Three hours, six performances, 18 musicians, 20-something songs and a packed concert space; this was the breakdown of “Performance for a Cause,” which took place in downtown Cairo’s Rawabet Theater, Jan. 21.
A diverse yet jovial group of concert-goers filtered into the space and settled into seats, against the walls and on the floors in anticipation of the event.
Egyptian radio and television host Ahmed El-Esseily was the first to take the stage, speaking about social responsibility and how performing arts can contribute to development.
PeriAbouZied, founder of Performance for a Cause followed nervously, thanking people for their support, explaining that the aim of the event is to “support underprivileged women and girls in Upper Egypt, we want to donate the money we raise to women’s rights programs.”
Performance for a Cause is a team of four members, who were inspired by a larger initiative that is encouraging fundraising in support of projects that benefit women and girls in need. AbouZied came up with the idea for the event which was co-led by Ahmed Barakat, community development professional. The rest of the team was made up by YasmeenNizamy, engineer and active volunteer, and Mohamed Menza, community development professional and JAZZ Band member.
There are numerous teams participating in the challenge, which is orchestrated by an organization that remains purposely unnamed as is not involved in the activities, aside from issuing the challenge. The organization challenged each team to raise $4,000 or more to support various projects. The teams then set out on their own to raise the money in the best way that they saw fit.
AbouZied explained that although she works in community development, she’s closely connected to the art world, as she’s also an oil painter. Given her connections to the performing arts crowd, and passion for community development, she decided to tackle the challenge of raising the $4,000 by throwing a charity concert.
“I love organizing and I felt that this is the thing that I can do well, this is what I’m most comfortable with,” said AbouZied.
The concert began with outspoken rapper Mohamed El Deeb, who carried out a dialogue with the responsive crowd through his lyrically charged verses.
Hany Mustafa and band were up next with a six-song set that began with folk elements and ended on more of a punk rock. The band played Hany Mustafa originals and performed new song “Coma” for the first time.
Shady Ahmed dropped in to perform two quick songs, hushing the fidgety crowd with the simplistic style of his soulful voice accompanied by the acoustic guitar.
Farida El Gureitly stole the show. In her first song, a cover of “Zombie” by The Cranberries, El Gureitly’s voice rang out in a haunting yet beautiful replica of Dolores O’Riordan’s. She played hypnotist to the crowd which sat silent and spellbound for her entire set, except for the close of each song when they erupted into applause.
The roster also included The JAMM Band who played a six-song set of covers. The Double Barrel Duo, brothers Tarek and Ahmed Kawi, made their debut performance and earned points for their humor, telling the crowd that they had “been performing for the past seven years…but only in [their] bedrooms.”
While overall the event provided an enjoyable evening out, there were a few points that could have been improved. Tickets weren’t available at the door which was inconvenient for those who forgot to pick up their tickets beforehand, as instructed by the organizers. Additionally, the crowd certainly grew weary towards the end of the experience, signalling that a concert of over three hours was a bit too much to take all in one night. Quality and also the style of performers ranged wildly, which may have been a contributing factor to the restlessness that materialized by the end of the evening.
Criticism aside, Performance for a Cause pulled off a successful event, particularly when considering that the group was only formed a few weeks ago and began planning the event at that time. All in all, the event raised $2,400, and while the team still has until the January 30 deadline, they’re already thinking beyond that.
“We’ve had so much support, even though we’re virtually unknown,” said AbouZied, mentioning, once they planned the event, she received so many calls and confirmations that people would come.
AbouZied added, “We just thought, why don’t we make Performance for a Cause fixed, beyond the end of the challenge?”
The team is currently working on a website, and planning a potential event for March.
Outspoken rapper Mohamed El Deeb carried out a dialogue with the responsive crowd through his lyrically charged verses.