the words.


L: In 2006, you founded your orchestra “Cairo Ensemble”.  Were you subjected to rejections or mockery at first?

H: I am my worst enemy and huge criticizer but I gained the support I needed from many people, especially my wife who stood by my side and supported me all along. Also, my 2006 trip to the US helped me a lot. It was a scholarship to get introduced the art management. I discovered that they have zero finance from the government nor do they have a ministry of culture. Thus I learnt how to create something without depending on huge entities for aid. And it happened two months after my trip, Cairo Ensemble had its successful first concert, which accordingly we decided to continue down this road.


L: I understand that Cairo Ensemble is a mixed culture orchestra, how do you manage to get along?

H: We get along perfectly as I’ve been friends with most of the group from the Cairo Symphony Orchestra.


L: Why did you choose the word “ensemble” for your orchestra?

H: Because the word ensemble holds the meaning of both a quartet and chamber orchestra thus allowing me the flexibility to create different kinds of music without having to change the orchestra’s name each time I work on a different project.


L: On what criteria did you base your choice for the musicians?

H: Professionalism and nothing but professionalism.


L: How often do you rehearse as a group?

H: When we need to, like if there’s an upcoming coming concert or a recording concerning the upcoming CD. But we don’t usually meet on regular basis.


L: Allow me this question please; why didn’t you form an all Egyptian orchestra?

H:  Because it will be like promoting the idea of not working with foreigners and we as Egyptians are almost always in that positions. And honestly, I never looked at it this way, because what matters to me the most is the ability to play and create good music.


L: Do you have like an on stage queue, in case if anything went wrong?

H: In classical music nothing should go wrong because if one thing went out of order then there is no hope to get it fixed, the entire thing just tanks.


L: Have you ever considered having a TV show or even judging in one of the infamous “star making” competitions?

No; and I don’t think there ever will be a show dedicated to making plain music without any vocals. Because as Egyptians we love songs more than plain music, of course I wished it was different, but this part of our culture and that’s why I chose the closest thing to reach the public in movie themes.


 L: I’ve got to ask you, as a musician, what is it about the “non-Egyptian” music that attracts us the most?

H: It’s a major influence, because we don’t currently have astounding worth to be listened music to balance or compete with the “non-Egyptian” music.


L: An honest answer is required here; do you think going to the Opera has become more of a trend?

H: Unfortunately yes, especially with the youth who go there to watch varying shows which are not even related to what the Opera was intended to offer.


L: I see you’ve worked on many pieces related to children. What do you think of the current children songs? What do you think should be done to improve them?

Disastrous! The songs are not interesting to anybody. And I have a daughter who constantly confuses me with selecting songs for her to listen. Because the problem happens as we underestimate children when they are not that different from us, they’re just little people, with less vocabulary and a much higher IQ with a massive ability to create.

So, I dabbled a bit with children’s music, finished 6 songs and I’m seriously considering producing a CD dedicated to children only.



L: Being a fan of the classics yourself; what time would you’ve preferred to live in? Why?

H: This time, because I know nothing about the previous eras except a bunch of stories which are not enough for me to judge or decide.


L: What other types of music that interests you, personally?

H: Egyptian folklore, as in the instruments like rababa, Old rock, Elton John and the Bejee’s.


L: Between women and men who are your main audiences?

H: This may come as a shocker, for people expect women to be the main audiences but from where I stand, I see more men who are loyal fans to the classics too.


L: How do you see yourself and the orchestra in 10 years?

H: I don’t know how I will be in 10 years but I hope to continue my work, grow more successful and popular. As for the orchestra to fulfill its original goal which is to educate people more regarding classic music.



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