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Massar Egbari: The boys are back in town

Massar Egbari performed yesterday at El-Genaina Theater in Al-Azhar Park as part of the ongoing Artbeat Festival. The boys from Alexandria sat down with Al-Masry Al-Youm to talk about their origins, their dreams and their plans for the future.

Al Masry Al-Youm: How many members does Massar consist of?

Massar Egbari: We have six members: Hani el-Daqqaq on guitar and vocals; Ayman Masoud and Ahmed Hafez on bass guitar; Toussi on drums; Mahmoud Seyam on guitar; and Hamdoun on percussion.

Al-Masry: When did you first start out?

Massar: We first began five years ago. Ayman, Seyam and Toussi had been playing together since school. Hani and Hafez were playing in another band. The whole group came together when Benoix, a French musician living in Alexandria, convinced the talented boys that they should form a band called “Yala Khalas.” The second big step in our career as a band was our concert at Sakia in celebration of Fathi Salama’s Grammy Award.

Al-Masry: Have you ever performed outside Egypt?

Massar: Yes, we have performed in Malta, Italy, Macedonia, Zanzibar and at the “Rock for Peace” Festival in Turkey. The festival was a great experience; it was like Woodstock–four days of pure music and co-existence. We hope to take part again in this year’s festival.

Al-Masry: What type of music do you play?

Massar: We use foreign instruments to produce Egyptian rhythms and tunes.

Al-Masry: Who writes your lyrics?

Massar: At first, we used poems by Salah Jahin and Abdel Rehim Mansour. But once we had made a name for ourselves, people started to approach us.

Al-Masry: Does your music pay your bills?

Massar: No, we all have other jobs.

Al-Masry: Is your Alexandrian viewership and fan-base enough for you?

Massar: Of course not. We don’t have enough places in which to perform–it’s either the Bibliotica Alexandrina or the Jesuite. It’s hard to make a career in Alex, since all the people in the field are based in Cairo. Alexandrians appreciate good music, but Cairenes tend to be more interactive with nice tunes.

Al-Masry: What can music festivals like Artbeat do for your band?

Massar: They help build connections. It’s also a good chance to listen to other bands, and maybe collaborate with them. Artbeat and other music festivals are a good chance to promote our band in Africa–we would like to expand in other African countries. But we hope that the next festival takes place in Alexandria.

Al-Masry: What are your future plans?

Massar: We’re planning to release an album soon. We also want to go international. Ibrahim el-Batout, the famous director, was inspired by one of our songs–“El-Hawi” [“The Magician”]–and made a movie with the same title, which will be shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival.

Al-Masry: Do you think the government, specifically the Ministry of Culture, is doing enough to support new talent?

Massar: Yes, the Ministry of Culture provides us with space and funds. We only hope for more exposure, which can only be achieved through street performances, such as the annual celebration in Kom el-Dekka in memory of [late Egyptian singer/composer] Sayyed Darwish.

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