D-CAF’s final scheduled performance at the Scheherazade hall in Downtown, La Voix est Libre, drew large crowds in anticipation of one last party. The night included an eclectic mix of artists, as well as an art performance, with a line-up of Nass Makan, Abdullah Miniawy, Ahmed Saleh from Telepoetic, Mohamed Sami, Islam Chipsy (electro-shaabi) and Dawcha.
La Voix est Libre, or Free Voices Festival, began in 2005 at the Bouffes du Nord Theatre in Paris with the aim of breaking down walls between music, dance, song, science and poetry, and this edition of D-CAF marked its first time in Egypt, touring both Cairo and Alexandria.
The first performance of the night featured Nas Makan, along with a group of French musicians, as they improvised together to the enjoyment of the crowd. The French musicians included Marlène Rostaing (dance, acrobatics, vocal improv), Élise Caron (vocal improv), Élise Dabrowski (double bass, classical singing, vocal improv), Médéric Collignon (voice and trumpet) and Philippe Gleizes (drums).
When we heard the introduction, saying the musicians were going to “fuse” western music with “traditional”, we became worried that the result would be a remix of simple melodies played with instruments from different musical styles. Instead, the performers enhanced Zar music with an array of brass instruments: a bass guitar, flute and drums. The sophisticated performance required great concentration from the musicians and attention for the audience and each other, as they would increase the tempo or extend playing a tune based on the reactions they received. The endings were especially remarkable, usually concluding at exactly the right time and always after a climactic build-up that had the audience holding its breath.
Premiering in October 2007 in Cairo, Nas Makan brings together musicians of the Zar tradition from Egypt and Sudan, with artists like Om Sameh, Om Hassan, Sudanese Singer Asia, singer Sayed Imam and Sayed Rekabi, together with other instrumentalists. Their warm voices and great energy worked the crowd into a frenzy, with one of the dancers coming off the stage and pulling audience members to dance around her, until the entire place was on its feet. The women of Nas Makan had natural charisma, contrasting slightly with some of the stiffer members of the French side, and at some moments, the vocalist from the French side just could not catch up.
Jörg Müller’s performance, Hanging Tubes, to the sounds of Peter Corser’s saxophone, had audiences worried because of the swinging rods hanging from the ceiling the performance used; but luckily, the show went on without a hitch. Next up, audiences were treated to Mehdi Haddab on his electric oud, accompanied by some passionate Arabic rap.
The party went on until about 2am and left everyone looking forward to next year’s D-CAF, where Downtown’s forgotten buildings will come alive once again.