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Last Updated: Friday, 8 December 2006, 11:13 GMT
New talent at Cairo music festival
By Sarah Loat
Cairo, Egypt

Fifteen thousand young music fans attended the recent SOS Music Festival held in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

SOS Music festival fans
Fans disillusioned with commercial found an outlet at the festival

Disillusioned with what they see as the low quality, sexualised, commercial pop music available on the Egyptian television and airwaves, a group of young musicians began an ambitious project to share original, underground music and support Egypt's home-grown talent.

The music was highly diverse - rock, metal, reggae, modern Egyptian, rai, contemporary oriental jazz and hip-hop.

The driving force behind the festival is 28-year-old Ousso, a session musician and guitarist in jazz fusion band Eftekasat.

"I decided to create a platform for good music, original music, underground music. Confidence is low in Egypt. People tend to imitate more than innovate," Ousso said.

"I'm against that, I want to create an opportunity for this generation to innovate and for the audience to enjoy good music absolutely new to them."

Musical revolution

With the support of major sponsors, the event was free for the 15,000 invited fans.

Ousso he is aiming to begin a musical revolution.

Ousso, the festival organiser
To play in the festival I have to feel that a band is trying, that they are hard-working, have a real message and are in love with what they're doing. Music should touch your mind and heart
Festival organiser
Being a young musician in Egypt is a challenge. There are few music schools and teachers.

Getting hold of equipment is difficult, it's hard to find drums or a guitar and even tougher to find a rehearsal studio or a place to play.

Venues are small and thin on the ground and audiences are rarely greater than 400 people.

But you wouldn't know this from the thousands at the SOS festival.

Young families picnicked on the grass; metal fans with piercings head-banged wildly and hijab-wearing young women bounced on the shoulders of friends up against the stage.


Music fans were treated to eight hours of polished, professional music performances as the festival ran on until midnight.

"This festival is awesome," said 19 year old Deena. "Jaffa Phonix are incredible, their lyrics are powerful and hip-hop is so cool. I'm so thankful that I am here to see them."

Heavy metal fans
Metal bands and fans in Egypt were labelled Satanists 10 years ago

Jaffa Phonix are brothers Faisal and Ali Abu Ghaban, Palestinian refugees who now live in Egypt.

They spit angst-ridden political rhymes and spike the crowd's energy levels through the roof.

They rap about Middle East issues, money, relationships and hardship. They touch a chord with the euphoric audience and bound off the stage to rapturous applause.

For Ousso, this is the kind of reaction he is looking for.

"To play in the festival I have to feel that a band is trying, that they are hard-working, have a real message and are in love with what they're doing," he says.

"Music should touch your mind and heart and have a message."

Metal returns

It's almost 10 years since the Egyptian authorities branded all heavy metal musicians and fans as Satanists.

Love and Peace at the SOS Music festival
Corporate sponsorship made the whole event to free to 15,000 fans

Dozens of fans were arrested, charged with contempt for religion, and heavy metal concerts were banned.

Restrictions have eased over time and bands have quietly performed to small gatherings over the years, but the public performance of Egyptian metal band Wyvern to a crowd of almost 15,000 at the SOS festival was a breakthrough.

Fans chanted the band's name in unison, head-banged and punched the air.

"A campaign was started against metal music and we were labelled as Satanists and evil," says Wyvern drummer Seif El-Din Moussa.

"We ended up playing in remote locations with bad sound systems and small audiences.

"This is the first time we've played on such a sound system on a huge stage to an amazing crowd. We were on top of the world."

Egypt may just be on the verge of a new musical revolution as a growing community of optimistic and dedicated musicians and fans are adamant the country will return to the days of musical legends like Oum Kulthoum.

So confident are the organisers of the festival that they are scheduling the next for late February to early March 2007.

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